The Department of Justice's Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom (pdf) contains some creative uses of statistics to justify its Civil Rights Division's shift in emphasis from pursuing race and gender issues to pursuing religious liberty issues. In the introduction to the report, the DOJ claims that religious discrimination is on the rise and cites (on page 4) the following statistics:
"...from 1992 to 2005, complaints of religious discrimination in employment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] went up by 69%. During the same period, sex discrimination complaints rose 6%, national origin discrimination complaints rose 8%, and racial discrimination complaints actually decreased by 9.5%."
These statistics make it sound like religious discrimination is the new civil rights issue of our time, and that racial discrimination is apparently yesterday's issue. However, a closer look at the EEOC report the DOJ used to support the above statement EEOC Enforcement Statistics reveals a different story.
Religious discrimination complaints did indeed rise by 69% between 1992 and 2005, but the total number of religious complaints is miniscule compared to the total number of race and sex discrimination complaints. The chart below shows the number of complaints filed with the EEOC between 1992 and 2005, broken down by discrimination type.
Racial discrimination complaints in 2005 account for 29% of all these complaints, sex discrimination complaints account for 25%, while religious discrimination complaints accounts for only 3%. At 9%, even national-origin discrimination complaints, the next lowest type, are 3 times more numerous than religious discrimination complaints. Religious discrimination complaints are by far the low man on the totem pole.
Still, if the number of religious complaints is rising so precipitously, they'll quickly overtake the other categories unless the DOJ steps in, right? Maybe not. The EEOC report classifies every incoming complaint as either "reasonable cause" or "no reasonable cause". A complaint labeled "no reasonable cause" means that the EEOC determined they had "no reasonable cause" to believe that discrimination in fact occurred. The following chart compares the number of these two classifications that the EEOC applied to religious discrimination complaints between 1992 and 2005.
If we reformulate the quote from the DOJ's report above using these findings we find that...
"...from 1992 to 2005, complaints of religious discrimination in employment that the EEOC determined to have "no reasonable cause" went up by 104%. During the same period, sex discrimination complaints with "no reasonable cause" rose 28%, national-origin discrimination complaints with "no reasonable cause" rose 15%, and racial discrimination complaints with "no reasonable cause" actually decreased by 1%."
So what accounts for the amazing rise in religious discrimination complaints from 1992 to 2005? Possibly, frivolous complaints! If that's the case, maybe there isn't a true rise in religious discrimination after all. Maybe the DOJ's Civil Rights Division should stop spending its resources trying to please the Bush Administration's political friends and get back to pursuing more prevalent types of discrimination, like race and gender.