HARRISBURG, Pa. – A coalition of Catholics, evangelicals and pro-family advocates are asking Pennsylvania lawmakers to protect religious preschools, nursery schools and before- and after-school programs from state interference.

playing with kidsThe advocates testified last week before the state House Education Committee in favor of House Bill 1588, which would prevent bureaucrats in the Department of Public Welfare from imposing content-based mandates on religious early education programs.

It would also prevent state officials from imposing qualifications on school staff, reports CitizensVoice.com.

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A representative from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference told legislators that current state law allows bureaucrats to assess the curriculum used in the programs, to ensure it promotes things like cognitive, social and emotional development among children, the Associated Press reports.

“Religious entities properly take alarm when their religious freedoms and their very right to exist are made to depend upon the sufferance of government,” said Philip Murren, counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, according to the AP.

The proposed legislation would still allow state officials to conduct health and safety inspections of the religious educational ministries, and to require background checks and training for staff members.

Republican House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, lead sponsor of the legislation, said during last week’s hearing the bill is a compromise designed to end the legal controversy surrounding the Department of Public Welfare’s long-running effort to regulate those facilities as child care providers, reports CitizensVoice.com.

The General Assembly passed similar legislation in 1986 to protect church-affiliated K-12 schools from excessive government interference, the AP reports.

There is little public opposition to the bill, which suggests its prospects for passage are strong.