Federal funding for literacy programs soon may be available to religious groups that display sacred images at their facilities and weigh religious beliefs in hiring decisions, the Associated Press reports.
A measure approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee would expand so-called “charitable choice” initiatives that make religious groups eligible for tax dollars.
The committee has approved Even Start, a $500 million literacy training program for children and adults.
The bill is one of several charitable-choice initiatives that would permit religious groups to participate in federally funded social service programs.
Such initiatives aim to take advantage of religious groups’ strong community ties to deliver social programs such as day care, drug treatment, and family literacy.
Critics say such proposals violate the separation of church and state.
“It is particularly appalling that a congressional committee thinks it is OK to fund programs that practice religious discrimination in hiring,” Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told AP.
But U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican who sponsored changes to the bill, said, “Trying to totally separate the faith of a society from any form of influence is ridiculous.”