Just after 4 p.m. EST, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 7, the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives bill by a 233-198 vote. Actually, the vote was supposed to happen yesterday, but got postponed after "moderate" Republicans voiced concerns over language in the bill. They joined Democrats in criticizing a section of the bill guaranteeing religious organizations "autonomy from Federal, State, and local governments, including such organization's control over the definition, development, practice, and expression of its religious beliefs." This, of course, is a continuation of the recent debate over whether churches and organizations like the Salvation Army would be forced by local anti-discrimination laws to hire those who disagree with their religious teachings, such as practicing homosexuals. Chief among the Republican critics of the bill was Florida's Mark Foley, who said the bill has the "unintended consequence of superseding existing state and local laws that prohibit discrimination. … [T]he charitable arm which collects government funds should not be allowed to discriminate in their hiring practices or the delivery of services to those who need it most."
Editorials in various newspapers today condemned the bill for those same reasons, but the Family Research Council had reacted angrily to the proposed changes. The organization claimed the bill was "in danger of being hijacked by homosexual groups," and threatened to withdraw its support for the bill if the protections were dropped.
But despite Congress's holding the line on this latest set of proposed changes (the most important vote on the matter was defeated by a 234-195 vote), the bill isn't quite the same as initially proposed. For example, plans to allow ...1
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