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Bush Pursues Regulatory Channels for Faith-Based Initiative

Earlier this month, the Senate denied President Bush approval of his long-sought faith-based initiative. Instead, after nearly two years of debate, the Senate passed a bill known as the CARE Act that gives charitable tax incentives to both secular and religious groups and leaves out language that would allow religious groups to compete equally for government money or discriminate in hiring, according to the Washington Post.

While this seems like a victory in the ongoing battle against Bush’s far-right agenda, Bush already had one up on the Senate. In December, Bush bypassed Congress and signed an executive order that ensures that religious groups will be able to hire workers based on their religion and still receive public funds. Since then, Bush has issued regulatory changes in several government agencies to enable religious organizations to more easily receive government money.

Religious groups that provide substance abuse treatment will now be allowed to discriminate in hiring, the Post reported. “These rules changes are harder to fight than legislation; they don’t make for exciting press releases. But they will produce the most substantive and permanent shifts in the relationship between the federal government and religious groups,” stated the Post in a recent editorial.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that public funds would be used to help build churches – as long as part of the building is used to provide social services, according to the New York Times. “That was one of the administration’s multiple attempts to blur the line between church and state. As the Senate amended the ‘faith-based initiative’ to try to keep that separation clear, administration aides were assuring reporters that what went out with the legislature was being reinstated through executive order,” said a Times editorial.

Sources:

Washington Post 4/23/03, 4/14/03; New York Times 4/20/03; Washington Times 4/24/03