There are many good reasons to oppose the “stimulus” bill, more accurately known as the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, in addition to the basic objection that it is an act of fiscal insanity. Now we can add one more: religious bigotry.
Senator Demint (R. SC) offered an amendment which would have removed language from the “stimulus” bill which barred the use of any funds to institutions of higher education where the funds would have been used for the “modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities–(i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission.” The amendment went down to defeat 43-54.
Now I think the idea that if institutions receive funds and this ban is in effect that religious student groups would be driven off campus is incorrect, based upon relevant case law. However, I do believe that keeping this language in does open the door to legal challenges to any college or university affiliated with a religion obtaining such funds. Similar language has appeared in other funding bills in the past, but this language is very broad. Of course this problem could have been easily remedied by lifting the restriction. 54 senators can now explain to their constituents why they chose not to do so.