What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Separation of Church & State : Reauthorizing the Head Start program (H.R. 1439)/Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) amendment to outline the importance of faith- and community-based organizations participation in the Head Start program (2007 house Roll Call 283)
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Reauthorizing the Head Start program (H.R. 1439)/Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) amendment to outline the importance of faith- and community-based organizations participation in the Head Start program
house Roll Call 283     May 02, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on an amendment to legislation to reauthorize the Head Start program through fiscal 2012. Proposed by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), the amendment would include congressional findings outlining the history and importance of faith- and community-based organizations in the early-childhood development program. The amendment would also add language clarifying that faith- and community-based groups would continue to be eligible to participate in the Head Start program on the same basis as other organizations.

The bill to which Shuler was seeking to amend would authorize $7.4 billion in funding for fiscal 2008 and such sums as may be necessary through fiscal 2012 for the early-childhood program. This legislation would only approve the spending, and the actual money would come from a separate appropriations bill.

Shuler himself attended a Head Start program when he was young, and he said he was proud that it had "helped make me the man that I am today."

"It's time for Congress to recognize that faith communities contribute to Head Start," Shuler continued. "This amendment thanks the community and faith-based organizations for the good work that they have done running the Head Start programs. It also confirms its right to continue running these programs."

Approximately 80 organizations that receive federal grants for early-childhood programs have religious affiliations.

Republicans countered that the amendment was simply a ruse by and political cover for Democrats, who had prevented a Republican-drafted amendment from being considered that would have allowed religious organizations that receive federal funds to use a potential employee's religious affiliation as a factor in hiring. The Democratic-run Rules Committee blocked the amendment - which would have allowed faith-based groups receiving federal funds to discriminate based on religious affiliation in their hiring practices - from being considered on the House floor. (See Roll Calls 273-4.)

"It has nothing to do with protecting the civil rights of faith-based providers," said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). "Instead, the majority has brought up a hollow, politically motivated attempt to have it both ways. On one hand, this amendment cheers the work of faith-based providers and recognizes their contributions to our nation; but on the other hand, it leaves them completely unprotected when it comes to their right to preserve their identity while serving children in Head Start. Frankly, this is insulting to faith-based organizations as it is transparent."

Shuler's amendment was adopted despite near-unanimous Republican objection. Only three Republicans voted for it, and two Democrats broke ranks with their party and voted against it. Thus, on a vote of 229 to 195, the House adopted an amendment that lauded the role of faith- and community-based organizations in Head Start and reaffirmed their ability to continue receiving federal grants to provide early-childhood development programs, and a bill to reauthorize Head Start moved forward with the language.

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