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House Passes Equal Access Bill

July 26, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A Senate-approved bill permitting religious groups to hold meetings in public schools, which has been bitterly opposed by Jewish organizations, was approved by the House today and sent to President Reagan for his virtually certain signature.

The measure, known as the equal access bill, was one of six President Reagan listed at a press conference last night as legislation on which he wanted House approval before the solons leave to start campaigning for House seats next month.

The bill was passed by the House by a vote of 337-77. It has been dubbed the equal access bill because it would give religious groups the same right to use public school facilities as is now extended to non-religious groups. The Senate passed the bill in June. Under a parliamentary maneuver which would have assured prompt action by the House but only by a two-thirds majority, the Senate-approved measure lost in the House, though it had majority support.

Jewish and other agencies, which have spoken out against the measure, said it would open the way for religious cults to use public schools for their proselytizing. They have also cited court decisions — federal, state and municipal — declaring use of public schools by religious groups unconstitutional. The bill gives municipal authorities the right to decide which groups can use school facilities. The American Jewish Congress, one of several Jewish agencies in opposition, denounced the House vote of approval and said it would take the issue to the courts on constitutional grounds.

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