Tell Congress Not to Toy with Head Start Committee's Protection of Civil Rights

5/2 Update:  We won!  The motion to recommit failed 195-222. Head Start Reauthorization passed the House without religious discrimination included for the first time in five years. Thank you for your messages to Congress! This Action Alert is now expired. Residents of NJ's first district may still thank Rep. Robert Andrews for his mention of atheists as taxpayers who help to fund Head Start.

This Wednesday, the House will vote on the Head Start reauthorization bill (HR 1429). For the first time in five years, the House Committee on Education and Labor killed an amendment which would have allowed religious discrimination in hiring Head Start teachers. This is an enormous step forward in protecting the employment rights of nontheistic teachers as well as other high quality teachers who don't meet the theology of a particular provider of this federally funded program to educate at-risk youth.

The committee heard extensive argument by those claiming that religious groups who administer the program should be allowed to use these federal funds to hire only those with like beliefs. They also heard the counterarguments of those who believe hiring decisions in these programs should be based on merit rather than meeting a religious test for federally funded employment. In fact, in listing the various belief systems of the taxpayers who fund Head Start, Representative Robert Andrews of New Jersey’s first district included “atheists” in his tally. The vote to keep the civil rights protections intact drew applause from the audience. We were then hopeful that a clean bill would be voted on in the full House.

Unfortunately, leadership has told us that they expect a procedural attempt on the floor of the House to add the religious discrimination amendment back into the bill. Despite the extensive debate and painstaking work in committee to send a finalized bill to the floor, we expect a “motion to recommit” in an attempt to strip the civil rights protections against religious discrimination out of the Head Start program. We need you to contact your House Representative and urge him/her to oppose the expected motion to recommit or any other procedural attempt to allow religious discrimination in Head Start.

Below you may submit an e-mail directly to Congress. We provide a sample letter which you may send as is or amend to your own voice on this issue. If your correct contact information does not appear in the form below, please update it as needed. You must give a complete name and address so that our Action Alert system can determine your U.S. House of Representatives member.

Constituents from N.J.'s first district will also be able to thank Rep. Robert Andrews for his public recognition. (Click here to skip to that page now.)

Thank you for taking action.

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