Thursday, July 31, 2008

Walberg Explains Head Start Vote



... I remain unimpressed. From the Jackson Citizen Patriot's Chris Gautz:
Tuesday morning I sat in with our paper's editorial board on a wide-ranging interview with Walberg and along with rising gas prices, the economy and healthcare, we got his take on this much-maligned vote.

His only concern was that it didn't exempt communities of faith from the hiring restrictions that other groups with Head Start classrooms must adhere to.

"It didn't allow communities of faith to hire who they wanted to hire," Walberg said. "I was called a racist several times, a bigot."

[...]

In other words, say a Baptist or a Catholic church wanted to continue to offer its Head Start program and a Muslim or "a Wiccan from a coven in Ann Arbor" wanted to apply for a job to teach there, now it couldn't discriminate based on religious grounds anymore, or vice versa.

He said he offered an amendment that would have made that change, but it didn't get any traction.

He said he doesn't oppose Head Start, but by keeping that provision in the bill, he said religious organizations might decide it's better to get rid of Head Start.

Walberg said he didn't initiate the efforts, but was contacted by people in his district that were concerned about this provision.

It would also open all of them to lawsuits, because the Wiccan, or the Catholic or the Muslim who wasn't hired, could say it was because of their religious beliefs, he said.

"You will take away programs potentially," he said. "That's a chilling effect."

First, I'd like to apologize to Chris Gautz for the amount of his post I'm quoting. I've probably exceeded "fair use" standards, but I think Walberg's full explanation is worth including here.

Next, I'd like to apologize to Congressman Walberg. Assuming that you presented your argument in the same way it is presented here, you didn't deserve to be called a bigot. That's a harsh word for what is just a political disagreement. Besides, there are better reasons for calling you a bigot than this.

But in the end, Congressman Walberg, you're absolutely wrong.

The bill to reauthorize Head Start was HR 1429, and the House floor debate can be found here. It's an interesting read, though it's worth noting that Congressman Walberg never once speaks to state his reasons for opposing the bill. After reading this, I encourage you to read the floor debate.

The problem with the explanation presented by Chris Gautz is here:
In other words, say a Baptist or a Catholic church wanted to continue to offer its Head Start program and a Muslim or "a Wiccan from a coven in Ann Arbor" wanted to apply for a job to teach there, now it couldn't discriminate based on religious grounds anymore, or vice versa.
(Emphasis added.)

Except, there is no "now" involved. Religious groups have never been allowed to discriminate the way Walberg wants to let them discriminate-- at least, not since 1972. From CivilRights.org:
Since 1972, agencies that receive government funding for Head Start â€" including religious organizations and houses of worship that host Head Start programs â€" have been prohibited from discriminating on the basis of religion when hiring or firing staff for positions within the federally-funded program. These existing non-discrimination requirements have a history of bipartisan support, and were originally signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The current anti-discrimination language was included in the 1981 Head Start reauthorization bill, signed into law by President Ronal Reagan. These same civil rights protections have been included in every Head Start reauthorization since then â€" in 1984, 1986, 1990, 1994, and 1998. For 33 years, these fundamental non-discrimination protections have worked well, allowing thousands of Head Start programs in communities throughout the country to flourish while maintaining constitutional and civil rights safeguards against religious tests for employment in federally-funded programs.
(Emphasis added.)

That came from 2005, the last time someone tried to change the rules and allow discrimination. That attempt passed the House of Representatives, but failed to gain traction in the Senate and did not become law.

So, this isn't something new. Religious groups that run Head Start programs already operate under the nondiscrimination rules to which Walberg objects so strongly. There are already 86 faith-based Head Start programs in existence and following these rules. Walberg says:
He said he doesn't oppose Head Start, but by keeping that provision in the bill, he said religious organizations might decide it's better to get rid of Head Start.

[...]

"You will take away programs potentially," he said. "That's a chilling effect."
If there are already 86 faith-based programs that don't discriminate, do you really think they'll be so upset by the fact that they can't start discriminating that they'll get rid of Head Start?

If there are any religious groups who refuse to run Head Start programs because they can't discriminate, then they probably haven't been running Head Start programs any time in the last 36 years.

Let's be absolutely clear about this. The House majority decided to keep the same rules that have worked for decades. Even religious organizations were comfortable operating within those rules. Tim Walberg wanted to change the rules to allow discrimination.

Now, he's trying to protect himself by claiming that religious groups won't run Head Start programs anymore. Frankly, that's a pretty dumb argument.

UPDATE: See also the coverage to this given by James L. at Swing State Project.

As of July 09, 2008, I have been working with the Schauer for Congress campaign in Lenawee County. My thoughts and writings are my own opinions, and I do not speak for Senator Schauer or anyone else in his organization.

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Comments:
http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2008/roll556.xml

Walberg voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which firmed up 1963's legislation that says men and women must be paid the same wage for the same work. There were some loopholes in the 45-year-old law, and this bill closed them. Obviously, Tim doesn't think that women deserve the same pay for working as hard as men.
 
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