Faith-based Federal Boondoggle Grows

President Bush announced on Aug. 3 that another $100 million in federal funds would be given in Access to Recovery” grants targeting “faith-based groups,” whose clients will be given “vouchers” for “clinical treatment and recovery support services” for substance abuse.

“This theocratic attack on the wall between church and state has become a tidal wave,” said Foundation president Anne Gaylor.

The Foundation in July brought a landmark federal lawsuit against several Cabinet Secretaries and their federal Offices of Faith-based (and Community) Initiatives for previous awards of money and violations.

Three-year grants were awarded to 14 states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as the California Rural Indian Health Board.

Bush proposes doubling the funding for “Access to Recovery” next year.

“This program is designed to help people reach recovery in body, mind, and heart,” commented Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrator Charles G. Curie issued a press release saying:

“The promise of this initiative–founded on a belief in individual choice–is that it ensures the availability of a full range of treatment options, including the transforming power of faith. That was the President’s intent in creating this program in the first place, and requesting $600 million over three years in his 2003 State of the Union Address.”

Wisconsin received $923,842 from the grant, with $824,471 going to the “Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ” in Milwaukee, and the remainder, less than $100,000, to secular agencies.

The church’s website homepage boasts bible quotes, a gold revolving cross (see graphic below), links to church services, and an advertisement that organizations, which must be “faith or community based,” may apply for the “Holy Redeemer Compassion Capital Initiative,” funded by federal taxpayers. A link reads: “Learn More on Grant Writing by Elder Robert Randolph.”


Website logo of recent recipient of federal funding.

According to the government press release, California’s program will expand clinical treatment and recovery support capability to nontraditional providers, “such as faith-based organizations.”

Connecticut was awarded money to target at-risk adult populations, who will be offered a choice of “traditional and nontraditional providers, including those who are faith and peer-based.”

Florida will use “partnerships with Florida’s Faith-Based Association,” among others, to focus on at-risk children, criminals, and addicts.

Idaho “is involving faith community recovery advocates,” among others, in providing a “menu of assessment, clinical treatment and recovery support service providers.”

Illinois will involve “a number of faith-based organizations that are not currently funded by the state” to implement clinical treatment and recovery services for probationers.

Louisiana is funding “nonprofit and faith-based organizations,” including “Set Free Indeed,” a faith-based ministry in Baton Rouge, to create an “electronic voucher system” for women and adolescents.

Missouri will fund a statewide voucher system through “traditional, nontraditional and faith-based organizations.”

New Jersey will fund a “network of service providers inclusive of faith-based programs,” and others.

New Mexico will “enhance the City of Albuquerque’s existing voucher system” and replicate it elsewhere. “Catholic Charities’ statewide Stone Soup Collaborative will lead an effort to increase the state’s capacity to offer increased choices . . . through faith-based and community-based organizations.”

Tennessee will include “faith-based options” in supplying vouchers to substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Texas will include faith-based organizations to provide vouchers to eligible drug court offenders.

Washington will “increase the number of providers trained and qualified to offer recovery services, particularly faith-based,” for clinical drug and alcohol treatment.

Wyoming will encourage participation by faith-based providers in expanding treatment for adolescents and their families.

The California Rural Indian Health Board will encourage substance abuse patients “to select among Indian and non-Indian providers of services; traditional native spiritual and mainstream faith-based services.”

“For many years a religious group performing a social service, and willing to forego the proselytization by setting up a separate secular entity, could get public funds. It is very clear the intent of this new project is proselytization. These religionists want to brandish bibles,” said Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation