Define ‘Freedom’ …

In his state of the union address, President Bush called for a permanent extension of “charitable choice”—no doubt including efforts by his administration to allow faith-based groups receiving federal funding to discriminate in hiring. Reporting on the effort in Congress, the Washington Times quotes an organization taking up Bush’s charge:

A coalition of multidenominational religious groups is fighting to save the language, and the scuffle is complicating efforts in the Senate to renew the SAMHSA [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] law. SAMHSA funds and administers a slew of outreach and intervention programs, doling out grants to social service groups that help fight mental illness and addiction. …

“Asking faith-based organizations to ignore religion in making staffing decisions is like asking senators to disregard party affiliation and political ideology in choosing their staff, or requiring the Sierra Club or the Human Rights Campaign to ignore the political and philosophical commitments of potential staff,” argued the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom in a letter to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Enzi.

The “Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom” might sound like an organization that would be outraged when a government-funded program openly refused to hire, say, Catholics or Baptists. After all, the Religious Test clause of the Constitution prohibits the government from requiring officials to be of a certain faith, and civil rights laws protect people from religious employment discrimination at all but private religious institutions. But this group apparently defines “religious freedom” not as an individual liberty but as the right of faith-based groups to discriminate while receiving federal dollars.

In fact, this coalition’s name sounds a lot like that of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, a group of 50 religious, civil rights, and educational organizations (including PFAW) that formed in the 1990s to oppose efforts to establish state-sponsored prayer and public funding of sectarian schools—quite the opposite of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom.

CPRF is hosted by a group called the Center for Public Justice, and its members include (as of this 2004 document) the National Association of Evangelicals and the Christian Legal Society.