PA House HB 1588 and Senate Bill SB 1030 Protect Religious Freedoms of Early Education Centers in PA
Licensing of religious ministries by the DPW has been an ongoing discussion between the Commonwealth and Religious Coalition Members for years resulting in a most recent Christian Preschool getting a cease and desist order. We are asking friends of religious liberty to become involved in an effort for coalition members to put in place legislative protections for religious early education Centers in PA to have the freedom to not be licensed by the Department of Public Welfare. This is a legislative effort that needs to happen that requires an educated populace in order to create the type of grassroots effort necessary to pass. Please read on, and learn about the issue, and be prepared to communicate with your constituency as is needed.
WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
Working with our constitutional attorneys, we have legislation, designed to protect religious day cares, camps, etc from religious curriculum infringement (often done unintentionally or innocently, and at time intentionally). However, consistent with their past actions, our historic opponents have been asserting their usual arguments that will endanger children (all children should be protected by the same laws) and that all institutions should be controlled by the same laws so there is no financial advantage of religious over non-religious. (While you and I know that these are false, they carry some weight when a politician looks at the prospect of being accused of child endangerment at the next election time.)
When the legislature enacted Article IX and Article X in 1967, there was an intention for DPW to confine itself to health and safety for religious institutions; but they have not confined themselves.
There are clear laws and regulations that protect against abuse and that define health and safety. This bill maintains the status quo.
There needs to be a clear statement in statute that government is to stay out of the religious elements of child rearing by parents and institutions. Areas of sensitivity are listed in the bill.
When government starts to encroach into family and religious institutions by mandating values, attitudes, appropriateness, well-being, quality, and similar, at a religious institution, it has entered into areas of religion where it has no business. (The current regulations do this.)
We are working on finding a legislative solution.
Encourage your State Senators and Representatives to support this legislation and move it toward a vote. The Administration is moving slowly on this. Our window to pass this bill is closing, and we are at an impasse right now.
In 1967, the Legislature enacted two laws, one to “license” (and extensively control) secular institutions that work with children, and one to “supervise” religious institutions in matters of health and safety. The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) is responsible for implement the laws in this area. Their historic response has been to license everyone, extensively control everyone, but to (as they would say it) stay out of the religious parts of religious ministries (which they interpreted as staying out of the wording of prayers, out of the content of religious devotions, out of the teaching sessions that are from the Bible).Historically, two groups oppose the position of the religious ministries: (1) secular minds in the DPW (and they are clearly in the majority) and (2) the secular child care industry, including their professional organizations and professors.This issue heated up a decade ago as the DPW threw court actions against more than a dozen religious institutions (fundamentalist, evangelical, and Catholic), asserting their “right” to license them. While some religious institutions closed (due to the threat and the accompanying costs), more than a dozen have proceeded in the courts. Over the past decade, KCEA has submitted “friend of the court” briefs to support our religious liberties. The courts first agreed with our position; but ultimately the State Supreme Court disagreed, asserting that they did not see where the DPW had actually interfered with our liberties to date, thus, the DPW could proceed. (Our constitutional attorneys still disagree, but we have exhausted our appeals to the court.)During the same time as we have argued in the courts, we have also lobbied for the legislature to get involved. In summary, during any time when the House, Senate, and/or governorship is in the hands of a Libral, they side with the opponents. During any time when one of these bodies is in the hands of Conservatives, the opponents are savvy to withhold enforcement, and the legislative efforts have dried up (based upon the concept that “only the squeaking wheel gets grease”). Thus, although we have come very close to passing legislation, we have always lacked “an emergency” (from the eyes of the government officials).SUMMARY.We are not, at this time, asking for citizens to contact their Senators, Representatives, and Governor on this matter. That may change (and maybe quickly). However, we are asking that you will move this item up on your prayer list. Please become educated regarding the Religious Coalition's latest effort to gain legislation that would both (1) provide religious freedom and (2) assure society that we recognize that government does have authority over true health and safety matters (safe buildings, drinking water, background checks, safe transportation, etc.). Please review St. Elizabeth material on this website to see what could begin happening quickly to religious early education centers who choose not to be licensed.