SB236/HB277 – Sponsored by Senator Cam Ward and Representative Pebblin Warren, proposes to require church nurseries and religious childcare providers (daycares) to be licensed by the state Department of Human Resources as are all other such providers. Church daycares and nurseries have always been exempt from licensure, even though their workers must pass background checks. The First Amendment should send a bold statement to state legislators about the proper role of state and federal government. Their role IS NOT to regulate churches or their ministries. This House bill passed unanimously by voice vote in the Child and Senior Advocacy Committee. Eagle Forum of Alabama strongly opposes SB236/HB277. This bill will allow the state to regulate Vacation Bible School, for example. It removes important religious liberty protections that currently protect Alabamians. This bill is about much more than simply licensing church daycares and nurseries, it is also about money. Foundation grant money has been awarded here in Alabama to push for all Alabama daycares to be licensed. The Alabama DHR was awarded $1.7 million to improve the quality of daycare in the state. Their only answer to that is to license daycares in church which are now exempt, although such centers are statistically safer for children by far than licensed centers. Those involved in negotiating for changes to the bill have offered 5 changes that would deal with the issues brought up by proponents for all child care facilities but these were totally dismissed, giving credence to the fact that this is not about protecting children, but about money and control.
Dollars are flowing from the federal government in support of licensed daycare facilities. The more that are licensed, the more money. With federal dollars come federal control. The bill says that in licensed church daycare facilities “no employee of the department (DHR) may infringe upon the ability of the center to teach or practice a religion.” However, these words would not control mandates from the federal government, such as those on the state Pre-K program that say, “no part of the day may be religious in nature.” If religious day care programs are required to be licensed, it is safe to assume that such mandates would follow.
Please contact your Representatives and Senators today as well as Senator Ward and Rep. Warren immediately to let them know that you strongly oppose this bill. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and office number is 334-242-7873. Representative Pebblin Warren’s email address is email@example.com . Her office number is 334-242-7734
Talking Points for SB236/HB277
- Background check requirements already in place
- Child abuse and neglect already outlawed in AL
- This bill is about regulation and money, it is not about child safety