ACLU Analyzing Latest Faith-Based Bill; Calls It First Step Toward Compromise

February 7, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today said that it was still in the process of examining the latest draft of the so-called faith-based legislation but, at first glance, a number of the programs proposed in the bill look like the first step toward a productive compromise.

“The latest round of faith-based negotiations have produced what appears to be a first step toward consensus legislation,” said Terri Schroeder, an ACLU Legislative Representative. “However, a major stumbling block remains. One section of the proposal still contains a funding scheme that raises constitutional concerns and does not explicitly provide for protection against religious discrimination.”

Schroeder’s remarks came in response to the introduction today of the latest version of legislation that would fund and mandate President Bush’s long-sought faith-based initiative. The initiative has been at the center of heated negotiations over the past several months between advocates on both sides of what has been dubbed the government-funded religion debate.

Consensus has been elusive, but the ACLU said that, while it remains concerned over several troublesome issues in the latest draft, today’s bill does a better job of walking the fine line between necessary help to those in need and protection of core First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom.

“At first glance, the legislation looks like moderate progress toward the ultimate goal of a true and fair consensus bill that provides greater help for volunteer and non-profit groups while respecting our Constitution,” Schroeder said.

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