Written by Don Byrd
Updating a story I am watching closely, reports are emerging that congressional leaders may be preparing to finally pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that funds the military. One of the stumbling blocks to an agreement has apparently been a provision in the bill that passed the House of Representatives allowing faith-based organizations that receive taxpayer money to discriminate in hiring based on religion using those funds. The “Russell Amendment” was not a part of the Senate version, and President Obama has reportedly threatened to veto the bill if comes to his desk with that provision intact.
Politico reports that the final conference report reconciling the two versions could be complete “when Congress returns after the weeklong Thanksgiving break.” Without mentioning the Russell Amendment specifically, the report speculates that “policy provisions that could…draw a veto” are likely to be “dropped from the final measure.”
Either way, we should know the fate of the Russell Amendment soon. The Baptist Joint Committee has called on Congress to reject the measure because it authorizes the use of government funds to discriminate on the basis of religion.
Meanwhile, a member of Congress representing Washington state has introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives that seeks to bar the federal government from creating a registry to track people on the basis of religion. The bill seems intended to preempt a policy suggested during president-elect Trump’s campaign that would have implemented some form of database or registry to track Muslims in this country.
[Chief sponsor Rep. Suzan] DelBene [D-WA] said her bill, called the No Religious Registry Act, would prohibit the attorney general, secretary of Homeland Security or any federal official from establishing or using a registry to classify people on the basis of their religious affiliation.
On Sunday, Trump’s incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the president-elect is not planning to create a Muslim registry, but he would not rule it out.
“Look, I’m not going to rule out anything,” Priebus said. “We’re not going to have a registry based on a religion. But what I think what we’re trying to do is say that there are some people, certainly not all people… there are some people that are radicalized. And there are some people that have to be prevented from coming into this country.”
You can read the bill, H.R. 6382, here.