Conservative Groups Declare Obama's Stimulus Bill a War on Prayer
Wow.. that didn't take long to start...
Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week.
The provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow "religious worship." It has ignited a fury among critics who say it violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to prevent religious practice in schools.
According to the bill, which the Democratic-controlled House passed despite unanimous Republican opposition, funds are prohibited from being used for the "modernization, renovation, or repair" of facilities that allow "sectarian instruction, religious worship or a school or department of divinity."
Critics say that could include public schools that permit religious groups to meet on campus. The House provided $20 billion for the infrastructure improvements, of which $6 billion would go to higher education facilities where the limitations would be applied.
"What the government is doing is discriminating against religious viewpoints," said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a Washington-based nonprofit organization that works to advance religious freedom.
"President Obama's version of faith-based initiatives is to remove the faith from initiative," said Staver, who believes Obama has "a completely different view on faith" from what he said during his presidential campaign.
"He is not the infallible messiah that some thought he would be," Staver said.
Civil liberty groups like the Americans United for Separation of Church and State vehemently defend the stimulus bill's provision, arguing that it in no way violates the Constitution.
"This provision upholds constitutional standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court and in no way affects student groups that meet on public school campuses," said the Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The American Civil Liberties Union also defends the constitutionality of the restriction, which they say has been the law since 1972.
"It's almost a restatement of what the Constitution requires so there's nothing novel in what the House did in its restriction," said Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel to the ACLU. "For 37 years, the law of the lan