As families across the country gather for important religious holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, Democrats continue to attack religious liberty. By forcing all faiths to confirm to progressives’ new “woke” religion, lawmakers find themselves out of step with both the courts and the millions of families who rely on faith-based groups for critically important services.
The week before Thanksgiving, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it had revoked waivers that the Trump administration granted to three states. Because of the waivers, faith-based organizations could continue receiving federal dollars to provide adoption services, while abiding by non-discrimination provisions in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs. But with the Biden administration’s revocation of the waivers, residents in South Carolina, Texas, and Michigan could now have fewer agencies available to serve their needs.
At the same time, lawmakers on Capitol Hill worked to force religious organizations to choose between participating in new federal child-care programs or violating their religious beliefs. The bill House Democrats passed on November 19 would apply a host of federal laws to “any program or activity” receiving funds under the new child-care regime.
These requirements would impose significant philosophical and other conflicts on religious organizations participating in the child-care program. They could alter lesson content, prohibit hiring preferences for instructors of the same faith, and force groups to undertake costly renovations to antiquated buildings. Moreover, a separate ban on using funds “for buildings or facilities that are used primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship” could nix arrangements like a daycare run in a church basement.
Democrats Take Hard Line Despite Court Ruling
While some Democrats, such as West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, seem understandably sympathetic to the plight of religious organizations, others have taken a harder line. The New York Times reported that, ahead of the House vote on the bill, a group of lawmakers led by House Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va., wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to “oppose any effort to remove or change” the provisions in question.
The actions by Democrats in the legislative and executive branches come roughly six months after the judicial branch offered a unanimous verdict in favor of religious liberty. Back in June, the Supreme Court struck down the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services, because the latter provides adoption services only to heterosexual couples, consistent with its religious beliefs.
Chief Justice John Roberts noted then that the First Amendment prohibits Congress from legislating to prohibit the free exercise of religion: “It is plain that [Philadelphia’s] actions have harmed [Catholic Social Services’] religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs.”
Sabotaging Their Own Welfare Expansion
Democrats’ insistence on forcing faith-based organizations to conform to the progressive belief structure doesn’t just undermine the Supreme Court’s recent cri de coeur in favor of religious liberty; it may effectively sabotage their proposed welfare state expansion. A recent Bipartisan Policy Center survey found that more than half (53%) of households who purchase center-based child care used a faith-based organization. If those providers feel they cannot participate in the new federal program in a way consistent with their beliefs, working parents may have an entitlement to benefits in theory but not in practice.
Religious organizations have also strongly signaled they cannot abide the House language as currently written. A spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the requirements “will be detrimental to our ability to participate,” and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America agreed: “There are details that will deter, if not make it impossible for, faith-based providers to participate.”
In recent years, Democrats have shown a tremendous desire to expand the welfare state, amid an equally strong push to undermine religious liberty, forcing faith-based groups to conform to secular values. The fact that those two movements now find themselves in direct conflict speaks to the overbearing nature of progressivism on both fronts, and the need for courts to rein in the ever-stronger encroachments on individual values and beliefs that define the modern left.