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March 5, 2001
By Pat Robertson
[[ L Ron Hubbard claimed to be Buddha... ]]
There is a second unsettling problem. Our laws do not let government
engage in content discrimination of speech. The same government grants
given to Catholics, Protestants and Jews must also be given to the Hare
Krishnas, the Church of Scientology or Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church
-- no matter that some may use brainwashing techniques or that the founder
of one claims to be the messiah and another that he was Buddha
Under the proposed faith-based initiative, all must receive taxpayer funds
if they provide ''effective'' service to the poor.
In my mind, this creates an intolerable situation.
Donations and tax credits
I propose a modest modification to the Bush plan: Faith-based
organizations that want federal assistance could request a screening by
the new White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, which
would look at such objective criteria as their financial integrity, record
keeping, supervision and basic accountability. Assuming these
organizations were performing approved services for those less fortunate
in society, they would be listed in a government registry along with a
list of projects the government wishes to support.
Private individuals and corporations then could use that listing to make
donations to the faith-based institutions of their choice. Donors could
specify which projects got their money. The charity would be required to
segregate these designated funds and be prepared to document the fact that
the donated funds were used in the manner specified.
The government, rather than make direct grants to the faith-based
institutions, would offer dollar-for-dollar tax credits (not deductions)
to donors who support approved projects.
In this way, a vast private network of caring citizen volunteers would be
able to participate in -- and have a degree of oversight over -- thousands
of faith-based initiatives throughout the land.
The benefits are many: A new swarm of federal regulators would not be
required to monitor this program; the government would not be forced to
intrude upon the religious activities of worthy charities; and the
government would not be placed in the position of directly subsidizing
religious practices, which might seem anathema to most Americans.
I want the Bush faith-based plan to succeed. With these slight
modifications, it will succeed. Without them, however, I see trouble down
Pat Robertson is the founder of the Christian Broadcast Network and the
Many Jews hit faith plan funding
By Mary Leonard
WASHINGTON - Jewish groups are expressing strong reservations about
President Bush's plan to give ministries more access to federal funds for
social services, and they are warning the White House that their support
depends on its fortifying the wall between church and state.
"If this turns out to be a program where there is direct government
funding of churches and synagogues and mosques to run social services with
religious content, it will be almost universally opposed by all the
national Jewish organizations, and by every indication, even more strongly
opposed at the grass roots," Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in an interview yesterday.
Saperstein said if the president is determined to fund sectarian groups,
he risks "a divisive battle here that will tear America apart along
Last week, the Rev. Pat Robertson, founder of the conservative Christian
Coalition, put the White House on notice that his group had serious
problems with the faith-based initiative if it meant the federal
government would provide funds to groups such as the Hare Krishnas and
Church of Scientology.
John DiIulio, director of the White House office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives, said yesterday that he welcomes the "differences of
opinion" as his staff begins what is expected to be a monthslong task of
putting shape to Bush"s call to aid America"s "armies of compassion."
"It's important to discuss in a civil and honest way all the issues and
concerns about the president's intiative, pro and con," DiIulio said.
"Ours is a small-d democracy; we welcome it."
On Monday night, until nearly midnight, DiIulio answered questions at the
annual meeting in Washington of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an
umbrella group of 10 national and 113 local Jewish public policy and
social service groups. Geoffrey Lewis, president of Jewish Community
Relations Council of Greater Boston, called DiIulio "a compelling speaker
and personality." But Lewis said he has concerns about "what happens when
you open the door" to funding religious groups.
"To the extent this proposal compromises or challenges the constitutional
mandates that separate church and state, then you will have Jewish groups
speaking with one voice, saying 'Be careful, we don"t want to go there,'"
Saperstein said most Jewish leaders support Bush's proposal to change the
tax laws to increase charitable giving, and they would not object to
making federal grants more available to secular agencies supported by
sectarian groups, such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, or
the Salvation Army.
But many Jewish leaders are uneasy about the constitutionality of Bush's
call to expand "charitable choice." The provision in the 1996
welfare-overhaul law allows federal grants for job training and mentoring
to flow to faith-based groups that incorporate religious content into
their social ministries.
Yesterday, a broad-based group of religious and civic organizations issued
"In Good Faith," a report that endorsed expanding government support for
social ministries as long as none of the federal funds went to religious
activities and clients had the right to a secular alternative. The group,
which was supported by the Pew Charitable Trust, took three years to reach
It could not agree on the charitable choice provision. Richard Foltin,
legal counsel of the American Jewish Committee and a member of the group,
said his organization adamantly opposes charitable choice because funding
faith-based programs would undermine government neutrality toward
religion, threaten the autonomy of faith-based groups, and promote
John Green, a professor of religion and politics at the University of
Akron, said the opposition of Jewish groups to Bush's initiative should
worry the White House. "If problems with this program vindicate their
position - let's say money someday goes to Louis Farrakhan - the Jewish
groups will be in strong position to say their concerns were raised and
ignored," Green said.
Michael Bohnen, a past president of the Jewish Council in Boston, said
many Jews already feel like outsiders in a pluralistic-faith society, and
they don't want Bush's initiative to encourage Southern Baptists, for
example, in their stated mission to convert Jews to Christianity.
Bohnen cited other concerns with the initiative, including whether the
government would be forced to fund ministries that preach a message of
hate or discrimination; who in government would make the decisions about
awarding federal grants to religious groups; and whether alternatives to
faith-based providers would be available to all clients, particularly
those outside of urban areas.
Another issue is whether organizations such as Catholic Charities and the
Jewish Federation, which for decades have received federal funds for
social services, would find themselves in competition with new faith-based
ministries for the same pool of money.
"If the president simply offers the same pot of money and dilutes it among
more groups, there is no guarantee that a single additional needy American
is going to be served," Rabbi Saperstein said.
Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations
Council in Boston, noted that secular Jewish agencies have been operating
locally since 1895 and annually receive more than 60 percent of their
funds from the federal government. Kaufman praised DiIulio's commitment to
getting more resources to urban, faith-based ministries that mentor youths
and work to curb youth violence, and she said she has seen the
"transformational impact" of faith-based groups like Boston's Ten Point
Coalition in curbing teen violence.
"The key question is, does it need to be done with public funds, and how
is it going to be done?" Kaufman asked.
On the issue of grants, DiIulio said the White House office "is not
funding anybody to do anything." On the issue of church and state, DiIulio
said, "the religious stuff and the philosophical differences are governed
by the evidence" of which social ministries work.
On whether he would prevail in the political fight over Bush's plan,
DiIulio was less certain. "Maybe not," he said. "But we"re going to find
out, aren't we?"