Head Start Bill Passed Without ‘Faith-Based’ Bias

Congress has turned away efforts to remove civil rights protections from a bill reauthorizing Head Start, the popular preschool program that helps low-income families prepare their children for school.

In November, the U.S. Senate passed the Head Start reauthorization 95-0, following House passage earlier in the year. President George W. Bush signed the measure in December.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State helped lead a diverse coalition of public interest groups in supporting long-standing Head Start provisions that bar providers from discriminating in hiring and firing based on religion. Supporters of the Bush administration’s “faith-based” initiative had worked to remove those civil rights protections.

Americans United’s legislative department sent letters to lawmakers urging them to keep Head Start’s non-discrimination safeguards intact.

Said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, “Thanks to the tireless work of Aaron Schuham and the AU legislative affairs department, the integrity of Head Start has been saved from a relentless movement to advance the so-called ‘faith-based’ initiative.”

The Coalition Against Religious Discrimination includes the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; American Federation of Teachers; American Jewish Committee; NAACP; American Baptist Churches, USA; National Head Start Association; and the National Education Association.