February 7, 2009
Senate Rejects Stimulus Aid for Religious Buildings
The U.S. Senate defeated an amendment to the economic stimulus bill Thursday that would have allowed federal funding for renovations at college buildings that are used for religious activity.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., proposed the amendment after voicing criticism of a stimulus provision that says funds for colleges and universities could not be used for modernization or renovation of buildings where "sectarian instruction" or "religious worship" occur.
"This is a direct attack on students of faith, and I'm outraged Democrats are using an economic stimulus bill to promote discrimination," DeMint said after the 54-43 vote defeating the amendment.
Church-state groups, however, welcomed the vote.
"The Senate has voted to reaffirm an important American principle -- that religious groups should pay their own way and not expect funding from the taxpayer," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Conservative Christian groups, meanwhile, agreed with DeMint. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said the provision "has nothing to do with economic stimulus and everything to do with religious discrimination."
Andrea Lafferty, executive directosr of the Traditional Values Coalition, called the vote "a significant defeat to our First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom and free speech."