Cover Story

Rolling the Dice

"Rolling the Dice" Continued...

Issue: "Rolling the dice," Aug. 4, 2001

What looked like a deal-breaker arose July 17 at the hands of Mark Foley, a Florida Republican whose district includes part of liberal Palm Beach County. He proposed an amendment that would force religious organizations receiving federal dollars to comply with state and local civil-rights ordinances from which, under Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights Law, they would otherwise be exempt. On July 18 the Family Research Council sent out an e-mail "Emergency Alert-Call Congress Now!" under the heading, "Homosexuals to Hijack Faith-Based Bill."

Shannon Royce, direction of government relations and legislative counsel of the Southern Baptist Convention, rapid-fire called legislators about the "killer amendment" and said, "If that amendment passes we will oppose the bill. We're not going to support a broadly expanded civil-rights measure to the benefit of homosexuals."

Even groups that had been on the fence concerning H.R. 7, such as Concerned Women for America and the Christian Coalition, weighed in as opponents of the "gay amendment." Reps. Largent, Tiahrt, and Tancredo were among those WORLD spoke with on July 19 who said they would definitely oppose the bill if the amendment passed. But in the end, that dispute ended with a promise by Speaker Denny Hastert and other House Republican leaders to try to work out a compromise involving such matters later on. Their supposition is that if a U.S. Senate controlled by Democrats passes a faith-based initiative bill, it will most likely incorporate gay concerns.

Debate on the House floor on July 19 brought no surprises. Rep. Tancredo, both principled and realistic, said that morning, "I hope the big battle occurs around the discrimination issue. I think we can win on that"-and he was right. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was one of the few members of Congress to mention vouchers that day, but he ran out of time. The Republican message was consistent, and voiced most simply by Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.): "Let's give the president a chance on this." In the end, only four Republicans voted against H.R. 7, while 15 Democrats voted for it.

Forecasts for the Senate were not optimistic. William Murray said, "We have given up 50 percent to the other side without a shot being fired.... How much more do we give up in the Senate?" Under Senate and press scrutiny the voucher section will certainly not remain a "stealth provision." Rep. Souder praised the voucher section as "a breakthrough" but said "it's not like it will pass the Senate." Regarding the pittance for nonitemizers that emerged from the House meatgrinder, Mr. Souder predicted that "We'll be lucky to hold our $25." Ken Connor of the Family Research Council recalled recent experience with the Bush education bill: "By the time it mutated through its various iterations, it was something we could not support." He sorrowfully expected similar faith-based mutation: "I suspect that by the time the Senate gets through with it, conservatives will have the same revulsion for the bill that they had for the education bill."

Rep. Tiahrt predicted that the Senate would add more restrictions on faith-based groups and would require grant recipients to hire people who do not agree with its religious values. The measure would be "difficult to vote for at that point," but he said there's not much choice: "I like to buy groceries because I get what I want," yet the legislative process often leaves him with lots of Tang in his coffee. Rep. Tancredo zeroed in on the White House's Beltway strategy: "There's a terrible problem with that strategy. It gives liberals far more power than they would otherwise have.... Shut off outside discussion, you end up with an ugly product."

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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