This morning, the New York Times headlines a scoop on how the Justice Department has shifted its energy from prosecuting race-oriented civil rights cases to religious-oriented civil rights case. I was prepared to think: here we go again with unjust laws being used to privilege groups based on their political affiliations. The story seemed to be a easy pitch for any libertarian to hit out of the park.
But as we examine the cases cited in the story, the clarity disappears. The Bush administration came to the defense of the Salvation Army to manage its own hiring decisions without threat from the federal government: government protects group against government. That doesn’t seem objectionable. Other cases seem to be clear cases of government overreach: public schools kicking kids out for handing out candy canes, local governments zoning religious congregations out of their rights to property, and other such cases. Now, one might argue against federal intervention here on federalists grounds, but in most cases cited, the Bush admin seems more or less correct (if the story is accurate).
The story further tries to make an issue out of the religious hires done by the Justice Department. Now, it strikes me as a waste of a good life for anyone to go to work for the government but I still had to laugh at this paragraph, presented to shock us: “Figures provided by the department show that from 2003 through 2006, there was a notable increase of hirings from religious-affiliated institutions like Regent University and Ave Maria University. The department hired eight from those two schools in that period, compared to 50 from Harvard and 13 from Yale.”