Washington Post Article Illustrates Deep Problems With ‘Faith Based’ Initiative

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Washington, DC – A group of religious and civil rights advocacy organizations issued the following response to today’s Washington Post article that details how the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has been turned into a partisan political tool by the Administration to garner votes.

The Post article, “Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues; Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million,” shows why we have been sounding a warning bell for more than five years now. In 2001, we, along with many ecumenical and faith-based organizations, opposed certain key provisions of the “faith-based” initiative. One of our many concerns was the potential for political favoritism and abuse that could arise when houses of worship receive government funds to finance social services ministries in their communities. This article documents the diversion of public funds to religious and political groups that are allies of the administration.

In the article, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), a prominent conservative and one time supporter of the faith-based initiative, points out that the initiative has “gone political” and it is about time people are starting to recognize this. He’s right. We believe, however, that warning signs have long been evident.

The White House’s initiative, as currently configured, is about shifting social-service money to favored organizations rather than increasing it to meet the nation’s growing needs. We are alarmed that funds are being cut from established organizations with successful track records. We are concerned that responsibility for the poor is being foisted on religious charities, some of whom have little or no experience in tackling pressing issues and treating serious conditions.

We ask this administration to look at the larger picture: the government should be a compassionate government concerned about providing the integrity and civil rights of all its citizens, and honor the distinct roles of religion and government.

Participating organizations include: The Interfaith Alliance, the Baptist Joint Committee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, Unitarian Universalist Association, Texas Freedom Network and the National Council of Jewish Women.