Build Back Better bill accused of making it 'virtually impossible' for religious child care to receive funding

Religious groups slam Biden’s child care plan in Build Back Better bill

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Montse Alvarado argues the plan’s provisions target faith-based child care providers and hurts religious liberty.

Democrats’ Build Back Better spending package is taking heat for language that purportedly would block federal funds from flowing to religious child care providers.

H.R. 5376, passed by the House of Representatives last month but currently stalled in the Senate, provides $390 billion for child care and universal pre-K with a substantial portion reserved for states to distribute. Part of the bill requires, however, that money not go towards facilities that “are used primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship.”

President Biden listens to a reporters question after delivering remarks on the November jobs report, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Other provisions include potentially problematic nondiscrimination restrictions. They also risk forcing providers out of state-based universal pre-K programs, according to a letter multiple religious organizations sent to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) on Dec. 1.

MoveOn supporters and students attend a sit in for a Build Back Better "Jingle Back Better" action on the Senate Steps of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for MoveOn)

“While language in the BBBA [Build Back Better Act] does not preclude parents from selecting sectarian providers, the subsequent provisions in the bill text make it virtually impossible for many religious providers to participate,” read the letter, which was signed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others.

The Capitol is seen at dawn in Washington, on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

While it’s unclear exactly how the legislative language will be applied, the letter pointed to a poll showing a substantial chunk of American families use child care centers “affiliated with a faith organization.”

The poll, which was conducted by Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center, found: “In January 2020, 31% of households with a single parent or two working parents used center-based care, and over half (53%) of these families used one that was affiliated with a faith organization.”

The office for HELP Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. 

The Biden White House has defended its child care initiative, saying: “The Build Back Better framework will enable states to expand access to free preschool for more than 6 million children per year and increase the quality of preschool for many more children already enrolled. Importantly, parents will be able to send children to high-quality preschool in the setting of their choice — from public schools to child care providers to Head Start. The program will lead to lifelong educational and economic benefits for children and parents, and is a transformational investment in America’s future economic competitiveness.”

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