President George W. Bush's effort to jump start his "faith-based initiative" is doomed to fail because the proposal remains deeply flawed, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In an effort to revive the flagging proposal, Bush today addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Detroit. In his remarks, Bush claimed his initiative will spend money on "social services, not worship services." The president, however, went on to say that religious groups will not be required to "hide their religious character" in order to receive public funding.
Americans United, which is spearheading opposition to the initiative, charged that the proposal is problematic and said there is nothing new in Bush's comments.
"This is just smoke and mirrors from an administration desperate to rescue a failing initiative," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "No matter how they dress it up, they can't make this bad idea presentable.
"The Bush plan," Lynn added, "allows publicly funded religious discrimination, could force religion on families in need and threatens to entangle our houses of worship with government. It's a bad deal all around."
The initiative is bogged down in Congress, due to criticism from left, right and center. Lynn said Bush's recent attempts to resuscitate the proposal only underscore the inherent unworkability of the plan.
"This initiative is in trouble because the American people don't want government-funded religion," said Lynn. "Americans understand that religion flourishes when it is funded voluntarily. It's a shame the president doesn't understand that."
Numerous organizations from across the theological and political spectrum, including Bush's own United Methodist denomination, have expressed opposition or concerns about the "faith-based initiative" since Bush unveiled the plan in January.
"Most Americans view religion as a positive force," said Lynn, "but they don't necessarily think government should get into the business of promoting it. Bush just doesn't understand that, and as a result his plan is sinking like a stone."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 70,000 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.