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Reform Jewish Movement Disappointed Over the House Passage of Faith Based Legislation

Saperstein: " We hope that as the Senate looks at charitable choice, they will reject the divisive and discriminatory aspects of H.R. 7, and will instead advance consensus legislation to assist charities in their vital anti-poverty work."

Contact: Alexis Rice or Rachel Labush (202) 387-2800

Washington, July 19, 2001- Responding to the House of Representatives passing the "Community Solutions Act" (H.R. 7), Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism today issued the following statement:

    Today, the House of Representatives had its first real debate on "charitable choice." Although we are disappointed that the House approved the "Community Solutions Act" (H.R. 7), the debate made clear the dangers of the bill, and of the President's Faith Based Initiative. We commend Representatives Scott, Nadler, Edwards and many others for their principles and passionate opposition of that part of this legislation that would permit direct government funding of houses of worship and pervasively sectarian institutions. We hope that as the Senate looks at charitable choice, they will reject the divisive and discriminatory aspects of H.R. 7, and will instead advance consensus legislation to assist charities in their vital anti-poverty work.

    H.R. 7, if enacted, would dramatically increase direct government funding of sectarian religious groups at the expense of other social service organizations, by redirecting existing government social service funding to religious groups who can proselytize, discriminate in hiring, and pressure beneficiaries to participate in religious activity. That H.R. 7 permits religious groups to use government money to fund jobs that they may choose to close to divorced people, gays, single mothers, Jews, Catholics, and others is troubling to us and according to most polls to most Americans.

    We share President Bush's belief that building a better world answers some of the highest callings of our religious traditions. Every day, men and women of faith selflessly care for our children, serve the elderly, heal the sick, lift up the poor, and cure the addicted. We all agree that this work is invaluable, but public funding of discrimination is a dangerous and divisive policy to pursue.

    As the debate on the President's faith-based initiative moves to the Senate, we hope that President Bush, Senator Daschle, and each member of the Senate will give serious thought to the principles at stake and reject direct government funding of churches and synagogues. We are ready to work with President Bush and with Congress on the wide range of partnerships that are cooperative, constructive and both by letter and by spirit constitutional.

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    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaismis the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.



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