Washington, DC – Last night the U.S. Senate passed a bill reauthorizing the Head Start program by unanimous consent.  The bill did not contain an amendment, sought by the Religious Right, which would sanction religious discrimination in hiring Head Start personnel.  The bill now goes to conference with the House, whose version of the bill likewise does not allow religious discrimination.  Today Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, released the following statement:


I want to congratulate the U.S. Senate for respecting religious liberty when it unanimously reauthorized Head Start. After years of attempts to politicize Head Start by allowing providers to commit religious discrimination in choosing teachers and volunteers, the Senate reauthorized the program without the language that would allow this unconstitutional practice. 


In doing so, the Senate has sent a strong message to the Religious Right that their attempts to fund religious discrimination with tax-payer dollars will not be tolerated.  The uplifting opportunities that Head Start provides should be made available to all eligible families, regardless of their religious affiliation.


Houses of worship do not need direct funding from any government entity. Ministering to people in need is a part of the mission of all religious organizations, but they do this work because of their identity and commitment to ministry, not because of financial support from the government.  Religious organizations need to understand and respect the differing obligations that they have to their faith tradition and the government has to the public good.  The Improving Head Start Act of 2007 preserves that important distinction.


The Interfaith Alliance also wants to commend its 185,000 members from 75 different faiths and our local activists representing 75 affiliates nationwide for continually speaking out on this issue.  Because you value religious pluralism, your strong, unified message that taxpayer money must not be used to advance religious faith, made a difference today!  Congratulations.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.