Norton statement on Salvation Army and discrimination
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Norton statement on Salvation Army and discrimination

Congressional Record
July 10, 2001, page H3832

(House of Representatives )

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Pence). Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor this evening because of a shocking story that appeared on the front page of the Washington Post this morning about a secret deal between, of all people, of all organizations, the Salvation Army, to support charitable choice in exchange for the issuance of a White House regulation, OMB Circular No. A-102, that would deny assistance to States or localities that require religious charities to adhere to their nondiscrimination laws as they apply to gay men and women. Now, of course, these nondiscrimination laws have to do with the activities of these religious charities that do not relate to their religions.

A political deal should be beneath the dignity of the Salvation Army, given its long Christian heritage, not to mention the President of the United States. It is a deal to discriminate under the table.

According to the lead document, this cannot be done in the legislative process very easily, so they had to do it by regulation. Charitable choice already contains a fatal flaw, because, as put forward by the administration, it would allow a religious organization to discriminate using government money by requiring people it hires to do a government task to be of their religion. That is a direct violation of Title VI and of the Constitution of the United States.

I am a former Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I strongly support an exemption in the law that I administered, Title VII, which allows a religious denomination an exemption to the antidiscrimination law in hiring people of their own religion with their own money. But we cannot give the Baptists and the Lutherans and the Catholics and the Jews our money and say you can discriminate when you perform services in our name. That is already a problem with the bill.

But in order to make it perfectly clear, in case that does not survive, that at least people who are gay and lesbian should not be discriminated against, this would be done by regulation.

Mr. Speaker, why the Salvation Army would engage in this deal is really perplexing. The Salvation Army already gets $300 million in funds from the Federal Government to do their wonderful work. They get it because they abide by government regulations that say when you use government money, you cannot proselytize, you cannot engage in religion, because this is America, and this is what we have stood for, for everybody. So they already get money, just like Catholic charities and just like Lutheran charities and just like Jewish charities all get money, and they have accepted it, and I hope they will continue to get it on the basis that everybody else who does the government's work accepts it, and that is as long as we are doing the government's work, then your money is the public money, and we cannot discriminate against anybody when giving those services.

This body has already a long history of discriminating against gays and lesbians in the District of Columbia, because whenever there is anything in our law that allows equal protection for people of a different sexual orientation, then somebody hops up here and tries, and often succeeds, in overturning the law. Now we are trying to do what you do to the District of Columbia to hundreds of localities and States in the United States.

I hope everybody understands what it feels like to intrude in the affairs of local jurisdictions in a federalist society, a society where we say, look, different strokes for different folks. Some of us behave one way with respect to our laws, others another way. Some people have chosen to protect gay men and lesbians against discrimination, and I say God bless them. In the 21st century we should not be discriminating against any Americans based on a characteristic that has nothing to do with performance. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with performance, and the last people, the last organizations who should be engaged in such discrimination are organizations that go by the name "Christian,'' and the Salvation Army should be ashamed of itself that it has been caught red-handed on the front page of the Washington Post in the column where you put war and peace. Thank God that they were exposed.

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