Despite the lack of authorization from Congress, five Cabinet agencies are working to implement regulations that will allow religious groups to receive taxpayer money through President Bush’s “faith-based” initiative.
These agencies include the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which intends to rewrite grant regulations to include organizations that discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs; the Education Department, which will allow after-school programs to use religious beliefs as a basis in personnel decisions; and the Health and Human Services Department, which is poised to distribute $30 million allocated by Congress last year to teach religious groups how to apply for government funding, according to FOXNews.com.
In addition, Bush’s “faith-based” initiative is being used as a carrot in promoting the Republican Party for the 2002 elections, according to Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Bush has repeatedly insisted that his “faith-based” initiative is not political; however, the director of the program, Jim Towey, has made many appearances with Republican candidates for office and at Republican-sponsored events, according to the Washington Post. The federal funding for religious initiatives is especially being used to promote Republicans among African-American voters, a traditionally Democratic bloc, in an attempt to sway church leaders and religious communities.
The US House passed a bill last year to implement Bush’s plan. The Senate has failed to vote on a version of this bill to date, though the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) are working to bring their version of the bill to the floor. However, neither version of the bill prohibits discrimination by religious organizations receiving federal money in their hiring practices, a civil rights protection mandated by federal law. The Senate version would not prohibit groups from expressing their religious beliefs while using the federal money, according to the ACLU.