Bush Touts Voucher Aid To Religious Schools, Tax Support For 'faith-based' Services

'There's Nothing Compassionate About Forcing Americans To Support Religion,' Says AU's Lynn

President George W. Bush's escalated crusade to channel public funds to religious schools and "faith-based" social services has drawn criticism from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Bush scheduled appearances this week in Cleveland, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisc., to promote voucher aid to religious and other private schools and federal funding for "faith-based" welfare programs. The events were billed as part of the president's "compassionate conservative" agenda.

Advocates of church-state separation said Bush is on the wrong track.

"There's nothing 'compassionate' about forcing Americans to support religion," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "There's nothing 'conservative' about requiring people to pay for religious indoctrination they don't believe in. Religious schools and other ministries should rely on voluntary contributions from believers, not involuntary donations extracted from American taxpayers.

"If President Bush thinks his crusade on these issues is popular with the American people, he's just plain wrong," Lynn continued. "Voters in California and Michigan overwhelmingly rejected voucher schemes on the ballot in 2000. Americans want public schools and public services strengthened; they don't want essential government programs privatized."

Observers said the Bush White House thinks school vouchers and "faith-based" funding will help renew support from Religious Right leaders who think the administration has not been right-wing enough. Bush strategists also hope to win support from African-American and other minority voters.

However, Lynn noted that African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities cast ballots against vouchers schemes at the same rate or higher than other racial groups. Exit polls indicated that all racial, religious, political and socio-economic groups in California and Michigan voted against vouchers.

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.

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.