Court Victory for Wisconsin Faith-Based Charities
Madison - An annual program that encourages charitable giving by state employees may not exclude religious charitable organizations from participating if the groups use religion as a basis for employment or board membership, a federal judge has ruled.This is another in a long line of legal cases in which the courts have had to force government bodies to stop discriminating against Christian organizations.
The Association of Faith-Based Organizations, a coalition of faith-based groups based in Springfield, Va., brought the lawsuit this spring. The group alleged that among the rights violated were First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and expression, because applications from some faith-based groups were rejected by the committee that selected participating organizations for the State Employees Combined Campaign.
“(E)xcluding a religious charitable organization from participation in the Wisconsin State Employees Combined Campaign solely because that organization discriminates on the basis of religion or creed in choosing its governing board and employees is constitutionally impermissible,” U.S. District Judge John C. Shabaz wrote in his order, issued Friday.
Shabaz added that the state cannot deny applications of otherwise qualified religious charitable groups on the basis of how religion is used to select board members or employees.
Larrivee said a charitable group would still need to demonstrate it is non-discriminatory in delivering services.
Michael Dean, a Waukesha attorney serving as local counsel for the faith-based groups, said the judge had sent a “loud and clear” message that the state can’t discriminate against groups on the basis of religion if they otherwise qualify for the program.
“Every single organization has a right to appoint directors and key personnel who support the mission and philosophies of the organization,” Dean said.
In his order, Shabaz noted that the state had argued that excluding religious charitable organizations from participation in the campaign followed state policy against religious discrimination, and that the presence of some controversial religious charities might prompt some state employees not to participate.
But Shabaz noted that the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act allows a non-profit religious group to use religion as a factor when hiring employees.
Anti-Christian secular types are always arguing that their discrimination upholds the Constitutional “Wall of Separation Between Church and State.”
But of course, the Constitution never mentions any such wall, the Founders never intended any such wall, and the developed case law imposes no such wall.
So people who invoke that concept need to be recognized for what they are: prejudiced against Christians.