Jewish Journal

Is the stimulus bill anti-religious?

by Brad A. Greenberg

February 12, 2009 | 3:02 pm

Harvard Memorial Church

I received an e-mail yesterday from the flak for the evangelical organization TheCall. It complained that the stimulus bill, almost, finally finished, included a provision that would encourage colleges and universities to discriminate against religious organizations that meet on campus.

Section 803 of the Senate “stimulus” bill establishes a grant program for colleges and universities to make renovations.  A small provision buried in Section 803 withholds that funding from any facility used for “sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.”

There are dozens of religious students groups on most public universities and many private schools, too. Religious inquiry, after all, is an essential part of college.

The leader of TheCall, Lou Engle, said, “This small provision, buried so no one could find it, would pressure school administrators to ban these groups, effectively destroying their ability to conduct outreach and evangelization to students who hunger for it.”

I think that’s an apocalyptic reading of the provision, which appears to me to be written to prevent funds from going to the construction of a new chapel. This wouldn’t prevent colleges from allowing student groups to meet in a student union built with money from the stimulus.

Nonetheless, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee blasts the provision on his blog, via the Bible Belt Blogger:

“The dust is settling on the “bipartisan” stimulus bill and one thing is clear:  it is anti-religious,” Huckabee wrote, adding. “You would think the ACLU drafted this bill…”

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