By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2009 ( – The U.S. Senate has refused to remove language in the economic stimulus bill proposed by the Obama administration stating that universities accepting funds for facility upgrades would be forbidden to allow religious activity in those areas.

Section 803 of the bill grants funds “for the purpose of modernizing, renovating, and repairing institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction and research.” The same section, however, prohibits these funds to go to 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.”

“This provision would, in fact, prohibit universities that allow student groups to use facilities for Bible studies or worship services from receiving federal funds under the stimulus package,” wrote Jay Sekulow, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice.

Immediately following the discovery of the controversial clause in the several-hundred-page document, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) put forward an amendment that would have invalidated the discriminatory language, but the amendment failed Thursday in a 54-43 vote.

Sekulow wrote that the law center plans to challenge the measure in federal court if the final draft of the stimulus bill still contains the provision and is passed.

“What’s most troubling is the fact that a majority of the Senate supports a discriminatory provision that prohibits religious activity from taking place in college and university facilities nationwide that take federal stimulus funds,” wrote Sekulow.  “This provision has nothing to do with economic stimulus and everything to do with religious discrimination.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the stimulus bill today.