ACLU Praises Committee’s Vote For Religious Freedom, Head Start Will Continue to Hire Teachers Based on Qualifications not on Religious Beliefs

March 14, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today praised the House Education and Labor Committee for standing for religious freedom during its mark up of HR 1429, the “Improving Head Start Act of 2007.” The committee rejected an amendment to the bill 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 24 to 13.

“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 and keeping political agendas off the table. We applaud the Committee for rejecting attempts to allow limited federal funds to be used to discriminate based on a person’s religion or religious beliefs. A good teacher is a good teacher – no matter what religion.”

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 vital to America’s identity,” said Terri Ann Schroeder, Senior Lobbyist for the ACLU. “Access to Head Start employment opportunities should not hinge on one’s religious affiliation or beliefs. Congress must continue to dismiss misguided attempts at government-funded religion.”

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


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