Here in Washington it’s hard to escape the stimulus package debate. Especially if the TV in your office is set to C-SPAN. It’s an important debate and it turns out there are a few amendments that might be affecting those civil liberties we here at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office strive so hard to protect for you.
Last week, in the House version of the stimulus package, there was an amendment passed that secured privacy protections as a part of funding for health IT implementation. Nice, right?
Tonight’s round of votes in the Senate, however, will include an amendment to remove a provision of the bill that preserves constitutional safeguards by prohibiting federal funds for construction or repair of buildings used for worship and other religious purposes. In order to protect religious freedom, the Senate should vote down Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) amendment in order to protect the religious freedom of all those whose religious buildings aren’t eligible for federal funds. Here’s a Supreme Court decision that echoes our argument.
We’ve written a letter to the Senate urging a vote against the amendment. Cross your fingers for religious freedom, readers.
In other religious news, the Obama administration released a troubling Executive Order on the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. From our release:
President Barack Obama announced today that he is taking the unprecedented and troubling step of forming a federal advisory committee to be made up mostly of religious leaders. Also of great concern, President Obama will increase federal funds going to religious organizations without first changing the Bush-era rules allowing federally-funded religious organizations to apply religious hiring tests to employees.
Big day in religion, kids. Check this space for updates on the DeMint amendment vote.
UPDATE: DeMint amendment failed!