In the five years before President Bush took office, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reviewed one education discrimination complaint involving religion and investigated none. In the six years since, 82 cases were reviewed and 40 investigated.
Now the Bush administration wants to enhance those efforts with greater governmental resources. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced at a Southern Baptist leaders' meeting in February that the DOJ was launching the First Freedom Project, an initiative to further combat religious discrimination and protect religious freedom.
"One of the great strengths of America is the fact we are a nation of tolerance. We respect different viewpoints; we respect different beliefs," Wan J. Kim, assistant attorney general for civil rights, told CT. "That separates us from a lot of other nations. When we do this work to protect against religious discrimination, we strengthen America. And we do so in a way that is nondenominational."
The initiative will include the Religious Freedom Task Force, chaired by Kim, which will employ various divisions of the DOJ to review discrimination complaints. The new firstfreedom.gov website touts previous successes, educates Americans about their rights, and provides a channel for filing complaints online. The department also will hold a series of regional training seminars. Events have been scheduled for Tampa on April 25 and Seattle on May 10.
Even before the First Freedom Project, the DOJ's stepped-up efforts have generated greater religious freedom, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Government lawyers convinced a federal court last year that a New Jersey school had unconstitutionally censored a Christian song from a talent show. The DOJ compelled ...1