From email@example.com Thu Feb 7 16:00:07 2002
Subject: AANEWS for Thursday, February 7, 2001
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 14:56:33 -0500
The White House and Senate conferees today unveiled a
compromise version of President Bush's controversial
faith-based initiative which calls for indirect funding of religious
programs, and a series of tax incentives to encourage private giving.
The measure follows a series of meetings between administration officials, the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, along with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
We've reached an agreement, gushed Dan Gerstein, a spokesman
for Lieberman's office.
We have a bill that we feel very good about and that we believe
will have overwhelming support and that has stayed away from some
flash point issues, declared Sen. Santorum.
The measure is known as CARE, the
Charity Aid, Recovery and
Empowerment Act of 2002. Explicitly, it claims to avoid the
constitutional pitfalls of Bush's original faith-based initiative that
called for direct government funding of religious groups involved in
the operation of social services. CARE would use tax incentives to
encourage private and corporate giving to charitable agencies and
establish new programs to promote savings for low-income families.
Less talked about, though, are parts of the measure for
funding of religion-based social programs, warned American
Atheists President Ellen Johnson. She pointed to sections of the act
which would fund government
technical assistance for service
do more good works, efforts to
barriers facing faith-based groups in competing fairly for federal
aid, and vague references to
additional federal funding for
essential social service programs.
This legislation promises one thing, but does another, said
It doesn't rely exclusively on 'voluntary' private or
corporate contributions, but includes ways for government to provide
indirect support and second-party funding of religious programs.
The CARE bill is littered with objectionable and unconstitutional provisions, said Johnson.
Title III of the bill reinforces parts of the
choice provision crafted in the 1996 welfare reform act, and
permits groups receiving public money to blatantly display religious
art, icons, symbols and other materials. A summary of the measure
from Sen. Lieberman's office notes that CARE
states that an
applicant may not be disqualified from competing for government grants
and contracts simply because the applicant imposes religious criteria
for membership on its governing board, because the applicant's
chartering provision contain religious language, because the applicant
has a religious name, or because the applicant uses facilities
containing religious art, icons, scriptures of other symbols.
This puts the taxpayer, including America's millions of Atheists,
Freethinkers and Humanists, back in the role of funding
discriminatory, religious organizations, warned Johnson.
Title III also provides for indirect funding mechanisms to help
establish religion-based programs. One section authorizes
pass-through funding whereby grants are made to
larger and more
experienced organizations, who then can subcontract to churches
and other houses of worship.
CARE establishes a 501(c)(3)
EZ Pass which makes it faster
and more convenient for small service providers to by-pass earlier
guidelines in establishing themselves as potential grant recipients.
The Internal Revenue Service would waive application fees for groups
whose annual revenues are under $50,000.
We're inviting potential abuse here, said Johnson.
are precisely the groups that may not want or be able to afford the
rigorous accounting that taxpayers are entitled to.
She added that these and other parts of CARE
fail to establish
oversight and accountability procedures for this proliferating number
of small, religion-based service providers.
Compassion Capital Fundas another pass-through mechanism to fund houses of worship. Departments such as Health & Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice and the Corporation for National and Community Service
will collectively have over $150 million to offer technical assistancein areas such as grant writing, incorporating and gaining tax-exempt status and
Social Services Block Grants.The bill would activate nearly $2 billion in entitlements for fiscal 2003, rising to $2.8 billion in 2004.
The summary from Lieberman's office does not say how SSBG works. In
practice, this program allows federal funds to trickle down to state
and even local agencies who then
launder the money by handing
it over to faith-based groups. Traditionally, there have been few if
any controls over what happens to the money at that point.
There's usually a perfunctory review by officials who 'sign off' on
any constitutional concerns, warned Johnson.
It's the 'honor
system' from the on, as far as how religious groups set up their
programs and spend the money.
Johnson warned that the
trickle down system of funding has been
in place for nearly twenty years, and that there is no active
oversight or monitoring in place to police recipients.
Incredibly, Santorum and Lieberman are proposing their compromise
legislation even while admitting,
There are no official estimates
yet on the total cost of the bill ... But it is expected to come out
in the neighborhood of $11 billion to $13 billion.
Somewhere in the figures are the $1.1 billion inflation of the Block
Grant programs, and the
Compassion Capital Fund at $150
The statement from Lieberman's office grumbles:
The war and the
recession have put severe constraints on the Federal budget, leaving
little room for major new initiatives...
Sneak AttackOn The First Amendment?
CARE is already being touted as a
compromise with earlier
legislation to fund President Bush's faith-based initiate. H.R. 7,
Community Solutions Act passed last year by the House of
Representatives, would have taken a more aggressive approach to
funding religious charities and social programs, and made available
nearly $47 billion in federal departmental budgets for bidding by
houses of worship. This bill, however, is more modest in scope --
especially with the budget surplus now turning into a fiscal deficit.
Problems remain, however. The CARE bill permits faith-based groups to
blatantly display their religious icons and engage in other promotion
of their sectarian messages. It also seeks to circumvent concerns
about funding of religion-based programs through
mechanisms like the SSBG.
We can't trust this legislation, warned Ellen Johnson.
continues funding through SSBG and other 'block grant' schemes that
launder federal tax money and then have it distributed to religious
service providers -- and that's unacceptable.
Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Oklahoma), author of the
Act told Reuters news service this morning that he wants to see
more details of the bill before making any judgment on whether to
support the measure.
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faithlob.htm (Background on the
faith-based initiative and
'Common Ground report' on faith-based initiative falls short,
Lieberman calls for
public funds to repair 'historic' churches, 12/27/01)
More mixed signals
on Bush faith-based plan, 12/8/01)
Faith-based scams proliferate, 8/13/01)
Last minute sadd on
for faith-based funding: $47 billion, 8/7/01)