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Letter to the editor: Stimulus package simply repeating language

I would like to respond to the op-ed piece by Andrew Milbourne titled, “Is the stimulus package anti-religious?” The language to which he refers has appeared in several bills over the years, beginning in 1963.

The Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 provided federal funds for the construction and improvement of facilities at undergraduate and graduate institutions.

The act stated that the term, “academic facilities,” would not include any facility “used or to be used for sectarian instruction or as a place of worship, or any facility which … is used to or to be used primarily in connection with any part of a program of a school or department of divinity …” Similar language was used in subsequent legislation.

During the administration of President George W. Bush, this language was used in amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965: “No loan may be made under this part for any educational program, activity or service related to sectarian instruction or religious worship or provided by a school or department of divinity or to an institution in which a substantial portion of its functions is subsumed in a religious mission.”

Not one piece of legislation containing this language has ever been deemed unconstitutional. I would direct Mr. Milbourne to Steven Benen’s piece in the February 6, 2009 issue of Washington Monthly where Mr. Benen provides the cited legislation.

In fact, I would urge Mr. Milbourne to visit the undergraduate academic dean’s office where he can see a plaque that states : “Constructed with the financial assistance of the American people through the Higher Education Facilities Act.”

The stimulus package is NOT anti-religion; it merely includes language which recognizes the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment and the U. S. Supreme Court’s explanation of that clause.

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