In a New York Times profile of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Jennifer Steinhauer described her as favoring "schools without prayer and death with taxes." In fact, Pelosi has never stated that students should not be allowed to pray in school. Rather, she has voted against federal legislation mandating times of prayer during the school day; as for the estate tax, Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues in Congress have noted that it currently affects only the wealthiest Americans.
In an October 30 profile of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), New York Times Los Angeles bureau chief Jennifer Steinhauer described her as favoring "schools without prayer and death with taxes." In doing so, Steinhauer echoed the false Republican suggestion that Pelosi and other Democrats support taxing the estates of average Americans and the false claim that Democrats oppose allowing students to pray in school.
From Steinhauer's October 30 article:
Her voting record is among the most liberal in Congress. She gets an "A" from the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and an "F" from the National Rifle Association. She favors alternative sentencing over prison construction, schools without prayer and death with taxes. She voted against the use of force in Iraq, though after the war started she voted to finance it.
In Ms. Pelosi's vision for those first 100 hours, a Democratic-led veto-proof majority would "drain the swamp of Washington," create a new rules package that would include pay-as-you-go budgeting, immediately adopt the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, increase the minimum wage to $7.25 and broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal money.
She also imagines cutting the interest rate on student loans and "ending tax giveaways for big oil."
In fact, in opposing Republican efforts to repeal the estate tax, Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues in Congress have noted that it currently affects only the wealthiest Americans -- a group that constitutes less than 1 percent of the population. Indeed, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently found that, in 2006, an estimated 13,000 people -- "only one-half of one percent of people who die" -- will pay the estate tax. Further, the wealthiest estates bear most of the burden. More than 60 percent of the estate tax revenue collected in 2004 came from the 11.5 percent of taxable estates valued at more than $5 million and more than a quarter of the revenue came from the 2.4 percent of taxable estates worth more than $20 million.
Steinhauer's assertion that Pelosi "favors ... schools without prayer" is without basis. Pelosi has never stated that students should not be allowed to pray in school. Rather, she has voted against federal legislation mandating times of prayer during the school day. For instance, on November 15, 2001, she voted against H.C.R. 239, a bill "[e]xpressing the sense of Congress that schools in the United States should set aside a sufficient period of time to allow children to pray for, or quietly reflect on behalf of, the Nation during this time of struggle against the forces of international terrorism." In a letter voicing his opposition to this resolution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State executive director Rev. Barry Lynn made clear that there currently exists an "individual right to pray voluntarily in school" in the U.S. Constitution:
"Students already have an individual right to pray voluntarily in school as long as they are not disruptive. This resolution, however, is a radical departure from constitutional standards because it calls for a mandatory time of classroom prayer on a specific topic. This resolution instructs children specifically what to pray for. Under our constitutional separation of church and state, it is the job of parents and clergy, not the government, to tell children when to pray, how to pray and what to pray for."
Steinhauer's description of Pelosi as supporting "schools without prayer and death with taxes" appeared in the October 30 print edition of the Times and in the version of the article filed in the Nexis database. The online version, however, was subsequently edited on October 30 to read: "She favors alternative sentencing over prison construction and opposes prayer in the schools." The Times left readers with no indication that the article had been modified. Moreover, the edited version still advanced the baseless claim that Pelosi does not favor "prayer in schools."