President Obama Talks Faith-Based Hiring Practices at Town Hall

Speaking at a town hall meeting at the University of Maryland Friday, President Barack Obama assured those in attendance that the law allowing religious organizations to base their hiring practices on the faith of potential employees was balanced.

The president's remarks were prompted by a woman in the audience who wanted to know Obama's view on religious discrimination in hiring practices. The woman, an atheist, wanted to know why the president has not rescinded Executive Order 13279, which allows faith-based employers receiving federal money to have religion be a factor in their hiring practices.

The president explained that employers should not discriminate against anyone for any reason, but explained that a “carve out” instituted by former President Bill Clinton allows religious organizations to use faith in their hiring practices.

“The First Amendment ensures that there is freedom of religion. On the other hand, we want to make sure that religious bodies are abiding by general laws,” Obama said.

He admitted that the policy does not satisfy everyone, but that it is balanced.

“I think we've struck the right balance so far, but this is something we continue to be in dialogue with faith-based organizations about to try to make sure that their hiring practices are as open and inclusive as possible,” Obama said.

The Executive Order was signed in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.

Just last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in partnership with several other organizations, some religious, called on Obama to rescind the order.

Faith-based groups have since followed suit, writing letters to Obama and asking him to uphold the initiative.

An inter-faith group, in their July 12 letter to Obama, reminded the president that: “religious hiring by religious organizations in the context of government funding simply allows religious organizations to do what secular organizations do while receiving government funding: employ persons who agree with the organizations’ mission.”

The president's discussion at the town hall in College Park, Maryland, was primarily focused on the economy, with special attention given to the debt ceiling and deficit reduction debates currently going on with lawmakers.