House Gop Leader Says ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative Has ‘Gone Political’

In a startling admission, a leading House Republican has admitted that the Bush administration’s “faith-based” initiative has “gone political.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) told The Washington Post that federal grants have gone to the administration’s political targets because the initiative is impossible to sell to Republicans otherwise.

“Quite frankly,” said Souder, “part of the reason it went political is because we can’t sell it unless we can show Republicans a political advantage to it, because it’s not our base.”

The Post’s research found that at least $157 million in faith-based and abstinence-education funding has been funneled to the Bush administration’s religious and ideological allies. Grantees include many so-called “crisis pregnancy” centers that counsel women against abortion. Funds also went to black and Hispanic religious groups that the White House is trying to recruit into the GOP column.

For example, in Philadelphia, the Rev. Luis Cortes’ Esperanza USA received three $2.5-million grants, while in Milwaukee, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels’ Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ took in $626,598 in 2003 and $824,471 in 2004. In Florida, Bishop Calvin Ray’s National Center for Faith Based Initiative received $1.75 million over three years.

James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Com­munity Initiatives, denied that politics plays a role in the Bush administration’s grants.

“We don’t have that kind of calculation,” Towey told The Post.

However, even some of the administration’s allies are disillusioned.

Texas journalist Marvin Olasky said the concept of “compassionate conservatism” has become “a rationale for patronage.”