While the White House tries to fix the proposal's flaws, Santorum and allies will focus on less divisive issues such as tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. Thus, the centerpiece of the Bush plan will be put on hold.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the leading national opponent of the administration's faith-based plan, believes Bush's initiative is reeling.
"We've just finished round one, and the Bush team is staggering back to their corner," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "The White House threw only a couple of punches and the folks in Bush's corner are already reaching for the smelling salts. Those of us who oppose this unconstitutional scheme have every reason to be cheering about these developments."
Lynn noted that the faith-based initiative has come under fire recently from people across the political and ideological spectrum, even from Bush allies in the Religious Right such as TV preacher Pat Robertson.
"The criticism of the plan is obviously taking a toll on the administration," Lynn added. "The faith-based initiative has garnered criticism from the left, right and center. In addition, more and more religious leaders are expressing doubts about becoming part of the federal government's bureaucracy."
Supporters of the plan now appear to be in a state of disarray. On Monday, White House officials indicated they will delay action on the faith-based plan while trying to work through the controversies that have burdened the proposal since its unveiling. Meanwhile, John J. DiIulio Jr., head of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said the opposite yesterday, insisting, "there is no delay."
Observed AU's Lynn, "Maybe after the White House gets its story straight, they can get back to us. As it stands today, it looks like the right hand doesn't know that the left hand is doing."
While Senate action will be delayed indefinitely, it appears supporters in the House of Representatives are ignoring widespread criticism and moving forward. The Post report indicated Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) will champion a measure in the House. But without Senate support, the bill has no chance of becoming law.
"The more time passes, the less people like Bush's faith-based plan," concluded Lynn. "Government-funded religion violates the First Amendment and is unpopular with the American people. I'm hoping Bush sees the writing on the church-state wall and gives up on this unconstitutional monstrosity."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.
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.