Americans United for Separation of Church and State today criticized President George W. Bush's renewed call for congressional passage of his "faith-based" initiative, saying Bush had distorted the scope and effect of the proposal.
During his State of the Union address Jan. 20, Bush insisted that government is discriminating against religious groups and vowed to put a stop to that.
"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," Bush said. "Yet government has often denied social-service grants and contracts to these groups just because they have a cross or a Star of David or a 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."
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said Bush isn't telling the American people the whole story.
"Bush wants to usher in an unprecedented era of government-supported religion in America," charged Lynn. "His plan would tax all Americans to support religion, allow discrimination in hiring at government-funded programs and subject needy people to unwanted proselytism.
"The initiative is also bad for religion," Lynn continued. "Government funding will inevitably entangle religious groups in bureaucratic regulations. It will make religion dependent on the government and slowly but surely drain religious groups of their vitality."
Lynn noted that religiously affiliated organizations already receive some forms of tax support to run secular programs as long as they are willing to abide by the same commonsense regulations as non-religious groups. Such regulations, Lynn said, are essential to ensure that tax money is spent in a nondiscriminatory way that promotes the public good.
Although Bush frequently insists that religious groups are subjected to an unlevel playing field, Lynn asserted that what the president really wants is for religious groups to get privileged treatment.
Asserted Lynn, "The president apparently believes that every social problem can be solved by sending those in need to a religious service and he wants to the American taxpayer to pay for it. This is completely wrong-headed."
Concluded Lynn, "There's nothing new in what the president said last night. He continues to promote state-supported, taxpayer-financed religion. It was a bad idea when he first unveiled it in 2001, and it has not improved with age."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.