Thursday, May 03, 2007

More Love the Fetus, Hate the Child

Why are some Republican members of Congress willing to throw children under the bus for the sake of pleasing the religious right? This week some Republican members of the House tried to stop a bill that funds Head Start (which works-pdf file). They, and Bush, won't support the bill because it doesn't allow religious organizations RECEIVING FEDERAL FUNDS to hire and fire someone based on their religious beliefs.

This smacks of pandering to religious extremists and has a "why should I do anything to help them" flavor (which is usually rich in layers of racism and elitism). From the article:

WASHINGTON - The House approved more money for the popular Head Start program Wednesday after rejecting a GOP-led attempt to allow religious groups participating in the program to hire and fire staffers based on religious grounds.

The bill, passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion in spending in fiscal 2008 for the 42-year-old program that helps low-income children prepare for school, up from $6.9 billion in the current year.[Compare these numbers to those from Iraq.] ...

Before the final vote, Democrats voted down the Republican proposal to change a 1972 Head Start law in order to allow religious groups to take religion into account in hiring. Democrats said that amounted to sanctioning religious discrimination among groups receiving federal money.

Instead, Democrats pushed through an amendment, offered by Rep. Heath Shuler (news, bio, voting record), D-N.C., and several other moderate Democratic freshmen, that confirms the rights of religious groups to participate in Head Start programs on the same basis of other organizations. ...

The White House said it cannot support the bill because of the religion issue and several other provisions, including one to terminate a system of measuring the progress of Head Start children. ...

If the provision were appealed, a church group that provides Head Start services could employ child-care workers belonging only to that denomination, rejecting equally
qualified workers of other religions.

Republicans argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act carves out a religious exemption and that President Clinton [It's always about Clinton with these folks.] signed several bills, including the 1996 welfare reform bill, that included "charitable choice" provisions giving religious groups receiving federal funds some discretion in hiring.

Opponents pointed out that the Civil Rights Act exemption applies to religious groups using their own funds in hiring, not federal funds. They said Clinton, in signing the charitable choice bills, issued signing statements barring the federal funding of "pervasively sectarian" organizations.

The Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, representing 70 religious, civil rights and labor groups, said the repeal would be "the first time that Congress has ever acted to repeal existing, statutory anti-discrimination protections."

"Beliefs about religion should play no role in the hiring of professionals to carry out Head Start duties," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Head Start bill also expands Head Start eligibility to those earning 130 percent of the poverty level, or $26,845 annually. The current ceiling is 100 percent of the poverty level, $20,650.

It terminates the National Reporting System, a program for measuring the progress of Head Start children, to give the National Academy of Science time to develop more accurate standards.

Check out this wingnut reasoning:
"Too often the federal government has ignored or impeded the efforts of faith-based organizations willing to lend a helping hand and providing critical services to the neediest of our communities," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., top Republican on the Education and Labor Committee.
Um, no "Buck," it would be great if religious organizations helped out. They just can't receive federal funds (i.e. my tax dollars) and simultaneously violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Also, "Buck," you must be conveniently forgetting the $1.5 billion the government recently wasted on ineffective abstinence training programs. Plenty of that money was sucked up by faith-based organizations and initiatives.