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U.S./world – Faith-bill OK’d – Pared-down benefits

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A stripped-down version of President Bush’s plan to boost federal funding of religious groups delivering social services cleared the U.S. House after GOP leaders held off Democrats and moderate Republicans who argued the measure would hurt the rights of minorities and the separation of church and state, The New York Times reported July 20.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would get federal dollars to more religious groups that serve troubled youngsters and older people, and house and feed the poor, the Times said.

It gives up to $13 billion in tax relief by letting people who don’t itemize their taxes deduct $25 in charitable contributions, giving tax credits noncorporate businesses such as family restaurants for donating food, letting people over 70 make tax-free charitable contributions from their individual retirement accounts and increasing to 15 percent by 2010 from 10 percent the cap for deductible charitable donations by corporations, the Times said.

Republican moderates teamed up with Democrats on Wednesday to fight sections of the bill that would let religious groups receiving federal dollars keep their right to hire only people of their faith and to bypass state and local civil laws shielding gay mean and lesbians from discrimination in hiring, the Times said.

Republican Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, a co-sponsor of the bill, won back most of the Republicans by promising to “address their concerns” in conference committee after Senate passage, the Times said.

For full story, go to The New York Times, The Washington Post [subscription only], Los Angeles Times and Northernlight.

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