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July 23, 2001

NJDC to Republicans on Religious Freedom: Which Side Are You On?

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

Washington, DC: Calling it "the clearest illustration possible that the Democratic Party is the party that protects the separation of church and state, while the Republican Party simply doesn't get it," National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira Forman scored the overwhelming majority of House Republicans who voted for President Bush's faith-based initiative (H.R. 7) last Thursday, while he applauded the vast majority of House Democrats who voted against it. Ninety-eight percent of House Republicans voted for the legislation, while only seven percent of House Democrats voted in favor.

"This Republican administration and the House Republican leadership - along with all but a handful of Republican representatives - have worked overtime to pass this flawed bill, while the House Democratic leadership and the overwhelming majority of House Democrats did everything they could to stop it," Forman said. "President Bush's initiative is bad for religion and bad for religious freedom - it violates Americans' religious liberty while raising tremendous civil rights and discrimination concerns. But we remain confident that the Senate Democratic Leadership will fashion a way to foster increased charitable giving and increased help for the needy without the problems generated by this bill.

"And those problems are manifold. First and foremost, this legislation is unconstitutional. Providing direct government funding for houses of worship directly violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and doing so threatens every American's religious liberty in the process. It is also plainly clear that federally-funded religious coercion will result; either individuals seeking government-funded social services will be required to attend religious programming, or alternatively, they will be placed in an environment where they will feel pressured to do so. And the fact that beneficiaries of federally-funded social services could be subjected to proselytizing is unacceptable.

"It could not be clearer that the Democratic Party understands the Jewish community's concerns about religious liberty - that it stands with the Jewish community in staunch defense of the separation of church and state. And the Republican Party still doesn't get it."