Faith Groups Push to Scrap Mandates in Biden’s Child Care Plan

A dispute between faith organizations and civil rights advocates could determine who benefits from the early-childhood programs in President Biden’s social policy bill.

A coalition of conservative religious groups is waging an intensive lobbying effort to remove a nondiscrimination provision from President Biden’s ambitious prekindergarten and child care plans, fearing it would disqualify their programs from receiving a huge new infusion of federal money.

The fight could have major consequences for a central component of Mr. Biden’s $1.85 trillion social policy bill, which the House is to consider as soon as this week. It could go a long way toward determining which programs, neighborhoods and families can benefit from the landmark early-childhood benefits established in the legislation, given that child care centers and preschools affiliated with religious organizations make up a substantial share of those offered in the United States — serving as many as 53 percent of families, according to a survey last year by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The provision at issue is a standard one in many federal laws, which would mandate that all providers comply with federal nondiscrimination statutes. Religious organizations, whose child care programs are currently exempt from some such laws, argue that it would effectively block many of their providers from participating, while civil rights advocates contend it is long past time for such institutions to comply.

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