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Religious Freedom New DOJ Focus

Posted Jun 14, 2007 8:22 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Justice Department has shifted its civil rights focus, emphasizing religious-freedom cases rather than racial discrimination.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has cited the department’s advocacy on behalf of religious rights as one of his top accomplishments, the New York Times reports.

To press its new mission, the department has transferred or demoted experienced civil-rights lawyers and hired applicants who support the new focus, the newspaper says.

As evidence of the shift, the Times notes that the department has:

--Intervened on behalf of religious groups receiving federal funds that claim a right to favor job applicants who share their beliefs.

--Supported groups that want to give school children religious literature to take home.

--Vigorously enforced a law exempting churches from local zoning restrictions.

--Prosecuted fewer hate crimes and civil rights violations by police.

--Stepped up prosecution of sex trafficking.

--Cut back on challenges to redistricting plans that dilute the black vote.

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