“Faith-based” Funding Deluge Continues

Having established faith-based offices at the Cabinet level and other federal levels of government, President Bush in January publicly urged states to funnel even more federal money to faith-based” organizations.

The Administration released figures that it had granted $1.17 billion in federal funds to “faith-based” agencies in 2003. That amounts to 8% of the $14.5 billion spent on social programs qualifying for faith-based grants.

Both Bush and Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based (and Community) Initiatives, have personally lobbied state leaders to persuade states to give a larger chunk of their $40 billion in federal funds to “faith-based” organizations. Towey, who has also hosted seminars for state officials, reports that nearly half of all governors–including many Democrats–have complied to date.

The Administration has told governors “that this is another way for them to get the most bang for their social service dollars,” says Jeremy White, an assistant in the White House faith-based office.

Governors who have established faith-based offices or liaisons include:

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley; Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano; Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; Colorado Gov. Bill Owens; Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell; Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle; Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne; Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (Indiana also has a state office called FaithWorks); Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius; Louisiana Gov. Katharine Babineaux Blanco; Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich; Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (replaced by Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey); North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley; Ohio Gov. Bob Taft; Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Virginia Gov. Mark Warner; Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal, and Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is seeking to pass a constitutional amendment to give Georgia the power to contract with faith-based organizations, eliminating language barring the use of any state money “in aid of any church, sect, cult or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution.”

During his State of the Union address, Bush announced $100 million will be allocated for a new drug treatment program, “Access to Recovery.” Addicts can use government money (“vouchers”) to seek treatment from religious groups.

Bush’s 2006 proposed spending plan suggests “taking money away from many longstanding, broad-based social programs” and putting them into focused programs “carried out primarily by small charities and religious groups,” according to an analysis by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Faith in His Budget” (Feb. 17, 2005).

For instance, Bush proposes abolishing 48 education programs, while giving an additional $52 million for “school choice” programs–where parents may send children to private/religious schools at taxpayer expense.

While cutting $56 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Bush would double funds for drug treatment primarily run by religious charities.

After cutting $50 million from an established antigang program, Bush proposes a $50 million new program aimed at faith-based groups.

The faith-based initiative was passed by executive order and rule changes, not by Congress, and allows federal and state governments to grant federal money to overtly proselytizing religious groups.

Freedom From Religion Foundation