organizations across the country are doing great work providing social services
far more effectively and often more efficiently than the government. In order for faith-based groups to continue
this crucial work, their religious liberties must be protected. Requiring Catholic adoption agencies to place
children in the homes of homosexual couples or prohibiting religious
organizations from hiring people of like-minded faith in order to receive
funding are a few of the threats to religious liberty that faith based groups
face. One organization seeking to
advocate for religious liberty and the effectiveness of faith-based
organizations is the Center for Public
Justice. AdvanceUSA was able to
interview Stanley Carlson-Thies about his work at CFPJ and the effort to
protect crucial religious liberties.
DH: Stanley, I have great memories of attending
Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom meetings with you when I was in DC, and
I really appreciate the intellectual firepower you brought to the fight for
religious freedom and the work CFPJ does to stand up for faith-based
organizations. Tell our readers briefly
what the Center for Public Justice does?
What is its mission?
The Center for Public Justice (CPJ) is a Christian “think tank” that works to
educate Christians and others about public policy and citizenship, helps to
develop Christian leaders in public affairs, and acts in coalition with others
who are serious about religious freedom to influence public debates in favor of
a robust public role for faith and faith-based organizations. We speak and write about a wide range of
issues—national security and the Iraq war, different ways that various American
Christian groups articulate a Christian perspective in politics (see the
important book by James Skillen, Scattered Voice), a defense of historic
marriage, and so on. We have been
particularly active in the areas of school choice as a fundamental school
reform, welfare reform, and the faith-based initiative. A major interest is understanding and showing
how government and private organizations can best be related to each other. We offer a one-week intensive summer course
in the Christian faith and public affairs, called the Civitas program.
DH: Could you explain to our readers the concept
of “religious hiring rights” and why it is so important for faith-based
Since the 1964 Civil Rights Act (and similar state and local laws), it has been
illegal for employers, except for very small ones, to discriminate in hiring on
the bases of race, color, national, origin, sex, or religion. People shouldn’t be excluded from jobs for
irrelevant reasons—that’s just bias. But
convictions and a certain standard of behavior are very important to most
faith-based organizations—to churches and other houses of worship, and also to
religious social-service and educational institutions. Imagine trying to maintain an evangelical
drug treatment ministry if you couldn’t insist that new employees be
Christians! Most people accept the need
for this kind of religious hiring freedom.
But many think this freedom ought to be given up if the organization
agrees to help the government serve the needy by accepting a government grant
to provide some service. How can it be
right that the government would support religious job discrimination, they
say. But, of course, it is not illegal
discrimination for religious organizations to hire on the basis of religion
(but they can’t exclude people for reasons of race, etc.). And it is just as
important to a faith-based organization to be able to have a staff committed to
its beliefs and standards when it is working with government as when it is
using only private money.
DH: What are some of the chief threats to
religious hiring rights in our nation today?