A congressional bill that seeks to limit enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against voucher schools must be foiled immediately.
On June 20, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., submitted an amendment to an appropriations bill that will, in part, establish the Department of Justice budget for 2017. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation Act (H.R. 2578) would prevent the DOJ from investigating discrimination claims made against publicly funded voucher schools.
The amendment is Johnson's response to a Department of Justice investigation from 2011-2015 into discrimination against students with disabilities by Milwaukee voucher schools.
Disability and civil rights groups charged that voucher schools discouraged students with disabilities from participating in the voucher program and were forced out of schools that they were admitted to. The proposed amendment would prevent Justice Department funds to be used in the future to investigate voucher schools for violations of the ADA. This means schools receiving public funding will effectively be allowed to discriminate against students with disabilities.
Voucher students attend overwhelmingly religious schools, with more than 90 percent of voucher students in Milwaukee, and 100 percent of students in the separate statewide program, attending a parochial school.
As these institutions receive significant public funding, they must not be granted ADA exemptions. The threat of discrimination by religious schools is significant and the DOJ needs the freedom to investigate meritorious complaints. The proposed amendment does not alter the provisions of the ADA; it merely attempts to prevent enforcement. Johnson and voucher advocates seek to allow taxpayer-funded private schools to discriminate on the basis of a child's disability.
Personalize your statement if possible, or feel free to cut and paste the wording below.
I am writing as your constituent. Sen. Ron Johnson has submitted an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation Act (H.R.2578) to prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act against private voucher schools that receive public funding. I urge you to oppose S.Amdt.4775 to S.Amdt.4685 to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation Act.
In states with voucher programs, many schools are almost entirely populated by students on government vouchers. This amendment, if passed, would give private religious schools all of the benefits of government funding and allow them to discriminate against children with disabilities with impunity. Please protect students with disabilities. Do not let voucher advocates create a backdoor exemption to the ADA by stifling enforcement of the law.
A Georgia courthouse has promised to take down a Christian flag after a complaint by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
A very obviously Christian flag with a cross on top has been prominently on display next to the judge's bench in a Bryan County courtroom. The flag is a traditional evangelical Christian design, reportedly conceptualized by Protestants in the early 20th century. The white in the flag is said to represent the biblical notions of purity, the blue is supposed to stand for baptism in water and the red is meant to symbolize the sacrifice that Jesus made for humankind.
The religious significance of the cross and the flag is indisputable, and FFRF urged that the display be removed immediately.
"An overwhelming majority of federal courts agree that the Latin cross universally represents the Christian religion, and only the Christian religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Elizabeth Cavell recently wrote to Rebecca Crowe, Bryan County clerk of courts. "And a majority of federal courts have held displays of Latin crosses on public property to be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."
Media reports indicate that court officials have promised to get rid of the display due to the attention generated by the FFRF letter. However, the display hasn't been taken down yet, and FFRF will monitor the situation to make sure that it is.
"The United States is not a Christian nation, Georgia is not a Christian state and Bryan County is most certainly not a Christian county, yet this is the message this flag and the cross have sent. It's a message of exclusion and intimidation to anyone who is non-Christian or who simply values our secular Constitution and equal justice under the law," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Imagine the outcry if a county judge put up an Islamic flag topped by a star and crescent! This is wrong for precisely the same reason. Government must be neutral about religion."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with almost 24,000 nonreligious members across the country, including more than 400 in Georgia and an Atlanta-area chapter.