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July 2003           Issue #100



Religious Right Agenda In Congress


  • The Head Start reauthorization bill, the School Readiness Act of 2003 (H.R.2210), contains a provision revising nondiscrimination requirements to allow religious organizations that receive Head Start funds to consider religion when making hiring decisions.  Part of Pres. Bush’s faith-based drive, the bill’s sponsor said it is intended to keep religious groups from dropping out of the program.  Critics charge that teachers and parent volunteers would be fired or removed from classrooms because of their faith.  The House could vote on it this week.


  • The House is expected to consider this week the State Department authorization bill (H.R. 1950).  The religious right and their opponents have squared off over a provision that would allow aid to the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA).  UNFPA is the largest global source of multilateral funding for maternal health and family planning programs.  In 2002, at the religious right’s urging, Bush withheld $34 million that Congress had appropriated for UNFPA.


  • In its vote on the State Department authorization bill (S.925), the Senate adopted by 53-43 an amendment to prohibit the denial of aid to international family planning organizations that use their own funds for abortions.  Pres. Reagan signed an executive order in 1983 adopting such a ban, known as the Mexico City Policy.  Pres. Clinton rescinded Reagan's order; Bush reinstated the ban.  Republican leaders have reportedly promised that the amendment will be dropped in the House and Senate conference committee.  Bush has said he will veto a bill that prohibits the ban.


  • The D.C. Parental Choice Incentive Act of 2003 (H.R. 2556) would create a five-year program to award “scholarships” of up to $7500 a year to pay for tuition, fees, and transportation expenses of poor students at private schools.  Religious schools receiving the vouchers could use the money for religious educational purposes and could discriminate in enrollment and employment on the basis of religion.  Bush backs the bill as part of a $75 million national "school choice" incentive plan.  The city’s mayor supports the proposal, but its representative in Congress opposes it, saying D.C. voters rejected similar proposals in the past.


  • A constitutional amendment relating to marriage (H.J. Res. 56) has been referred to a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee.  It reads, "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.  Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups."  Texas Rep. Brady is among its 39 cosponsors.  Such an amendment has been proposed in past congresses but the religious right intensified its campaign for the "Federal Marriage Amendment" after the Supreme Court struck down Texas' law prohibiting certain sexual contact between homosexuals.  A constitutional amendment must be passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate and ratified by 38 states.  Thirty-seven states have laws banning same-sex marriage.


  • The White House sent every member of Congress a position paper asking Congress to make it easier for federally-funded religious groups to base their hiring decisions on a job candidate's religion and sexual orientation.  It argues that "religious hiring rights" are part of a faith-based organization's civil rights.



Another Ruling Issued In Long-Running Santa Fe Prayer Case


A federal judge awarded $1 in damages to a high school student who sued the Santa Fe school district for the right to recite a prayer over the p.a. system before a school football game, while criticizing her lawyer’s handling of the case.  The student, Marian Ward, had sued to stop the district from enforcing a policy preventing her from saying a prayer or punishing her if she did.  Judge Sim Lake granted her a temporary restraining order.  After the Supreme Court held in Doe v. Santa Fe ISD that such prayers are unconstitutional and Ward graduated, he dismissed her suit as moot in 2000.


The 5th Circuit agreed at first that the case was moot.  On reconsideration, it ruled in 2002 that a claim for nominal damages keeps a case from being entirely moot and it ordered Lake to decide if any damages were warranted.


Lake’s recent decision awarded Ward the dollar and some attorney fees in an amount drastically reduced from what Ward requested.  Lake also once again rejected Ward’s efforts to force this case to trial or to obtain a written decision on the prayer issue.  In his decision, Lake criticized Ward’s attorney, Kelly Coghlan, for going to “great lengths to reopen issues that were long ago resolved and to make a public spectacle out of this case.”



Texas Biology Textbook Hearing Targets Evolution

A debate about evolution dominated a State Board of Education hearing on biology textbooks.  The debate was prompted by a report and testimony presented by the Discovery Institute encouraging the Board to make sure biology textbooks teach students about "both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory."


The Discovery Institute is, it says, a "national, non-profit, non-partisan think tank" that encourages schools to "improve science education by teaching students more fully about the theory of evolution" and supports "the work of scholars who are working on an alternative theory known as intelligent design."  Intelligent design (ID) is a theory that life developed based on a plan designed by an intelligent cause.  The Institute maintains that the theory is agnostic, it is a secular organization, it does not favor including creationism in biology textbooks, and its concerns about textbook coverage of evolution have nothing to do with creationism.  It denies it is trying to get the Board to put ID in biology textbooks.  Critics charge that ID is a variation of creationism and is more theistic than scientific and that the Institute, which is ID’s leading proponent and is heavily funded by evangelical Christians, is trying to hide its religious agenda.


Religious right Board members David Bradley and Terri Leo, both of whom represent our area, complained that the books do not reflect the weaknesses of evolution.  According to the Galveston County Daily News¸ Bradley said the real censors were the people who were trying to keep creationism and mentions of intelligent design out of the content of the proposed biology textbooks.  (Public schools are not allowed to teach creationism as scientific fact or theory.) The board will have another hearing on the biology textbooks in September and will make its final decision in November.

Appeals Court Rules Against Alabama "Ten Commandments" Judge

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that a monument of the Ten Commandments placed in Alabama’s judicial building by its supreme court’s chief justice is unconstitutional and must be removed.  Chief Justice Roy Moore says he will appeal to the Supreme Court.



Local Event


Thurs. Jul. 17, 7:00 P.M.     

“Three Perspectives on Church/State Separation.”  Panelists:  Peter Durkin of Planned Parenthood, Randall Kallinen of American Civil Liberties Union, and Marvin Nathan of Anti-Defamation League.  Warwick Hotel.

Sponsor: Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

RSVP: or James Sells at 713-782-8962.


Quote of the Month


"America's Highest Court's assault on the culture is now complete, and the twin sisters of slaughtering the innocent and sodomy are now legal and protected rights in the land."


Rick Scarborough, president and national co-chairman, Vision America, June 2003


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