Change on faith – Bill moves ahead

To overcome opposition to President Bush’s plan to boost federal support for religious charities, Republican lawmakers agreed that charities should keep religion separate from government-backed programs, the Associated Press reported June 27.

House Republicans agreed not to let charities receiving federal dollars force participants to adhere to their religious doctrines.

They also agreed to require that groups keep religious programs and pitches separate from secular, government-funded programs.

Churches also would be encouraged to create separate nonprofits to run their government programs, and to keep tax dollars separate from private church funds. For those creating separate nonprofits, church accounts will be shielded from financial audits or lawsuits stemming from government programs.

Religious charities getting federal dollars will be able to consider religion in hiring staff but won’t be allowed to consider a job applicant’s religious practices, AP said.

With the changes, the bill can go before the Judiciary Committee and full House, but it is likely to be opposed by most Democrats and outside groups that weren’t part of the compromise talks, AP said.

While the White House wanted the House to approve the bill by July 4, leaders don’t expect a floor vote before the end of summer.

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