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Tue Aug 25, 2015, 05:08 PM

The Most Important Step President Obama Can Take to Stop the Use of Religion to Discriminate

As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence faced a well-deserved national backlash this spring after signing a discriminatory “religious freedom” law, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest rightly described the law as “not consistent with our values as a country that we hold dear.”

The very same statement applies to a legal opinion, carried over from the administration of President George W. Bush, that, regrettably, the Obama administration has allowed to remain in place for six and a half years. The memo, using the guise of religious liberty, explicitly authorizes taxpayer-funded discrimination.

In the closing years of the Bush administration, the Office of Legal Counsel within the Justice Department, the very same entity that produced the infamous torture memos, published a legal memorandum on June 29, 2007, that reached the erroneous and dangerous conclusion that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 provides for a blanket override of nondiscrimination protections, specifically to allow a federal grantee to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring with taxpayer dollars.

As a candidate, then-Senator Obama promised to end taxpayer-funded hiring discrimination because of the government’s profound and enduring commitment to upholding the bedrock civil rights principle that it must not fund discrimination. While President Obama has done much to advance fairness and equality for all Americans, he has, to date, allowed this deeply harmful legal memorandum to remain in place."


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