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Items in the news: 2001-FEB to now

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Read about events prior to 2001-FEB-25

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Items in the news:

bullet2001-FEB-25: USA: Wiccans and other Neopagans object to plan: The Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN) represents various Wiccan and other Pagan/Neopagan individuals and groups. They are seeking signatures for a petition to President Bush which protests the faith-based initiatives program. They object to the government routing tax revenue to fund potentially discriminatory social programs: The petition says in part: "We are concerned that the government will appear to be supporting ideologies and theologies that are discriminatory and exclusionary. We are also concerned that some secular organizations will be forced to cease services due to lack of governmental funding. Such programs may be the only non-religious choice in small communities, and their termination could force some needy participants into a religious-based program with which they may be uncomfortable..."

Their accompanying "Pagan Press Release on Faith Based Initiative" mentions that modern-day Druids, Wiccans and other earth religious faith groups have been cited negatively by government officials and the media:
"Many deem Wicca as a substandard religion without giving clarifying reasons for why it would not qualify in the program...Like many other faith groups, earth religious traditions have food panties, prison ministries, and substance abuse programs in their community." By mid-day on FEB-28, they had received over 2,100 signatures. 1
bullet2001-MAR-1: USA: Continuing opposition to faith-based initiatives: According to AANEWS for 2001-FEB-28:

John J.  DiIulio, the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, received a mixed reception when he addressed the Jewish Council of Public Affairs...Rabbi David Sapperstein of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism told DiIulio that if federal dollars ended up in the hands of groups which "targeted" Jews for conversion to Christianity, the practice of spending public money on such outreaches would be "corrupting,"  "sinful and tyrannical.

Others, skeptical of DiIulio's claims that government funds would not be used for religious proselytizing, pointed to a Texas anti-drug program which had the special blessing of George W.  Bush when he was governor, that mixed rehabilitation with a hard-line sectarian message.  DiIulio denied that such funding would be possible at the federal level.  The faith-based program czar was also challenged over the possibility that tax money would be used by hate groups and fringe religious elements to fund their social service programs. Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee...said that he and others were "really concerned" that grants would be made to religious groups which discriminate in hiring, thus "putting up a sign, 'No Jew Need Apply' or 'No Catholic Need Apply.' " He added that under the present funding scheme, it would impossible to avoid grants for sectarian organizations which "do have in mind the desire to oppress people and push people into religious activity they don't want to be involved in." 2

bullet2001-MAR-7: USA: Muslim group demands apology from Jerry Falwell: According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): CAIR demanded an apology from Rev. Jerry Falwell, a well known Fundamentalist Christian TV evangelist. They charged him with "bigotry." According to CAIR's news release, Falwell was commenting on government funding of religious groups, saying: "I think the Moslem faith teaches hate. I think there's clear evidence that the Islam [sic] religion, wherever it has majority control -- and I can name a dozen countries -- doesn't even allow people of other faiths to express themselves or evangelize or to exist in their presence....I think that when persons are clearly bigoted towards other persons in the human family, they should be disqualified from funds. For that reason, Islam should be out the door before they knock...And whenever Islam, God forbid, ever gets a majority in the United States--like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, all the Moslem countries--free expression will disappear." CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad sent a Fax to Fallwell, saying in part: "The dissemination of distorted or inaccurate information has a negative impact on the lives of ordinary American Muslims and serves to mislead people of other faiths. In fact, these offensive remarks are symptomatic of the very intolerance that you claim Islam promotes. No faith would accept being excluded from productive participation in our society based on such falsehoods...Your destructive rhetoric could lead to discrimination and even physical attacks against Muslims in North America."  He asked Falwell to apologize for his offensive remarks and to open a dialogue with Muslim representatives to gain accurate information about Islam. 3
bullet2001-MAR-12: Faith-based initiative program delayed: According to The Washington Post: Don Eberly, deputy director of the recently created White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has decided to delay sending a bill to Congress that would authorize large-scale routing of government funds to religious institutions. They had expected opposition from groups that promote the separation of church and state, but they "didnít expect a chorus of doubts from religious conservatives such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Richard Land, Michael Horowitz and even Marvin Olasky, one of the programís early architects. They worry that churches would be corrupted by government regulations or that objectionable sects would be rewarded." There have been concerns expressed by some conservative Christians that Islamic, Pagan and Church of Scientology groups might benefit from government funding. But the most common objections appear to be directed at the possible funding of Christian groups which teach beliefs that deviate from conservative Christianity, such as the Unification Church.
bullet2001-MAR-14:  Faith-based initiative program on hold: The Washington Post reported that Republican Senators, including Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have decided to "wait several months to a year" before introducing faith-based legislations. This will give the Bush administration time to try to overcome the flaws in the proposal.

2001-MAR-21: USA: Faith-based initiative bill introduced to Congress:  Representatives J.C. Watts (R-OK) and Tony Hall (D-OH), have introduced a bill into the House of Representatives that would allow the government to fund religious groups who run social service programs. Also, it would allow  "taxpayers claiming the standard deduction to claim an extra deduction for charitable contributions; it would allow people to donate money from their individual retirement accounts to charity without paying taxes on withdrawals; and it would allow restaurants to claim a deduction for food donations...It also sets up something called individual development accounts, in which banks, credit unions or community groups would earn tax credits for matching up to $500 of a poor person's savings." A corresponding bill has been introduced into the Senate. It omits the charitable choice provision.


2001-MAY-17: USA: Secular groups excluded from funding: According to the Associated Press: "New federal grants to prevent HIV and drug abuse are being offered only to religious groups." Secular groups will be excluded from funding. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said: "It's totally inconsistent with this administration's constant claim that everybody should be on equal footing." $4 million in grants are intended to support groups that work with young people, particularly in black and Hispanic communities, to address both drug abuse and HIV prevention. The application form specifies that applicants must be "faith-based organizations" or be working with such a group. Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of Health and Human Services claims that religious groups are in the best position to reach at-risk teens. "Faith-based organizations have access to the young people we are trying to reach." This decision is an obvious violation of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has written that government funding must be "available to both religious and secular beneficiaries on a nondiscriminatory basis."

James Skillen, president of the Center for Public Justice assumed that President Bush was unaware of the Administration's edict. Skillen said: "The principles we're arguing for is there ought to be no discrimination. [If the White House was on board with the religious set-aside], that would shock me off my feet."

Connie Marshner of the conservative Free Congress Foundation favored the set-aside: "For so long there's been so much discrimination against faith-based organizations, I'd say it's a leveling of the field."

bullet2001-JUL-17: House to vote on "Community Solutions Act:"  The House was scheduled to vote shortly on the "Community Solutions Act," the first step in involving religious groups in the operation of tax-funded social services. The issue has triggered a coordinated opposition by large numbers of Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, Freethinker and similar groups. American Atheists forged a coalition of 78 such organizations to fight this bill. 5
bullet2001-JUL-18: House vote postponed: The vote was briefly delayed because of opposition from Democrats and moderate Republicans who are concerned about ways in which religious groups would use federal funds. Most are concerned that the bill would allow religious groups to proselytize and engage in discriminatory hiring practices. As currently written, the bill exempts religious organizations from state and local discrimination laws. Several moderate Republicans and many Democrats refused to vote for the bill if the exemption is retained. Several conservative Republican refuse to vote for the bill if the exemption is removed. According to the Washington Post: "Sponsors argue that they have included several constitutional safeguards and are simply reaffirming a 1964 law that lets religious organizations make hiring decisions based on their beliefs. 'This is not about discrimination,' said Rep. Tony Hall (Ohio), the chief Democratic sponsor of the bill. But opponents such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) argued that the 1964 law applied to churches and other entities using private, not public, funds and that it was focused specifically on religious officials. 'If you're hiring someone to ladle out soup or clean up the kitchen you can't say only Catholics or people who adhere to our views on abortion," Nadler said. "This is as egregious a violation of church and state as I've ever seen.' " 6
bullet2001-JUL-19: House passes charitable choice bill: The "Community Solutions Act," H.R. 7 was passed by a vote of 233 to 198. If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president, it would have given religious group immunity from municipal and state civil-rights laws. Money could be transferred from taxpayers to churches, who then can turn around and discriminate in hiring against  those same taxpayers on the basis of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, or any other criteria that they wish. Rep.  Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked: "Why does a Jewish lunch program need to hire only Jews to serve the soup? Why does a Baptist church need to hire only Baptists to distribute blankets?  Did the Good Samaritan ask the person in need if he were gay, or believed in a certain religion?"
bullet2001-JUL-29: Senator Lieberman plans to introduce legislation: Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) announced during the week of JUL-22 that he will shortly introduce legislation into the Senate that would fund faith-based programs. However, his bill will require groups who receive funds to follow municipal and state anti-discrimination and civil rights legislation. President Bush met with Senators Joe Lieberman and Rick Santorum (R-PA) on JUL-28 to discuss a Senate bill. Reuter's reported that the President "was open to changing part of the House bill (H.R.  7) that would have allowed religious groups to circumvent local and state laws barring discrimination in their hiring practices." Senator Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, and former vice-presidential nominee commented after the meeting: "I believe that we should take out of the Senate bill the language in the House bill that seems to override any anti-discrimination statutes adopted by state and local governments. I mentioned it [to President Bush] and he expressed a total openness to consider the removal of that provision in the Senate legislation."
bullet2001-AUG-3: House bill contained $47 billion in additional funding: Unnoticed in the recent House debate was a clause that would give Cabinet secretaries the power to convert up to $47 billion in funds into vouchers which participants could then use for either secular or religion-based social services. A social service agency, and not the government, could then decide whether to finance a given religious institution.  A Capitol Hill aide said: "They got this one right by us. This provision went in during the mark-up session, and they circulated copies just 24-hours before the debate on HR 7, and we didn't see it coming." A spokesperson in the office of Rep.  C.  Bobby Scott (D-WV) said that while lawmakers were focusing on the wider issues of faith-based funding, "This provision was totally overlooked."
bullet2001-AUG-5: Texas: Head of social services agency states that he will discriminate in employment: According to American Atheists, the "executive director of a church-affiliate social services agency in Tarrant County, Texas says that despite the fact that his program  receives federal money, he will discriminate in hiring gays, Atheists or others who did not meet his Christian standards. 'It's not appropriate to have an atheist in here,' Randy Clinton told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram newspaper this past week. 'There are ways to find out whether they are believers or not.' He operates the Community Enrichment Center, started by the Richland Hills Church of Christ."
bullet2001-AUG-17: DC: Head of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives will resign: The Washington Post newspaper and Cox News Service have reported that John DiIulio will resign. He is a University of Pennsylvania professor, who heads President Bush's controversial White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
bullet2002-JAN-8: WI: Court orders end to grants to faith-based programs: U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb issued a ruling that the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development must end subsidies to Faith Works. The latter is a Milwaukee religious social outreach aimed an evangelizing recovering addicts. During the year 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush had praised the group as an example of why the government should fund religion-based social programs. He said: "The intent is to help people and to recognized that a faith-based program will help people...I am confident that we can maintain separation of church and state." The court disagreed. Judge Crabb stated that the program's emphasis on religion violated the constitutional requirement of state-church separation. She found that staff members spent about 20% of their time "addressing questions of faith or spirituality." They had a policy that "Commitment to Christian beliefs and values is a hiring condition for counseling staff." Staff church attendance was "expected."  One role of the staff is to "counsel participants to develop a personal relationship." Faith Works' Standards of Practice document states that: ""We are a Christian faith-based treatment center. This means all staff is to serve as Jesus served ... We are serving the Lord in an evangelistic outreach and will respect the Holy Spirit's ability to work in person's life whether staff or resident. We need to be mature in our faith and work habits in order to be truly able to be witnesses to the Lord and His Grace." Judge Crabb noted that a former Executive Director of Faith Works stated that "the majority of Faith Works clients are not in a practicing faith when they enter the program but most graduates have some sort of relationship with God when they leave ...discussion about spiritual matters occurs during mandatory meetings..." She ruled that: "I conclude that the Faith Works program indoctrinates its participants in religion, primarily through its counselors. Simply because a state-funded program engaged in indoctrination does not mean that the program's funding is unconstitutional.  To determine whether the religious activities of Faith Works constitute governmental indoctrination, it must be determined whether the activities are supported by unrestricted, direct state funding..." 7,8
bullet2002-FEB: New faith-base initiative bill introduced to Senate: Senators Lieberman (D-CT) and Santorum (R-PA) introduced what they called their "compromise" Charity Aid, Recovery & Empowerment (CARE) bill containing President Bush's faith-based initiative. Although it left out the controversial "charitable choice" provision of the House bill, it still would have had to be reconciled with that bill. The Rev. Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance said: "Religious charities and ministries play a significant role in delivering social services to the needy. Religious leaders have formed partnerships with local government entities to develop effective ways for communities to address social problems. Yet religious institutions have been able to retain their unique identity while contributing to the betterment of the community. If we end up with charitable choice, government has ultimately become entangled with religion and compromised the very freedoms and integrity that have allowed religion to flourish in our nation." The bill failed to pass. 10
bullet2002-AUG-31: Legislation bogged down; Bush administration tries another route: Although the House passed faith based legislation in 2001, the Senate version became bogged down. The sticking point is whether religious groups should be able to obtain government funding and then discriminate against potential employees on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc.. "...the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is pursuing a new agenda that does not depend on the consent of Congress, starting with the development of proposals to change a host of federal regulations to lower the barriers encountered by religious groups in dealing with the federal government." The Office is conducting seminars during the fall and winter months to train more than 5,000 religious groups how best to disguise their religious basis when applying for government funds under the present legislation. They will recommend that religious groups create separate affiliate programs with non-religious names (like "renewal centers") in order to disguise the nature of the funding application. James Towey who heads the Office said:  said yesterday, "If you run into an official who's an armchair First Amendment person [and] if you're 'John's Shelter,' you can go after the money but if you're 'St. John's Shelter,' you can't." 9
bullet2002-DEC-12: President issues executive order implementing face-based initiative: President Bush signed an executive order which, according to the Interfaith Alliance, implements "key pieces of his faith-based initiative...[It] not only usurps congressional power but lands as a slap in the face for religious organizations who have struggled to do good work for the needy in their community without government manipulation. Particularly damaging is the component of todayís plan that would allow religious employers to demonstrate discrimination in their hiring.....To promote an ideology that allows federal employers to discriminate in their hiring practices is to turn back the clock on the civil rights protections on which so many Americans rely." 11
bullet2003-APR-9: Senate passes Charity Aid, Recovery & Empowerment Act: The Senate passed the Charity Aid, Recovery & Empowerment Act of 2003, (S.476), referred to as the CARE bill. It originally contained President Bush's faith-based initiative program, but ended up stripped of its controversial components. The Interfaith Alliance commented: "With a 95-5 vote, the Senate passed the ....CARE...Act without two of its key provisions - an expansion of 'charitable choice' and 'equal treatment' language, which would allow the government to directly fund the social service programs of houses of worship despite the fact that such entities are permitted by law to discriminate in hiring based on religious adherence. The 'equal treatment for non-governmental organizations' provision would have also allowed houses of worship to conduct taxpayer-funded social service programs in locations inundated with religious icons, texts and sacred scripture and exempted those religious institutions from diversity requirements applied to the board of directors of competing secular charities. The legislation is now primarily a tax bill that, through tax credits and other incentives, can increase much needed charitable giving to secular and sectarian charities." 12
bulletSeptember 2003: Housing and Urban Development frees up funds for faith-based programs: The White House reported that: "Final regulations were issued for HUD, which involved over $8 billion in housing programs, and at HHS, which covered nearly $20 billion in social service programs, a portion of which are competitive grants. In addition to these regulations now in place, regulations proposed by the Departments of Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs, are expected to be finalized within two months.

The White House statement also reported that: "President Bush also has taken steps to protect the religious liberty and hiring rights of faith-based Federal contractors." This apparently means that faith-based organization can take public money raised from taxation of people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, etc., give grants to religious organizations, and then allow those groups to discriminate in hiring on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. 15
bullet2003-NOV-5: Study finds faith-based programs relatively ineffective: Much of the support for the president's Charitable Choice initiative was based on the assumption that faith-based organizations can deliver social services more effectively than secular organizations. That assumption was called into question by a study headed by Sheila Kennedy of  Indiana University- Perdue. They examined the effectiveness of charitable-choice type programs in three states. They determined that "faith-based job training and placement services are somewhat less effective than those of secular organizations" and that "congregational leaders lack the constitutional knowledge and competence to assure constitutionally appropriate program implementation."13

Ms Kennedy commented: "We found that states did not monitor constitutional violations and did little to educate contractor about constitutional compliance...We also found that congregational leaders had little familiarity with applicable constitutional constraints." 14
bullet2004-JAN-15: President orders faith-based funding be made easier to obtain: The White House announced that: "At the President's direction, the Department of Justice took action to finalize regulations that implement President Bush's policy of ending discrimination against faith-based charities in the Federal grants process. Today's action by DOJ applies to $3.7 billion in Federal program funds, primarily those programs operated by the Office of Justice Programs, including those to support victims of crime, the prevention of child victimization, and safe schools." 15
bullet2004-JUL-26: Department of Health & Human Services defines "charitable choice:"  HHS defines "Charitable Choice" as resting on four principles:
bulletA Level Playing Field. Faith-based providers are eligible to compete for funds on the same basis as any other providers, neither excluded nor included because they are religious, too religious or of the wrong religion.
bulletRespect for Allies. The religious character of faith-based providers is protected by allowing them to retain control over the definition, development, practice, and expression of their religious beliefs. Neither federal nor state government can require a religious provider to alter its form of internal governance or remove religious art, icons, scripture or other symbols in order to be a program participant.
bulletProtecting Clients. In regard to rendering assistance, religious organization shall not discriminate against an individual on the basis of religion, a religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a religious practice. If an individual objects to the religious character of a program, a secular alternative must be provided.
bulletChurch-State Separation. All government funds must be used to fulfill the public social service goals, and no direct government funding can be diverted to inherently religious activities such as worship, sectarian instruction, and proselytization.

Not mentioned is a fifth principle:
bulletDiscrimination: Faith-based providers can discriminate in their hiring selections on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc., even though these factors do not impact on the individual's ability to perform the tasks assigned to them. 16

bullet2006-OCT: Faith-based Initiative exposed: Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a disturbing report on President Bush's Faith-based Initiative program. In mid-October, David Kuo's book "Tempting Faith: An Insider Story of Political Seduction" was published. 17 It exposes corruption within the program. More details.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. AREN's web site is at: http://aren.org
  2. The American Atheists' web site is at http://www.atheists.org/
  3. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a web site at: http://www.cair-net.org/
  4. Dana Milbank & Thomas B. Edsall, "Faith initiative may be revised," The Washington Post, 2001-MAR-11.
  5. "As House prepares for vote on HR7 faith tax, 'The Day That Counts' arrives," AANEWS, 2001-NOV-17
  6. Juliet Eilperin, "Faith initiative hits snag in House: GPO moderates' bias concerns postpone vote," Washington Post, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/
  7. "Freedom From Religion Foundation v. McCallum, at: http://pacer.wiwd.uscourts.gov/bcgi-bin/ You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  8. "District Court orders end to state funding of faith-based program: Wisconsin 'Faith Works' received more than $600,000 in tax money," AANEWS, 2002-JAN-9.
  9. " 'Faith-Based' Initiative to Get Push; Bush to Implement Parts of Proposal," Washington Post, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/
  10. "Lieberman-Santorum Faith-based Initiative Bill is 'Compromise'," The Interfaith Alliance, 2002-FEB-8, at: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/
  11. "Interfaith Leader Criticizes Presidentís Executive Order Promoting Government-Funded Discrimination," The Interfaith Alliance, 2002-DEC-12, at: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/
  12. "Senate Rejects President's Controversial Faith-Based Provisions; The Interfaith Alliance Commends Compromise Bill," The Interfaith Alliance, 2003-APR-09, at: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/
  13. Shella Suess Kennedy et al., "Faith-based social service provision under charitable choice: A study of implementation in three states," Indiana University, at: http://ccr.urbancenter.iupui.edu/
  14. "Report conflicts with Bush policies on faith-based initiatives," Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, 2003-NOV-5, at: http://ccr.urbancenter.iupui.edu/
  15. "Fact Sheet: Progress in Helping Americans Most in Need Through Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," The White House, 2004-JAN-15, at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/
  16. "What is Charitable Choice?," Department of Health and Human Services, 2004-JUL-26, at: http://www.hhs.gov/fbci/choice.html
  17. David Kuo, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, Free Press, (2006-OCT). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Six reviewers on the Amazon.com web site gave this book a rating of 29 stars out of a possible maximum of 30 -- an unusually high rating.

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Copyright © 2000 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-23
Latest update: 2006-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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