As if Alberto Gonzales hasn’t done enough to discredit the Justice Department and reveal the disgraceful, neo-con driven decline of the Constitution….
The NYTimes reported today on the stark changes in the civil rights division at the Dept. of Justice during the Bush tenure. It seems that the powers that be have turned away from challenging the federal, state and municipal laws that systematically disadvantage people along the lines of race to elevate a civil rights issue closer to the conservative agenda: the right to be religious. Here’s a survey of the new era of Justice…
–Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.
–Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.
–Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques.
–Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone’s civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right.
–Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration.
And what that doesn’t say is how Justice has also marginalized long-serving attorneys and revamped their “honors” program to prioritize religious credentials and admitted a surge of recent grads from the likes of Ave Maria and Brigham Young. This is a problem. I can’t even begin to name the ways…