A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit religion-based discrimination by governments and the courts cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday in the House.
Supporters say the measure also would ban governments from requiring participation in religious activities, prescribing school prayers or denying equal access to a government benefit because of religion.
But Democrats charged that it would open the door to public funding for religious schools.
It cleared the House Judiciary’s Constitution subcommittee by an 8-4, party-line vote.
Action by the full committee is expected next spring.
Democrats, who voted against the measure, questioned the need for the proposal when the Bill of Rights already guarantees freedom of religion.
Republicans said it would solve problems of religious discrimination caused by governments and courts that interpret too strictly the separation of church and state provisions of the First Amendment.