Anyone who have been reading this blog over the last week knows, I have spent a great deal of time trying to knock down the misinformation swirling around regarding a provision in the stimulus bill that would prohibit funds for being used to upgrade or repair university facilities when said facilities function is primarily religious.
First, we know that the current stimulus legislation in Congress is a disaster for the free market economy. But, did you know that there are limitations in the legislation against religious liberty? David French of Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online finds some disturbing facts restricting religious liberty within the stimulus legislation.
The Higher Education, Modernization and Renovation component of the bill requires that the money allocated in the stimulus would not be spent on religious instruction, worship, or any department of divinity, or any building that would be devoted for religious purposes on college campuses.
So, this leaves the question: where will religious groups meet on campus? I guess this means it will be back to dorm rooms or nearby churches. However, this ban would not apply to groups, like Amnesty International, College Feminists, Greenpeace, etc., who can meet in any room on campus. Seems odd, doesn’t it? I guess it is 24/7 liberal indoctrination…thanks to the Obama’s stimulus plan.
FRC doesn’t provide a link to French’s post … but if they did send their readers there, they’d find out that French, who happens to be Senior Legal Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, links to our first post about this whole issue and says that we are right:
One clause indeed prohibits funding for buildings only when a “substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.” (emphasis added). The meaning here is obvious, and it clearly applies to buildings like chapels, or perhaps divinity schools, or many facilities at religious universities. It has no real application to secular, public universities that open up classroom buildings to student groups.
Another clause, however, prohibits funding for buildings that are “used” for “sectarian instruction” or “religious worship.” It does not say “primarily used.” It simply says “used.” For People for the American Way’s reading to be correct, one has to assume that the drafters intended “used” to be read as “primarily used.”
I have to give French credit, as his post on this issue is the only one that I have seen that actually seeks to understand the provision instead of simply proclaiming it anti-Christian. And he raises an interesting point regarding the meaning of the word “used” in the section that proclaims that “no funds awarded under this section may be used for … modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity.”
French is correct to note that the provision does not say “primarily used” … but neither does it say “occasionally used” and yet, for some reason, that is how the Right is interpreting it. Despite the fact that, as Sen. Dick Durbin pointed out last week, this sort of language “has been in the law for 40 years [and] is the result of three Supreme Court decisions,” the Right’s interpretation of this standard, boilerplate language is that it means that any building on campus that is ever occasionally “used” for religious worship (i.e., a student group meets in their dorm for a Bible study) would be prohibited from using stimulus funds, as opposed to the more straightforward and logical interpretation that “used” refers to a building’s primary function (i. e., a church is occasionally “used” for potluck dinners and Bingo nights, but its primary function is religious worship).
The language of this provision is clearly concerned with facilities in which a “substantial portion of the functions … are subsumed in a religious mission” and it is within that context that the word “used” must be understood.
Only an intentionally obtuse reading of this provision could lead one to conclude that the word “used” in this context was intended to mean “occasionally used” rather than “primarily used.” Yet that is exactly what the Right is claiming … and I, in turn, have had to spend hours of my life rebutting false claims that hinge entirely on their nonsensical understanding of the meaning of the word “used.”
I feel so used.