IMPROVING THE COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANT ACT OF 2003 -- (House of Representatives - February 04, 2004)
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Mr. CANTOR. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, in listening to the speakers that have come before me in talking and debating about what this debate is actually about, I will tell you what this debate is about. This debate is about a principle from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which permits religious organizations to employ persons who are members of or agree with the organization's religious principles. This element of religious liberty was recognized by the framers of that act as well as a unanimous Supreme Court as a fundamental component of the first amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.
We all have stories in our districts of individuals who have come together, many around faith-based principles, connected with faith-based institutions or ideology who perform tremendous good for our communities; actually, organizations that do much better than what the government may have tried to do in any given instance. I know these organizations, as all of you do. They bring people together, they improve lives, they clean up inner cities, they feed the poor, they help drug addicts return to a productive avenue in life. And these are all roles that perhaps the commercial endeavors have failed at or certainly the government has failed at in many instances.
The critics are saying somehow this is a constitutional issue. But to the critics I say, the Constitution says freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. I received in my office just yesterday a press release from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Mr. Chairman, I would like to just read an excerpt from this memo from this group. In responding to the critics' assertion that this principle involved in the CSBG program fosters some federally funded employment discrimination, the group retorts:
This principle is a fundamental component of constitutionally protected religious liberties and exactly analogous to those enjoyed under the first amendment freedom of association by other private agencies organized around certain beliefs and principles.