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From bounce-aanews=brownh=hartford-hwp.com@zip.mail-list.com Thu Feb 7 16:00:07 2002
Subject: AANEWS for Thursday, February 7, 2001
Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2002 14:56:33 -0500
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From: owner-aanews@atheists.org
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Compromise reached on faith-based funding scheme—Sandorum, Lieberman run point for public subsidies for religion

American Atheists, #1001, 7 February 2002

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 back door 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 providers that do more good works, efforts to remove unfair 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 Johnson. 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.

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.

Taxpayer Costs: Up Front & Hidden

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 million.

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...

Compromise Or Sneak Attack On 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, the 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 trickle down mechanisms like the SSBG.

We can't trust this legislation, warned Ellen Johnson. It 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 Community Solutions 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.

For further information:

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faithlob.htm (Background on the faith-based initiative and charitable choice)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith39.htm (Despite glitz, 'Common Ground report' on faith-based initiative falls short, 1/24/02)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith38.htm (Lieberman calls for public funds to repair 'historic' churches, 12/27/01)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith37.htm (More mixed signals on Bush faith-based plan, 12/8/01)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith34.htm (Good God! Faith-based scams proliferate, 8/13/01)

http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faith33.htm (Last minute sadd on for faith-based funding: $47 billion, 8/7/01)