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O.U. praises Justice religious unit

The Orthodox Union praised the Justice Department for setting up a unit to monitor religious liberties. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the establishment of the First Freedom Project on Tuesday, when he reviewed Bush administration protection of religious liberties. According to its Web site, the First Freedom Project will run training seminars for community leaders and create a task force to review Justice Department policies. “We deeply appreciate the continuing work of the Department of Justice in protecting and promoting religious liberty for members of the Orthodox Jewish community and all communities of faith in the United States,” the Orthodox Union said Wednesday. In reviewing his department’s successes, Gonzales noted a settlement with the Los Angeles transportation authority that allows Jewish bus drivers to observe Shabbat. But Americans United, a group supporting church-state separation, said other examples Gonzales cited in fact impinged on civil liberties, including granting federal funds to groups such as the Salvation Army that discriminate in hiring practices.