Americans United Criticizes President Bush For 'hosting' National Day Of Prayer Events

White House Helps Religious Right Push Agenda, AU Charges

President George W. Bush's repeated appearances with religious leaders this week are a "desperation bid" to get his "faith-based" initiative back in motion, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, "This is a desperation bid by President Bush to get his 'faith-based' initiative back in motion, but 'Hail Mary' passes usually don't work." (Americans United has spearheaded the opposition to the initiative.)

On Sunday, Bush touted his religion funding plan in a speech at Notre Dame University. On Tuesday, he met with Hispanic clergy in the White House to hype the scheme. Today he is appearing at a Catholic church in Cleveland that runs a hunger center.

The flurry of religiously oriented events is intended to jump-start the "faith-based" initiative, which has floundered in Congress since Bush announced the plan in January. The proposal has sparked strong opposition from across the ideological spectrum because it could entangle religion and government in unprecedented ways.

AU's Lynn said the president has even stooped to misrepresenting the facts in his drive to win political support for the initiative. In his Notre Dame speech, Bush claimed opponents of his plan want to cut off all public funding for religiously affiliated charities and hospitals.

In fact, Bush's scheme has drawn fire because it removes constitutional safeguards that ensure public funds are not used to proselytize, discriminate in hiring or undercut the independence of houses of worship.

"This charge is a red herring and Bush knows it," said AU's Lynn. "The president wants to erase constitutional safeguards that have ensured the separation of church and state. That's why his scheme has drawn such fierce fire from right, left and center."

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.