Faith deal – Local action mixed

With controversy continuing over President Bush’s plan to expand funding for religious groups that deliver social services, Bush is moving toward a compromise, and reports from states show a range of responses to regulation of religious groups.

Two senators say Bush has hinted he might agree to a deal to help speed Senate passage of his faith-based plan by forcing groups that get funding to comply with local anti-discrimination laws, Reuters reported July 26.

Legal experts say religious groups increasingly are securing exemptions from state laws ranging from land-use regulations to health requirements such as immunization, The New York Times reported July 27.

More than 12 states have passed or considered laws to bar state and local laws from interfering with religious practices or beliefs unless a state or city can show a compelling interest is at stake, the Times said.

The Times also reported July 21 that local officials are moving quickly to spur religious charities to seek government funds.

At least 15 states have named government officials to broker partnerships between clergy and state social service departments, the Times said.

And, five years after President Clinton signed a law letting states direct federal funds to religious groups, most states have not given any money to religious nonprofits and only a few have given significant money, Stateline reported July 11.

The reason, experts told Stateline, was bureaucracy, fear of legal challenges for constitutional violations, resistance by some officials, weak response from religious groups and weakness in the original regulation.

For full story, go to compromise, state exemptions and state action.

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