Many of you might not know this but the controversial GIVE Act was signed into law today. Yea, I know, how could you have missed the news that the bill, which included language prohibiting volunteer members from participating in religious activities, got signed into law?
Well, I think part of it has to do with the fact that they are now calling it by another name: the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. However, don’t be fooled because H.R. 1388, Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act (GIVE Act), is the bill that actually got signed by the president.
How do I know the bill signed by Obama was H.R. 1388? Well, the Serve America Act (S. 277) (sponsored by Kennedy) just made it out of committee but was never even voted on in either the House of Representatives of the Senate. What seems to have happened was that the Serve America Act was adopted as an amendment to the GIVE Act.
Therefore, H.R. 1388 ( the GIVE Act) was passed by both chambers and handed to the president yesterday to sign (which he did today). Since the signing seems to have been reported after 5:00pm EST, I’m assuming that the records on GovTrack.us will show that it was signed into law when they update it sometime tomorrow or in the near future.
Now, why is the GIVE Act so controversial? Well, most of the controversy revolves around this section:
SEC. 1310. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.
Subtitle C of title I (42 U.S.C. 12571 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 132 the following:
‘SEC. 132A. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.
‘(a) Prohibited Activities- An approved national service position under this subtitle may not be used for the following activities:
‘(1) Attempting to influence legislation.
‘(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.
‘(3) Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing.
‘(4) Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements.
‘(5) Engaging in partisan political activities, or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to Federal office or the outcome of an election to a State or local public office.
‘(6) Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials.
‘(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of proselytization, consistent with section 132.
‘(8) Consistent with section 132, providing a direct benefit to any–
‘(A) business organized for profit;
‘(B) labor union;
‘(C) partisan political organization;
‘(D) nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, except that nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and
‘(E) organization engaged in the religious activities described in paragraph (7), unless the position is not used to support those religious activities.
‘(9) Providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.
‘(10) Conducting a voter registration drive or using Corporation funds to conduct a voter registration drive.
‘(11) Carrying out such other activities as the Corporation may prohibit.
‘(b) Ineligibility- No assistance provided under this subtitle may be provided to any organization that has violated a Federal criminal statute.
‘(c) Nondisplacement of Employed Workers or Other Volunteers- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not be directed to perform any services or duties, or to engage in any activities, prohibited under the nonduplication, nondisplacement, or nonsupplantation requirements relating to employees and volunteers in section 177.’.
The original language that got people all up in arms back in mid-march was a little more explicit in what and who it banned. Take a look:
SEC. 1304. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.
Section 125 (42 U.S.C. 12575) is amended to read as follows:
SEC. 125. PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES AND INELIGIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.
(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:
(1) Attempting to influence legislation.
(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.
(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.
Now it seems from the current, signed version that the writers of the bill tried to tone it down for the version reported earlier in March. For example, they rephrased “A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities” in Sec 125 (a) to read “An approved national service position under this subtitle may not be used for the following activities” in Sec 132 (a) of the new version. In conjunction with this, they also added the phrase “consistent with section 132″ to the end of Sec 132 (a)(1) which didn’t appear in the original version.
Now, I don’t know how the new phrasing will affect what those participating in the “National Service Trust Program” but it still seems to me that religious and free speech rights will be greatly hampered if you take part. However, I think it will take a court case and a couple first amendment lawyers to sort out how this law will/should apply.
However, right now I’m just wondering how signing this $5,700,000,000 act correlates with the mere $100,000,000 he decided cut from the budget yesterday.