ACLU Applauds Congress’ Vote For Religious Freedom

May 2, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today praised the House for standing for religious freedom during its vote of HR 1429, the “Improving Head Start Act of 2007.” The body rejected a motion that would have removed longstanding civil rights protections prohibiting the hiring of teachers, staff and volunteers based on religion in Head Start programs. The provision failed by a vote of 195 to 222.

“Head Start is not, and should not be about government-funded religion in the classroom,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This program gets remarkable results by putting underprivileged students first. We applaud Congress for not allowing limited federal funds to be used to discriminate based on religion. No matter what his or her religion, a good teacher is a good teacher.”

Current federal law prohibits Head Start providers from discriminating based on religion, among other things. These are rules that protect Head Start employees and participants from federally funded religious discrimination or coercion.

The ACLU noted that civil rights protections have been included in Head Start from its inception when it was passed by Congress, signed into law by President Richard Nixon and later renewed by President Ronald Reagan. Currently, many religiously affiliated groups participate in Head Start programs and comply with these civil rights provisions like their secular counterparts.

“Religious freedom is a bedrock American value,” said Terri Schroeder, Senior Lobbyist for the ACLU. “Head Start employment opportunities should hinge on one’s qualifications, not one’s religious affiliation or beliefs. We are grateful that Congress continues to reject misguided attempts at government-funded religion.”

To read more about the ACLU’s concern with government funded religion, go to: /religion/govtfunding

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