Thursday, June 14, 2007

US Dept. of Justice. Religious rights trump civil rights

And just in case you thought the threat of the Christian fundamentalists taking over government is something we really shouldn't concern ourselves with, Jill tags this bit of information.
In recent years, the Bush administration has recast the federal government’s role in civil rights by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race.
No kidding!
The changes are evident in a variety of actions:

¶Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

¶Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

¶Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.

¶Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone’s civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.

¶Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.

If that doesn't start sending a chill down your spine, it gets even better.

Along with its changed civil rights mission, the department has also tried to overhaul the roster of government lawyers who deal with civil rights. The agency has transferred or demoted some experienced civil rights litigators while bringing in lawyers, including graduates of religious-affiliated law schools and some people vocal about their faith, who favor the new priorities. That has created some unease, with some career lawyers disdainfully referring to the newcomers as “holy hires.”
And guess who one of them was?

Ms. Oliveri and several other law professors said placement officers and faculty at their schools found that graduates seeking work at the Justice Department had a better chance by cleansing their résumés of liberal affiliations while emphasizing ties to the Federalist Society, a Washington conservative group, or membership in a religious fellowship.

Ms. Oliveri recalled that when she was hired in 2000 by the Justice Department, she was impressed by the accomplishments of her peers. But once the political appointees controlled the hiring, she said, “The change in the quality of people who were chosen was very pronounced.”

When the front office sent around the résumés of those newly hired for the honors program, she said, “It was obvious what they had: conservative and religious bona fides.”

There were several cases where the US Dept. of Justice stepped outside their mandate. They engaged in ideological cases beyond the constitutional scope provided for by Congress.

But, what the hell. They're harmless, right? It's only the Constitution of the United States and we are all pretty much aware of what that means to the Bush administration.

And it's not like anyone predicted it or anything like that.

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