Is religious discrimination in hiring now okay? What about other kinds of discrimination? Under what conditions can an organization say, "We don't like to hire Jews or queers?" According to the C-Student-in-Charge, it's when the organization is taking your tax dollars to deliver a federally sponsored social program.
Since the whole "Faith-Based Initiatives" began (started with the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, but accellerated under Bush), this has been a serious question. Religious organizations have always been exempt from fair-hiring laws when it came to their private actions. But, as contractors to the federal government when taking tax dollars for social programs, they're obligated to follow the law. Because of that, many church groups have been reluctant to take part in this particular give away.
Shrub to the rescue: Bush Says Religious Charities Should Be Allowed to Discriminate. "The Washington Post reported June 25 that President Bush is urging Congress to pass legislation ensuring 'religious hiring rights.'"
I have no problem with the exemption when it comes to basic church functions. A baptist church shouldn't be obligated to consider hiring a Jewish minister. I think we all agree with that. But, when a church (or temple or mosque or ...) goes outside its congregation to offer social services to the general community (food, shelter, clothes, job coaching, health care, etc.) they have two choices:
1) They can do it privately with their own money, donated by the congregation, and keep their employment law exemptions, or,
2) They can accept public money (federal or state), and follow the same rules as any other government contractor. Once they sign the contract they become the representative of the government, and any discrimination is reflected upon all of us.
Don't like the red tape? Don't want to deal with the bureaucracy? Don't want to have to hire employees based on their qualifications only? Then don't take my money. Nobody's forcing these groups to apply for these funds. Being a government contractor is optional. Just don't discriminate in my name.