The use of government funds or resources to support religious institutions or promote religious ideology is a violation of every American taxpayers’ First Amendment Rights.
As a diverse and secular nation, it is improper and unconstitutional for the government to direct taxpayer money to programs and institutions that discriminate on the basis of religion. Despite this principle, federal and state grants are still often made available to religious organizations that discriminate or impose their beliefs on others.
Adoption and Foster Care Services
Faith-based adoption providers that receive taxpayer fundings have an obligation to act in the best interest of the children and the community they serve. When such providers are allowed discriminate against clients on the basis of religion, it is taxpayer-funded discrimination. Several state legislatures have passed laws that legalize religiously-based discrimination for adoption providers and similar legislation has been introduced in other state legislatures. Under these laws, adoption providers could refuse to adopt a child to a same-sex, atheist, or interfaith couple, even if that couple is otherwise qualified to provide a safe, loving home.
School Voucher Programs
Some school voucher programs violate the separation of church and state by funneling taxpayer money from public schools to private religious schools. Religious schools are exempt from transparency requirements and crucial civil rights laws that protect minority faiths, nontheists, students with disabilities, and LGBT students. Parents should be free to send their children to receive a religious education, but not at the taxpayer’s expense.
Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships
In 2001, President Bush issued an Executive Order creating the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships which distributed federal grants to religious nonprofits that provide social services. In 2007, the Bush administration released a memo which asserted that religious nonprofits could discriminate when providing services because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Secular Coalition for America has joined LGBT organizations, religious groups, and civil rights advocacy organizations in calling for Obama administration to disavow the 2007 memo and holding religious nonprofits accountable.
Using public funds to support religiously-based discrimination violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and the civil rights of those individuals being denied access to government services. The Secular Coalition for America supports protecting equal rights and the separation of church and state by ensuring that government money is only made available to programs and institutions that provide religiously-neutral services without discrimination.
Next month, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association. The case involves the 40-foot-tall “Peace Cross” (a.k.a. the Bladensburg Cross), a World…