From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Sep 5 06:11:37 2001
Subject: AANEWS for Tuesday, September 4, 2001
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2001 19:24:25 -0400
Despite Executive Orders establishing a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and passage in the U.S. House of enabling legislation, the fate of President Bush's plan to subsidize religious groups operating social programs may rest with the man who ran against him on the Democratic ticket in 2000 -- Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
According to writer Richard Benedetto in a USA TODAY (9-4-01) piece,
Lieberman could be the
best hope for survival of the
controversial entitlement plan that would give churches, mosques,
temples and other houses of worship billions of dollars in taxpayer
money. The first part of the funding scheme, H.R. 7 or the Community
Solutions Act, cleared the House on July 19 by a 233-198 vote margin.
It would expand the
charitable choice provision of the 1994
welfare reform act, and permit religious groups to compete with
secular counterparts for government grants in order to operate
faith-based social services. Critics, though, worry that these
groups will be able to use religion as a criteria in hiring and other
practices. They charge that is tantamount to government-funded
A compromise version is in the works, though, with Lieberman as the point-man in the Senate. President Bush is reportedly open to a modified version that would permit churches to accept taxpayer grants, but still require them to obey local, state and other anti-discrimination ordinances.
According to the USA TODAY story, Lieberman plans to begin serious
work on a compromise measure along with White House officials and
Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
They will start by returning to
the exact language of the 1996 'charitable choice' provisions of the
welfare reform law that allowed faith-based groups to run
government-funded welfare programs, notes Mr. Benedetto. The
story adds that the 1996 measure
enjoyed broad bipartisan support
and signed by President Clinton. While it calls for allotments of
federal dollars, it also permits religious groups to hire only those
of their own faith.
It said nothing about circumventing laws on
discrimination against gay men and women.
How far religious groups could go in discriminating while still accepting public funds, though, remains a point of disagreement and concern. The Salvation Army, for instance, was recently exposed for operating a secret influence-peddling campaign, and lobbying the White House to guarantee that it could continue receiving government grants and ignore local or state statutes prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals.
Lieberman hopes to close the discrimination loophole, and open the
floodgates of public funding for religious groups, though. By
appealing to liberals who support the civil rights legislation, and
conservative who are anxious to put churches and other houses of
worship on the public payroll as
the next step in welfare
reform, a Lieberman bill could clear the Senate and end up on
Mr. Bush's desk.
That's a problem, says American Atheists President Ellen Johnson, who has worked hard to stop funding of faith-based social programs.
This is about more than whether religious groups can or should be
immunized from civil rights statutes, said Johnson.
line here is with or without the Lieberman compromise, millions of
Atheists, Freethinkers and other nonbelievers would have their tax
money diverted to churches in order to operate faith-based social
Johnson says that this amounts to a flat-out
Many liberals and Democrats are already on board the push for a
revised faith-based funding bill, fueling accusations of a coming
sell-out on the Religion Tax legislation. Democrats are
looking ahead to next year's crucial congressional elections,
says the USA TODAY report, and
might be reluctant to give Bush a
victory on a measure that he has been so closely identified with.
Said Mr. Lieberman:
If we agree on a role for faith-based groups
in carrying out government social service programs, we ought not
hesitate just because President Bush supports it.
Obstacles remain, though. Bush and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives are in full gear trying to prod the Senate on quick action on H.R. 7. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) says that the final bill probably will not be on the floor this year, as the President desperately wants. Even if Lieberman and the White House can quickly agree on precise wording for a revised proposal, the battle over the federal budget could consume the remainder of the Congressional calendar. That gives state-church separationists badly needed time to oppose the faith-based initiative, including the Lieberman compromise, as bad legislation that violates the Constitution.
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/faithlob.htm (Background, archive of articles on the faith-based initiative)
czar leaving post, 8/19/01)
advocacy reports call for end to barriers... 8/19/01)
Last minute add on
for faith-based funding -- $47 billion, 8/7/01
Bush open to
compromise on Lieberman faith-based funding bill, 7/29/01)
revised bill -- a coming liberal sell out? 7/24/01)