Vol. 21 No. 1 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Faith-Based Funding Flood Continues
Bush Directs Millions More to Fund Religion
US President George W. Bush in mid-January directed the Justice Department to release about $3.7 million in federal monies to help religious charities.
The White House stated:
"At the President's direction, the Department of Justice took action to finalize regulations that implement President Bush's policy of ending discrimination against faith-based charities in the Federal grants process."
The vaguely-designated money is to fund religious programs supporting victims of crime, preventing child victimization and making schools safer.
The funding was announced during a speech at Union Bethel A.M.E. Church in Louisiana. As Agence France-Presse reported: "Hoping to win momentum for the initiative, as well as court black voters who overwhelmingly backed his 2000 rival, Al Gore, Bush visited a New Orleans church he said would benefit from his plan."
"This country must not fear the influence of faith in the future of this country," Bush told the church members. "We must welcome faith in order to make America a better place.
"Our governments have, frankly, discriminated against faith-based programs. I have asked Congress to not fear faith. See, the debate in Washington oftentimes is well, the church will become the state, or the state will become the church. To me, that's never going to happen, and we won't let it happen. As a matter of fact, the separation of church and state is a vital part of our country; freedom of religion is a vital part of our country.
"But on the other hand, when people are able to deliver results, people should not say--people shouldn't say, well, the results are coming from the wrong source of programming."
He also described himself as formerly being "a drinker." Bush added: "I quit drinking because I changed my heart. I guess I was a one-man faith-based program."
During his State of the Union address on Jan. 20, Bush put Congress on notice that he would be seeking passage once more of the faith-based initiatives, which he was forced to pass through presidential fiat after the bill languished in Congress.
Bush also announced his plan for a major expansion of federally funded sexual abstinence programs, which require public schools accepting the federal funds not to mention birth control. Bush said he seeks funding increases from about $80 million a year to more than $270 million in 2005.
Bush described a four-year, $300 million "Prison Re-Entry Initiative," to expand job training and placement, transitional housing and mentoring, "including from faith-based groups."
Bush reportedly is planning to devote at least $1.5 billion to "train" low-income couples to sustain "healthy marriages," programs expected to have a strong religious component.
Robert B. Reich, in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on Jan. 22, noted: "It's not being single that causes women to be poor. It's being poor that makes it less likely they'll marry."
State of the Union Excerpts
In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 20, Bush said:
"It is also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America's religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country--mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely. Yet government has often denied social service grants and contracts to these groups, just because they have a cross or Star of David or crescent on the wall. By Executive Order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law, so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again."
He concluded: "My fellow citizens, we now move forward, with confidence and faith. Our Nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable--and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in the greater power Who guides the unfolding of the years, and in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.
"May God bless the United States of America."
January/February 2004 Excerpts