Faith-based Initiative Headed For Floor Vote In U.S. House

AU's Lynn Asks Americans To Urge Representatives To Reject Misguided Scheme

Nearly four dozen religious, labor and public policy organizations have sent a joint letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging members to vote against the Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7), a bill advancing President George W. Bush's "faith-based initiative."

The 46 organizations assert that the bill "is an unnecessary proposal that would harm religious liberty, turn back the clock on civil rights and burden local government with lawsuits."

The letter charges that the "charitable choice" provisions in the bill allow government-funded employment discrimination, fail to provide adequate secular alternatives for families in need and undermine the prophetic role of religion in society.

Assert the groups, "H.R. 7's 'Charitable Choice' provisions represent a step backwards on civil rights, usurp local government rights and undermine the personal religious liberty of people seeking help. We strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 7 until the 'Charitable Choice' provisions are removed."

Sponsored by Reps. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio), H.R. 7 is designed to funnel tax dollars into the coffers of churches and other "faith-based" organizations to provide social services. It is scheduled to face a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Opponents of the bill said the joint letter indicates the national concern about the measure.

"This impressive list of signers demonstrates the widespread concern about the Community Solutions Act," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "I hope the House is wise enough to vote against this misguided and dangerous measure."

Unveiled by President Bush Jan. 29, the "faith-based initiative" has become a flashpoint for controversy. Numerous religious and public policy organizations have announced opposition to the plan.

Signers of the letter, which was released today and sent to every members of the House, include Americans United for Separation of Church and State; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; Anti-Defamation League; Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National Education Association; National PTA; NOW Legal Defense Fund; Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Unitarian Universalist Association and Women of Reform Judaism.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.