When you go to an interview for a government-funded job, you don't expect to be turned away because of your religion. But that's exactly what happened to Alan Yorker, a psychologist who applied for a government-funded job at a children's home in Georgia.
Yorker was well-qualified, so officials at the children's home asked him to come in for an interview. But when he arrived, they found out he was Jewish and cut the interview short. They told Yorker they don't hire Jews. Even though the job was funded by the government, the children's home discriminated against potential employees on the basis of religion. Fortunately, Yorker sued under state law and favorably settled his case.
But in August, the Trump administration proposed changing federal policy so that more people like Yorker will face employment discrimination not just in Georgia, but throughout the nation.
In the latest attack on working Americans, President Donald Trump's Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would vastly expand a religious exemption to allow government contractors to discriminate in hiring. And as usual, the administration justified its discriminatory policy by citing "religious freedom."
The result: taxpayer-funded federal contractors, including for-profit companies, could claim a religious right to fire people because they are LGBTQ, they are single moms, they are the "wrong" religion, or they don't go to church often enough. Imagine a sign on the government contractor's office that says "Jews, Sikhs, Catholics, and Latter-day Saints need not apply." That could happen under the new rules.
Americans United quickly condemned the policy.
"We believe no one should be disqualified from a taxpayer-funded job because he or she is the 'wrong' religion, does not follow the same religious 'tenets' as the employer or cannot pass an employer's religious litmus test," AU President and CEO Rachel Laser said in a statement.
"Today's action tarnishes our country's proud history of preventing employment discrimination with taxpayer dollars," Laser added. "As early as 1941, President Roosevelt issued the first antidiscrimination requirements for federal contractors. In subsequent executive orders, Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Obama have all expanded these protections, taking America down the higher path of equality and inclusion."
To understand why the new regulations are such a problem, it's useful to know a little about how government...