WASHINGTON — The Build Back Better Act’s plan to expand affordable child care and ensure that quality prekindergarten is available to all families “is a worthy goal,” but as written these provisions “will suppress, if not exclude” many faith-based providers from participating, according to Catholic and other religious leaders.

To express their “urgent concerns regarding the child care and universal prekindergarten provisions” in the Build Back Better Act, the faith leaders sent a letter Dec. 1 to U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairwoman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The signers represent religious denominations, schools and charities “that comprise and serve millions of Americans,” the letter said.

Among the signers were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty and the USCCB’s Committee on Catholic Education. Catholic Charities USA and the National Catholic Educational Association also signed the letter, along with Jewish, Muslim and other Christian associations.

The Build Back Better Act “does not preclude parents from selecting faith-based providers,” the letter said, but its current provisions “make it virtually impossible for many faith-based providers to participate in the program.”

The bill does so, it continued, by departing from current federal child care policy and attaching “new compliance obligations that would interfere with providers’ protected rights under Title VII and Title IX regarding curricula or teaching, sex-specific programs such as separate boys or girls schools or classes and preferences for employing individuals who share the providers’ religious beliefs.”

The Build Back Better bill changes how providers receive public monies by defining “all providers as recipients of federal financial assistance, whether the funds come via certificates, in the child care program, – or direct grants, in the prekindergarten program,” the letter explained.

“Making faith-based providers of child care and prekindergarten into recipients of federal financial assistance triggers federal compliance obligations and nondiscrimination provisions,” it said.

Currently, these child care providers are exempt from some nondiscrimination provisions.
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