The Build Back Better Act will not only fundamentally change the scope and size of the US government. It will also promote the progressive campaign against religion. Buried in the small print of a bill widely touted as supporting families is a discriminatory provision that sidelines religiously affiliated child care providers. President Joe biden and Congress Democrats target caregivers whom millions of families prefer by far, while challenging the Supreme Court and undermine religious freedom.
The discrimination is found in the $ 390 billion section on expanding child care and universal preschool. Much of that money is earmarked for states, which can use it to distribute grants that “improve the quality and delivery of child care services” through remodeling, repairs and renovations. But providers of religious-based childcare services are explicitly prohibited from spending a dime on facilities that “are primarily used for sectarian education or religious worship.”
At first glance, this language may seem flawless. Why should the federal government support churches that also provide child care? Yet this misses the point of why parents choose to send their children to these providers. The promise of faith training in a strong moral environment is not a secondary consideration, it is the primary motivation of millions of parents. The Supreme Court has a long history of protecting religious freedom in situations like this, yet Biden and Congress doesn’t seem to care.
Polls show that most parents think denominational child care is one of the best options for their children, after just being home with a parent or loved one. And among households with working parents who depend on childcare services, more than half send their children to religious institutions. The connection with the church is a characteristic, not a fault.
Churches and religious establishments are often multi-purpose, and naming the child care providers who use them sends a dangerous message. Denying resources to religious facilities indicates that religious instruction taints or reduces the value of child care services – an insult to the overwhelming majority of Americans who have some sort of faith. The bill already requires that providers, whether denominational or not, meet stringent accreditation requirements and demonstrate that the facility they are seeking to renovate is prioritizing child care. So why is another part of the bill seeking to discriminate against these same services?
The bill does not completely prohibit the funding of religiously affiliated child care providers. Families can still use its direct grants to cover school fees. But the Build Back Better Act will always tilt the playing field towards non-religious options. Secular providers will receive additional funding to improve their facilities and expand their operations. And as government grants allow more families to opt for child care, secular providers will have a significant advantage in building new facilities to meet demand, while places of worship will have no help. to build.
Such discrimination is clearly unconstitutional according to the case law of the Supreme Court. The 2017 Lutheran Trinity decision declared that “the denial of a benefit generally available only on the basis of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion which can only be justified by a ‘first class’ state interest”. Espinoza case the majority held that the Constitution “condemns discrimination against religious schools and the families whose children attend them” because they are “[s] of the community ”whose exclusion from government programs is“ odious ”and“ does not support ”.
Even the wording of the funding ban is troubling, as it targets child care providers engaged in “sectarian instruction.” As the Supreme Court observed in Espinoza, historically, “it was an open secret that ‘sectarian’ was the code for ‘catholic’ and a pejorative for religious minorities. Such clear rulings cast the “no-help” provision of the Build Back Better Act in a distinctly unfavorable light.
But that doesn’t seem to bother most Democrats. When Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania, tried to attach a religious freedom amendment to the bill, House Democrats blocked his efforts. They offered no explanation, but again none is necessary. Hostility to religion is on the rise on the left, and outside Congress, liberal politicians have increasingly targeted faith groups as adoption providers – a campaign that has been closed by the Supreme Court last year. Tackling child care providers is simply a new front in the war on faith.
If the bill passes, any discrimination against religious groups will quickly lead to a multitude of lawsuits. Federal courts would almost certainly decide that the offending article is unconstitutional. Yet even if it does not meet with any success as a politician, the Build Back Better Act sends a clear political signal: religious belief is somehow inferior. Whether the bill passes or fails, the progressive campaign against religion and the rule of law will surely continue.
Josh Holdenried is Vice President and Executive Director of the Napa Legal Institute, which educates faith-based nonprofit organizations.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.