OU Applauds Late-Term Legislative Accomplishments

Posted on October 3, 2006 In Press Releases

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
Applauds Late-Term Legislative Accomplishments:
* All Disaster Stricken Schools To Be Treated Fairly BY FEMA;
* Rules Governing Military Chaplains Uphold Tolerance;
* Iran Freedom Support Act Extends Sanctions And Assists Promotion of Democracy;
* $25 Million in Homeland Security Funds To Be Expedited In Grants To At-Risk Nonprofits

Today, shortly after Congress adjourned for the midterm elections (and after the conclusion of Yom Kippur), the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, through its Institute for Public Affairs, applauded several legislative measures which were passed by Congress in its end of session flurry of activity and on which the UOJCA has been working for some time.

1. The final Conference Report of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act corrects a discrepancy in the treatment of disaster-stricken schools. To date, while a public school suffering damage from a natural disaster would receive a federal grant of funds for reconstruction, a nonpublic school had to apply for a loan. Under the new legislation, nonpublic schools will be treated in a non-discriminatory fashion and receive reconstruction grants as well.

Regarding this matter, UOJCA public policy director Nathan Diament stated:

The UOJCA is very pleased that, after many years of effort, Congress has uprooted the discriminatory treatment of disaster stricken schools. Natural disasters don’t discriminate among their victims and neither should America’s response plans. Hurrican Katrina highlighted the role nonpublic and faith-based entities, including schools, play in our communities and they should be treated fairly. We appreciate the bipartisan support for this overdue policy correction. We thank Senators Collins, Landrieu, Lieberman and Santorum and Reps. Jindal, Meek, Diaz-Balart, Wasserman-Schultz and Owens for their leadership.

2.The final Conference Report of the Department of Defense Authorization Act does not contain a provision which would have allowed military chaplains to pray in and invoke sectarian language in settings where attendance by soldiers (of many faiths) is mandatory. The UOJCA opposed this language alongside many other religious and ecumenical groups. The final legislation does direct the Secy. of the Air Force and the Secy. of the Navy rescind newer guidelines governing the conduct of chaplains and return to the status quo ante regarding these matters.

Regarding this matter, UOJCA public policy director Nathan Diament stated:

The UOJCA is pleased that Congress turned back a proposal which would have undermined years of practice and custom in the chaplains corps under which soldiers of all faiths have been well-served in a tolerant and respectful manner. We believe this will remain the central mode of operation by chaplains – even with newer guidelines rescinded. The UOJCA commends Senators John Warner and Carl Levin and Reps. Duncan Hunter, Ike Skelton and Steve Israel for reaching this result.

3. Congress extended sanctions against Iran and authorized promotion of democracy within that country by passing the Iran Freedom Support Act. The bipartisan measure – sponsored by Senators Frist, Santorum and Nelson and Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos – provides greater tools to the Executive Branch and prods it to thoroughly investigate and tightly control financial activities that may bolster the Iranian regime. The measure also directs the President to impose sanctions on entities that provide WMD technologies to Iran.

Regarding this matter, UOJCA public policy director Nathan Diament stated:

The prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the United States and its allies. Iran has delayed diplomatic efforts to address this and other critical issues. The “IFSA” is a welcome tool to press this rogue regime at this critical hour. We thank the senators and representatives who tirelessly led this effort.

4. The final Conference Report of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act expedites the release of $25 million in funds for grants to nonprofit institutions deemed to be at risk of terrorist attack. Nathan Diament stated:

The Orthodox Jewish community is very grateful to Senators Specter and Mikulski, as well as Senators Thad Cochran and Judd Gregg and Representatives Eric Cantor and Harold Rogers for working to ensure the safety of our community.


IPA/Public Affairs