Humanism on the Hill: Coalition Update

The American Humanist Association, as part of an effort to increase the influence of secular Americans on their national government, participates in several coalitions that work to ensure church-state separation. Some recent actions of these coalitions are listed below:

CARD (Coalition Against Religious Discrimination)

Department of Housing and Urban Development Comments

In early February CARD submitted comments to the Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding the “Interim Rule on Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Emergency Solutions Grant Program and Consolidated Plan Conforming Amendments”. Specific sections of this rule would allow religious organizations that receive federal grants to provide assistance to homeless Americans to restrict the aid that they gave to the homeless unless they attended religious services. This behavior, while morally repugnant, is also a blatant violation of Establishment Clause restrictions on what religious organizations can do with federal grants. As such, the coalition opposed specific sections of this rule and petitioned for the Obama Administration to modify them accordingly.

U.S. Department of Commerce Comments

In February CARD submitted comments to the United States Department of Commerce regarding the “Economic Development Administration Regulatory Revision”. This proposed rule would allow eliminate a federal provision that prohibits federal funding of property that will be used for inherently religious purposes. This proposed rule obviously violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and establishes government endorsement of religious activity. CARD will continue to oppose this proposed rule.

Religious Discrimination Letter

In late December of 2011 the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination sent letters to every Executive Branch agency seeking information about how the Obama Administration determines whether religious organizations may discriminate when hiring for government-funded positions. Administration officials have repeatedly stated that the Administration makes this determination on a “case-by-case basis”, yet it has never explained the standard it applies or the process it uses for the analysis. The Coalition is requesting meetings with Administration officials to review this process and any individual cases in which the Administration approved such discrimination.

NCPE (The National Coalition for Public Education)

Federal Funding of Private School Vouchers Letter

In early February the National Coalition for Public Education wrote a letter to Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, regarding the “Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act”. This act would allow the expenditure of scarce federal funds on private school vouchers. Vouchers support schools that are not bound by the open and non-discriminatory acceptance policies that are a unifying factor among the diverse range of ethnic and religious communities of our society. In addition, voucher programs primarily fund private religious schools. To both protect the religious freedom of taxpayers and the autonomy of religious schools, the Coalition opposed the provisions of this act that would allow for taxpayer money to fund religious education.