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Congress Conference Drops Anti-bias Clause from Peace Corps Bill

September 22, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Senate conferees, led by Chairman J.W. Fulbright of the Foreign Relations Committee, have eliminated an anti-bias clause from the Peace Corps bill now before Congress, it was disclosed today.

Peace Corps Director R. Sargeant Shriver had insisted before Senator Fulbright’s committee that Peace Corps personnel would not be sent into nations, like Arab States, that discriminate against U.S. personnel on a basis of religious or racial prejudice.

By unanimous vote, the House adopted an amendment barring Peace Corps operations in nations seeking to enforce bigotry. Rep. Silvio O. Conte, Massachusetts Republican, said this amendment was “directed particularly to the Arab countries that have discriminated against American boys of Jewish faith. I do not think they should have the benefit of the Peace Corps.”

It was learned that the State Department, through Sen. Fulbright, interceded in the Senate-House conference to delete the anti-bias measure, approved by the House, Representative Thomas E. Morgan, Pennsylvania Democrat, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, admitted that the amendment “caused the conference a great deal of concern,” Rep. Morgan expressed sympathy for the amendment’s purpose but apparently had to go along with the Executive Department’s wishes, The Executive Department emphasized that they would not have Peace Corps programs in a country that made American personnel “repeatedly subject to discrimination.”

As a result, “the managers on the part of the House agreed to the deletion of this provision. They are concerned that in the less developed countries Government policy frequently may not be well coordinated and public opinion not fully matured. Under the circumstances, individual incidents of discrimination might occur which did not reflect either the policy of the Government or the attitude of the public generally.

“One of the functions to be served by Peace Corps volunteers should be to bring about an understanding by the people of the countries in which they serve of different races, religions, and national points of view. It would be undesirable to deprive any country of the benefit of this type of service on the part of the Peace Corps.”

Peace Corps leaders were shocked by the elimination of the anti-bias measure. Sources said that the Corps makes no inquiry into religion of members and therefore would be technically unable to comply with foreign demands that persons of the Jewish or other faiths be weeded out.

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