The Bush administration's push for "faith-based" solutions to drug abuse raises serious constitutional problems, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
This week, Bush Drug Czar John P. Walters and other administration officials are campaigning at a series of public appearances for a religiously based response to drug abuse. Today, Walters unveiled a new website and other resources aimed at religious leaders.
Americans United, which has spearheaded opposition to President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative, said the new project is just one component of a larger agenda.
"The Bush administration seems to think there's a 'faith-based' solution to every social and medical problem in America," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "The project announced today is one very small part of a larger crusade that raises troubling constitutional concerns.
"The White House is ignoring vital constitutional safeguards," continued Lynn. "The Constitution calls for a separation between religion and government, not a merger."
Lynn said the Bush administration can't seem to distinguish between treatment programs that follow accepted medical and scientific strictures and those based on preaching and evangelism. Many religiously motivated programs follow accepted treatment procedures, but some of those touted by the White House do not. The Bush administration has called for $600 million in new federal funds for treatment options, including religiously based programs.
On July 8, Bush Drug Czar Walters appeared in Riverside, Calif., at a "Teen Challenge" facility that relies on conversion to fundamentalist Christianity as its form of treatment. The group hires only evangelical Christians to staff its work. In testimony before Congress in 2001, a Teen Challenge official noted that some Jews who participate in the program convert to Christianity, becoming what he called "completed Jews." Many Jewish leaders found the term offensive.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Walters praised Teen Challenge, saying, "It is an honor to celebrate your miracles."
Said AU's Lynn, "It is unconstitutional for the federal government to pay for programs that proselytize and discriminate in hiring. The Bush administration is way out of line on this. "
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.