March 1, 1988
I am writing to advise you of my deep concern with the "Civil Rights Restoration Act'' (S. 557), also called the "Grove City'' bill, which the House is scheduled to consider shortly. I will veto the bill if it is presented to me in its current form.
Preservation of the civil rights of Americans is an important function of government. In the area directly affected by the Grove City decision of the Supreme Court -- education -- my Administration has supported the effort to end discrimination against women, such as in collegiate athletics. In this and other areas, we remain committed to the effort to eradicate invidious discrimination in American society.
Unfortunately, the Grove City bill dramatically expands the scope of Federal jurisdiction over State and local governments and the private sector, from churches and synagogues to farmers, grocery stores, and businesses of all sizes. It diminishes the freedom of the private citizen to order his or her life and unnecessarily imposes the heavy burden of compliance with extensive Federal regulations and paperwork on many elements of American society.
The bill poses a particular threat to religious liberty. It interferes with the free exercise of religion by failing to protect the religious tenets of schools closely identified with religious organizations. Further, the bill establishes unprecedented and pervasive Federal regulation of entire churches and synagogues whenever any one of their many activities, such as a program to provide hot meals for the elderly, receives any Federal assistance. Moreover, and in further contrast to pre-Grove City coverage, entire private elementary and secondary school systems, including religious systems, will be covered if just one school in such a private system receives Federal aid.
I regret that the Members of the House of Representatives were not given the opportunity to consider and solve these and the many other problems with the bill through the normal process of committee consideration. I urge the House to correct these deficiencies.
Note: Identical letters were sent to Jim Wright, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Robert H. Michel, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives; and Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., of Wisconsin. The letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 2.