Santorum Amendment to H.R. 4

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Oppose Santorum Amendment to H.R. 4

Protect Against Government Funded Discrimination in Social Services Block Grant Program



Dear Senator:

On behalf the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we urge you to oppose Senator Rick Santorum’s amendment to H.R. 4, the bill to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). This amendment would expand current law to allow religious organizations that are recipients of federal funds under the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to discriminate in employment based on religion.* Senator Santorum’s amendment may be offered on the floor of the Senate as early as today.

Religious organizations have always served as key partners in providing government services through the SSBG program and current law has not been hindrance to their vigorous participation. There also is no controversy over the exemption under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that allows religious organizations to have a preference of hiring co-religionists when they are using private funds. However, any attempt to change the requirements in the SSBG program to allow religious organizations that are recipients of federal funds to engage in employment discrimination is deeply troubling. Such a drastic change to current requirements in that program would be inconsistent with the long held notion that federal dollars must not be used to discriminate.

In the 60 years since Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first executive order prohibiting discrimination in federally funded activity, our nation has made significant progress in the struggle to end employment discrimination and advance equality. Any attempt to allow organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion with federal funds would drastically impede that progress and erode a longstanding principle of our nation’s civil rights policy: that federal civil rights obligations follow federal dollars, regardless of who receives them.

Because of the importance of ensuring that we not change current law to allow recipients of SSBG funds to have an explicit statutory right to engage in religious discrimination, we urge you to oppose Senator Santorum’s amendment. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR deputy director at 202/263-2880, or Julie Fernandes, senior policy analyst, at 202/263-2856, regarding this or any issue important to LCCR.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
Executive Director

Nancy Zirkin
Deputy Director

*Some organizations in the Leadership Conference do not join in this position because they disagree that allowing religious entities, including those participating in federally funded programs, to consider religion in hiring constitutes a threat to or violation of fundamental civil rights.