From: Sol Levine and Carol Cratty/CNN White House Producers
Subject: Clinton To Issue Religious Expression 'Guidelines' For Federal Workplace
President Bill Clinton is expected to issue "guidelines" on Thursday clarifying what forms of religious expression are permitted in the federal workplace.
The guidelines will allow such things as Jewish employees to have a Menorah on their desks, Christian workers to display crosses and members of all denominations to be allowed time out to pray.
These guidelines clarify measures in the "Religious Freedom Act," which was in part struck down in June by the Supreme Court. White House officials say the president's announcement on Thursday is not in response to any existing problem or complaint, but there have been questions about what is allowed in the workplace.
The administration also wants to encourage employers in the private sector to follow suit. They claim many private sector businesses, including some of the largest in the nation, have rules inhibiting or limiting religious expression.
Officials boast that a broad coalition of ecumenical groups, including the Christian Legal Society, People For the American Way and the American Jewish Congress have joined to back the president's guidelines and will be present at Thursday's ceremony. The officials say the new guidelines are constructed "within the law," and expect them to survive any legal challenges which may be mounted, although they don't anticipate any.
This is the third in a series of pronouncements Clinton has made regarding religious liberties. The first was an endorsement of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed Congress in 1993, parts of which were subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year. The second were guidelines for public schools in regard to what forms religious expression ought to be allowed.
An aide pointed out, however, that the new guidelines do not condone religious "harassment" (such as one employee repeatedly exhorting another to convert religions), and that government supervisors will continue to monitor complaints and take action against harassment of any sort.
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