From email@example.com Mon Jul 23 22:27:46 2001
Subject: AANEWS for Monday, July 23, 2001
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 19:41:40 -0400
Appearing on the Fox News Sunday program yesterday, Sen. Joseph L. Lieberman announced that he was crafting new legislation that would increase the availability of federal funds for religion-based charitable groups.
This comes after the House last Thursday passed H.R. 7, the
Community Solutions Act which was a major step in funding
President Bush's federal faith-based initiative. Lieberman said that
his legislation would compete with H.R. 7.
That's not right. It's not necessary. And it's going to stop a
bipartisan agreement on this very good idea, gushed Lieberman.
I've always believed that religion is a source of unity in America,
not division, Lieberman added.
Right now, this bill (H.R. 7)
is framed in a way that seems to have divided us.
The Community Solutions Act was sponsored by Reps. J.C. Watts, Jr
(R-Oklahoma) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio). It would expand the
charitable choice section of the 1996 welfare reform act, and
encourage churches and other houses of worship to compete for federal
grants in order to operate faith-based social programs. Despite
clearing the house in a 233-198 vote, the measure is expected to
encounter even stiffer opposition in the U.S. Senate. During
Tuesday's debate over H.R. 7, opponents focused on provisions which
would allow religious groups accepting government money to ignore
local and state anti-discrimination statutes, and use religion as a
criteria in hiring practices.
Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act gives similar immunity to religious groups.
Lieberman said that his faith-based funding bill would be designed to
encourage the participation of churches, mosques and temples in the
social service mix
in a constitutionally appropriate way. It is
expected that the Lieberman bill would emphasize an expanded
charitable choice provision and other grants to religious groups, but
require those same organizations to not use ethnicity, sexual
orientation, or sectarian belief when hiring personnel.
It is not known at this time whether Lieberman's version would allow
religious charities to by-pass other regulations that apply to secular
groups, such as hiring credentialed professionals in drug and alcohol
treatment programs. Religion-based programs like Teen Challenge,
often cited as a paradigm in the delivery of rehab services by
President Bush, are exempt from having to hire professional
psychologists and other therapists, and may instead rely on preachers
Bible-based counselors with little or no academic
Lieberman's announcement should have separationists concerned, despite the fact that the Connecticut lawmaker pledged to oppose H.R. 7 when it is brought up on the Senate floor. As written, the Community Solutions Act may not even have the votes to pass. Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle said that he will allow the legislation to come up for discussion despite his own reservations.
Appearing yesterday on the NBC program
Meet The Press, Daschle
(D-South Dakota) said,
I don't want to be tied to a specific time
frame, but ... we'll have that debate. He added that with the
current Senate workload,
it will be difficult to get it done this
So why is Lieberman on the verge of promoting his own faith-based funding initiative? Will religious and political interest groups back him?Opponents Still Want A Religion Tax! One way of understanding Lieberman's move is to examine his role in the recent year 2000 election campaign, and the rhetoric in last Tuesday's debate over H.R.7.
Lieberman's pick as a vice presidential candidate on the Democratic
ticket reaffirmed Al Gore's strategy of distancing himself from the
alleged moral debauchery of the Clinton White House, and instead
God issue in hopes of breaking the Republican
values as a campaign issue. Gore, for instance,
was first to propose a faith-based partnership between government and
religious groups. Democratic strategists referred to the campaign as
the first step in
taking back God as a symbol for the party.
And Lieberman turned the campaign trail into a pulpit stump,
constantly appearing in houses of worship, and lacing his political
rhetoric with religious language. Even after the election, Lieberman
joined with religious and political conservatives in
on the Hollywood entertainment industry for its violent movies,
salacious music lyrics and even edgy video games. Indeed, while
speaking at last week's Democratic Leadership Conference meeting in
Indianapolis (a key city in the effort to establish municipal
faith-based social programs), Lieberman again caution the party's
friends in Hollywood that if they did not comply with decency
demands, they could face government censorship through the power of
the Federal Communications Commission.
Bottom line: Lieberman, considered a possible 2004 White House nominee
for the Democrats, has every intention of meeting his Republican
counterparts point for point on issues relating to religion, the
status of ecclesiastical groups in civil society, and the need for a
Big Mom style of government.
While H.R. 7 did not win overwhelmingly on the floor of the House
of Representatives on Tuesday, the opposition often concentrated on
only one provision of the proposed Act, the civil rights exemption.
Many rose to reassure reporters, fellow lawmakers and the C-SPAN
audience that they were people of faith, and even favored the
innovative idea of diverting more money into the coffers of religious
groups, and defended existing programs which subsidize sectarian
charities. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) boasted that she, her
husband an children
have among us 100 years of Catholic
education, and said she was proud of Catholic Charities -- a
social outreach that receives nearly 60% of its operating budget from
taxpayers. The only problem she had with H.R. 7 that it would
legalize discrimination as we minister to the needs of the
These sorts of statements played into claims of H.R. 7 backers, such
as Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who declared that the
charitable choice expansion
is not a new idea, and over the past
several years, Democrats and Republicans alike have voted for
charitable choice in the Welfare Reform Act, the community services
block grant law, and two substance abuse laws under the public health
Sensenbrenner added that the Community Solutions Act
logical extension of existing legislation.
Thus, the burning question becomes: will opponents of H.R. 7 actively begin promoting a Lieberman bill which calls for expansion of charitable choice and other aid-to-religion schemes but require recipients to comply with anti-discrimination laws? A number of scenarios become possible.
Backers of H.R. 7, realizing their daunting task in the Senate,
could opt for a scaled-down measure including a civil rights
enforcement provision. Many of the 198
nay votes in the House
would switch, betting that faith-based initiatives enjoy the support
of key constituencies, including many black congregations. Liberals
could try selling a Lieberman-style bill, using such support as a
credential in the 2002 local and 2004 national elections, evidence
that they are not part of a Secular Humanist agenda inside the
Religious groups, tied of suffering from
empty pew syndrome,
may still embrace a faith-based initiative, even if it means changing
hiring practices. Some groups would simply ignore civil rights
protections, and there is no stipulation in the existing federal
legislation which provides for an active program of oversight and
monitoring to ensure compliance. In Texas, there is already a lawsuit
involving a church-operated jobs training program which accepted
public funds, but pressured clients to change their beliefs in respect
to religion. Religious groups may
press the envelope to test
any legislation, and see how far they could go in circumventing civil
rights statutes. Some groups would undoubtedly refuse to participate,
insisting that provisions in a Lieberman-style bill would compromise
their religious mission.
The prospect of a Lieberman faith-based funding bill appeals strongly
to many interest groups, including Democratic
on winning back church-goers and others drawn to the GOP's religious
morality crusade. The legislation could also stop the embarrassing
hemorrhage in Democratic ranks of black clergy, political leaders and
congregations who have embraced President Bush's federal initiative
with enthusiasm. Philadelphia Mayor John Street is a case in point,
along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted for
Marginalized in this debate is the question of who exactly will fund these religious entitlement programs. Among those being taxed -- 27 million Americans who describes themselves as Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Skeptics or nonbeliever of some kind. This, say the critics, amounts to the imposition of a Religion Tax on those of have no spiritual beliefs, and adhere to a thoroughly secular lifestyle.
Lieberman's criticism of H.R. 7 mirrors the skepticism of many
lawmakers in Washington, and in the Senate. During his Fox News
Channel appearance, Lieberman restricted his focus not to the idea
that the Community Solutions Act forced Americans to subsidize
faith-based outreaches, but rather his
serious concerns about the
weakness of the civil rights protections and constitutional
safeguards, according to a spokesman. The current mood in
Washington, then, is one that wants to ignore the touchy subjects of
taxing non-religious Americans to fund faith-based programs, and find
some way -- any way -- of drafting legislation that can squeeze under
legal bar of First Amendment muster, and win votes at the ballot box.
** NOTE: A full breakdown on the vote tally on H.R. is now posted shortly on our web site. Check out: http://www.atheists.org/flash.line for updated information.
http://www.thedaythatcounts.org (America's nonbelievers stand together to oppose funding of faith-based social programs)
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faithlob.htm (Archive of articles on public funding of religion)
Bush runs for
cover, drops discrimination rule after expose of Salvation Army
'backdoor' influence peddling at White House, 7/15/01)
Survey of social
programs, reports of another 'Bible Discipline' abuse case raise
questions about faith-based initiative, 7/8/01)
Bush exploits July
4 unity celebration to promote faith-based agenda, 7/7/01)
Suit exposes use of
lottery revenue to fund religious groups, pageant, 6/8/01)
Bush signs executive
orders for faith-based programs, 1/29/01)
Religion Tax office
opens as fringe groups poised to demand cash, 2/21/01)
bill introduced to energize faith-based initiative, 3/25/01)