10 Ways Right-Wing Christian Groups Will Likely Shove Religion Down Your Throat This Year
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Voucher bills may come up on the federal level as well. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) railroaded a voucher program for the District of Columbia through Congress in March, so it’s clear Americans United will have to carefully monitor federal legislation as well in 2012.
The Catholic Bishops’ Crusade for ‘Religious Liberty’
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a formidable new lobbying unit known as the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The committee claims to be defending religious liberty, but critics say it actually seeks to preserve taxpayer funding for church-affiliated agencies while maintaining overly broad exemptions from various laws.
A representative of this committee testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution regarding the issue of religious liberty in America and made the case that Catholic-run organizations should be exempt from providing birth control or recognizing same-sex marriages but should still receive government contracts and funds. Republicans on the committee seemed willing to consider this position, but Democrats were very resistant to offering such broad religious exemptions and government money.
The Pew Research Center found that Catholic lobbying organizations are the most powerful among Washington religious lobbies as they comprise 19 percent of all faith lobbying. As a result, the Ad Hoc Committee will certainly be one to watch in 2012.
Improper Religious Proselytizing in Public Schools
Some elements of the Religious Right hate the public school system because it doesn’t allow them to indoctrinate students with their version of Christianity. As a result, they look to add prayer or other religious activities to the school schedule whenever they can.
In Missouri, for example, voters will face a religion amendment on the 2012 ballot that, if passed, would open the door for religious activities on any and all public property, including schools. The proposal is so open-ended that school children might have the right to refuse to do homework on religious grounds.
In Florida, a bill is advancing through the state legislature that would let local school boards allow students to offer prayers at school events. Originally the measure stated that the prayers must be non-sectarian but that language was removed. The legislation has been offered several times before and could pass, although AU’s Florida chapters, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League all oppose the measure.
Moreover, the Religious Right is always trying to stack public school curriculum and textbooks with religious material and going on creationism crusades, which observers expect will continue in 2012.
‘Faith-Based’ Funding and Hiring Bias
Despite pleas from Americans United and allies, President Obama has yet to act on his campaign promise to make major civil rights and civil liberties improvements to the Bush “faith-based” initiative. Speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, in 2008, he said, “If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”
Americans United has written to Obama asking him to keep his promise, but he has yet to do so. This issue is likely to remain an ongoing concern in 2012.
Related faith-based funding controversies are also likely. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is considering a new rule allowing the use of taxpayer funds for the construction and repair of religious buildings overseas.
AU has submitted comments to USAID urging the agency to withdraw the proposed rule.
Government Promotion of Religious Symbols
In an election year, politicians often look for easy ways to show their religiosity and that has already begun at both the state and federal levels.