A Faith-based Dilemma

    Uncertainty at the White House about the President's signature proposal -- federal aid for faith-based initiatives -- is setting off alarms in many quarters. The most recent eruption was the disclosure of an internal memo published in the Washington Post. It suggested that the Salvation Army -- in exchange for supporting the president's faith-based policies -- would get an exemption from laws forcing them to hire people who disagreed with their beliefs, specifically homosexuals. Well, all Washington needs is a memo like that to start the elephant and donkey wars. Democrats on Capitol Hill charged that Christian groups are making under-the-table deals with the White House, that religious groups are bigots, that they discriminate, and so on -- you get the drift. Trying to wriggle out of the mud, the White House at first affirmed that religious groups shouldn't have to hire those whose views and behaviors offend their religious principles. But then later, as the fear mounted, it said that it would not, however, grant the Salvation Army's application for an exemption. In any event, they said, it is unnecessary because faith-based charities are already allowed under federal law to apply a religious test to people they hire. But the perception was established that Bush and company are totally confused. And the liberals are delighted over this controversy because the faith- based ministries bill -- H.R. 7 in the House -- is pretty good on most scores. But it now goes to the Senate where Joe Lieberman and others are on their moral high horses -- prepared, in view of this controversy, to demand a strict ban on religious groups' rights to discriminate in hiring. Make no mistake, the issue here is not funding or whether you can itemize tax deductions. The issue is simple. It has come down to whether the liberals can use this issue to cram anti-discrimination laws down our throats. And if they succeed, it will strike a mortal blow to many ministries -- not just those receiving federal funds. It will punish all of us. But the proposition is preposterous on its face. Of course there's discrimination in society. Planned Parenthood discriminates by refusing to hire pro-life people; the Democratic Party discriminates when it won't hire Republicans. And Senator Lieberman ought to know non-Jews can't enroll in Yeshivas. Should McDonald's be forced to hire someone who tells customers they can get better hamburgers down the street at Wendy's? Of course not. The Left calls us bigots because we don't hire homosexuals, but that's grossly unfair. Most of the AIDS shelters in America are run by Christians. We love all sinners. I've ministered to countless prisoners dying of AIDS. But we, like the Jews, are people of the book. And if the Bible says homosexuality is a sin that violates God's standards, we cannot in good conscience hire people who practice such things. For religious liberty to be protected all citizens must have not only the right to believe what they want to believe, but also to act on those beliefs. The Bush Administration must not equivocate on this most basic issue of all. If they do, we may lose a lot more than just faith-based initiatives. A whole country may lose its religious liberty. And that's a price Americans ought not to be willing to pay.


Chuck Colson


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