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Religious groups urge against federal funding changes

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Leaders of religious groups signed a letter urging U.S. congressmen not to take measures to alter federal funding of religious charities.

The letter, delivered to members of Congress on Wednesday, opposed an amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would prohibit religious charities that receive federal funding from preferring to hire employees of their religion. Leaders from the Orthodox Union, World Vision, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other organizations signed the petition.

“Our nation needs religious charities,” World Vision President and CEO Richard Stearns said in a statement. “For decades, we have relied on and benefitted from religious charities receiving federal grants. There is no good reason – nor a compelling legal justification – to jeopardize those organizations and, more importantly, the people they serve.”

According to World Vision and the Orthodox Union, many of the signatories of the letter represent charities that do not receive federal funding.

Under current law, faith-based organizations that receive federal funding can choose to hire people of the faith they represent. However, they cannot discriminate against recipients of their aid and are prohibited from proselytizing. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that the law guaranteeing the hiring rights of faith-based organizations did not violate the separation of church and state.

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