House Passes Bush Initiative for Government-Funded Religion

July 19, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union called today’s narrow House passage of the contentious Bush faith-based initiative a grave injury to civil rights and freedom of religion in this country and urged the Senate to reject the measure.

“The House made a grievous mistake today,” said Terri Schroeder, an ACLU Legislative Representative. “It took the first step toward legalizing discrimination by religious organizations which receive federal funds and further entangled government with religious institutions across the country.”

Were the “Community Solutions Act of 2001” (HR 7) to pass the Senate, it would allow religious organizations that receive tax dollars to provide social programs to disregard long-standing civil rights protections and use religious criteria in hiring and in the provision of services.

The government-funded religion measure was adopted by the House on a 233 to 198 vote.

“For 60 years, the federal government has demanded that tax dollars be used to protect fairness, equity, and equal opportunity,” Schroeder said. “If the faith-based legislation becomes law, Congress and the Administration will have, in one dramatic change, laid waste to the crucial civil rights protections put in place during World War II under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

Aside from civil rights concerns, the Bush initiative for government-funded religion has, in recent months, attracted the ire of a large number of main-line churches (including Bush’s own), the civil rights community, and from many conservatives and civil libertarians who question the measure’s potential impact on religious organizations’ autonomy from government interference.

“This is a dangerous piece of legislation that has one goal and one goal only: to extinguish social and legal codes that protect against discrimination with tax dollars,” Schroeder said.

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