Americans United Blasts Bush Administration's Latest Scheme To Promote 'faith-based Initiative'

Administration Announces Additional Actions To Spur More Public Financing Of Religious Groups

The Bush administration announced plans to implement its constitutionally troubling "faith-based" initiative that could funnel large sums of public funds to religious-run social services, said Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Today the administration announced $30. 5 million in Department of Health and Human Services grants to 81 organizations, including religious ones and new regulations that will give close to $20 billion to religious groups proclaiming to operate substance and mental health service programs. Administration officials also announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development finalized regulations allowing religious groups to compete for $8 billion in housing grants.

A senior administration official told the Associated Press that the "president feels very strongly that we need to tear down the wall that separates the poor from effective programs."

Americans United, which has led opposition to Bush's "faith-based" initiative, said the administration was bent on eroding the First Amendment, not on helping the nation's less fortunate.

"The only thing this administration wants to tear down is the wall separating church and state," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "The president has failed to convince Congress that his initiative is sound policy so he is creating policy through executive fiat."

President George W. Bush has encountered significant resistance from Congress to his "faith-based" initiative. Bills containing the initiative remain mired in Congress despite heavy and consistent pressure from the White House to pass the initiative. Last December the administration ordered a slew of federal agencies to start creating procedures that would make it easier for religious groups to receive public funds to operate social service programs.

Lynn blasted the administration for funneling public funds to religious groups with little or no experience in providing government services. He also noted that the White House regulations include no conditions that bar those groups from spending the tax dollars on their religious missions and from allowing them to hire and fire based on religious preferences.

"The White House is putting larges sums of public funds behind the belief that preaching and evangelism are superior to programs that operate within medical and scientific parameters," Lynn said. "This administration is not only ignoring constitutional strictures but common sense as well."

Besides announcing the new federal grants, the administration also noted that six new regulatory or policy changes were underway at the Justice, Education, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments to make it easier for religious groups to receive federal grants from those departments.

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.