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Orthodox join plea for Head Start funds

A number of Orthodox Jewish groups endorsed a congressional effort to extend Head Start funds to religious groups. U.S. Rep. Luis Fortuno (R-Puerto Rico) offered the amendment to a bill to be voted on this week that would expand the popular preschool program.Democrats, who back the larger bill, already voted down the amendment when it was considered in committee. Fortuno hopes to have it reconsidered by the full U.S. House of Representatives.”The amendment would have added language making it explicit that faith-based organizations are eligible to take part on the same basis as secular organizations without being required to minimize their religious character,” said the letter sent this week by the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House speaker, and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the minority leader.Jewish groups listed as members of the coalition include the Orthodox Union; the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools; and Agudath Israel of America. Church-state separationists oppose farming out Head Start to religious groups that display religious symbols or discriminate in hiring.