Faith-based Funding Increases, Domestic Funding Slashed

The President’s $2.7 trillion budget for fiscal year 2007–which cuts or reduces 141 federal programs, limits benefits for the poor and elderly, and trims spending at 11 federal agencies–increases faith-based funding by 36%.

Impacted are food programs for the needy, emergency response, and community development grants. Yet Bush’s budget proposes $323 million in new funding for faith-based and community programming, a 36% increase from the last fiscal year.

The Budget Reconciliation Act just passed by Congress already cuts entitlements such as Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Bush’s proposed cuts would trim $65 billion from entitlement programs over the next five years, including $36 billion from Medicare. But TANF programs tending to push religion, such as the marriage and fatherhood initiatives, were renewed.

Religionist Wade Horn, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, announced the budget proposes $100 million for competitive state grants to promote healthy marriages.” This is in addition to the $150 million approved by Congress in last year’s budget.

“During his time in office, the Faith-based and Community Initiative has been one of the President’s signature efforts to mobilize America’s armies of compassion,” proclaimed Jim Towey, the White House “faith czar.”

The $323 million is explicitly designated for five programs: $40 million to mentor children of prisoners; $100 million for the Compassion Capital Fund, of which $50 million would go to Helping America’s Youth (gangs); $98 million for the Access to Recovery program(addicts choose their treatment); and $60 million for the Prisoner Reentry Initiative. Bush’s new initiative on AIDs grants $25 million (see story front page), largely to faith-based groups.

In his State of the Union Address, Bush promised his administration also will work “closely with African American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions” of Americans.

The White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives held its 21st conference, in Harrisburg, Penn., on Feb. 7. About 700 officials from churches and religious groups attended, ate a free lunch, and were instructed to apply for federal funding.

To date, 15 regulatory actions in eight federal agencies have been enacted to promote government funding of faith-based groups. Towey, at a White House briefing on Feb. 6, complained of a “stranglehold” on Health and Human Service funds by existing Head Start programs, which he claimed are shutting out faith-based groups.

He reported that roughly half of the providers of HUD’s housing program are now faith-based organizations. White House figures for 2005 faith-based funding are expected soon.

New House Majority Leader John Boehner, one of 12 children in a Roman Catholic family, is considered a strong ally of President Bush’s faith-based initiative. As chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Boehner (R-Ohio) spearheaded faith-based legislation.

Freedom From Religion Foundation