[Hpn] Faith-Based Plan Revamped: Bush is trying to revive legislation ...
Morgan W. Brown
Mon, 25 Jun 2001 13:00:13 -0400
Monday, June 25, 2001
Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com>
Faith-Based Plan Revamped
Bush is trying to revive legislation by adding strict conditions for funds
Bush Aims to Get Faith Initiative Back on Track
Stricter Rules to Be Added For Use of Funds by Groups
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 25, 2001; Page A01
CRAWFORD, Tex., June 24 -- President Bush, facing broad opposition to his
plan to help churches get federal contracts for social services, is trying
to revive the legislation by adding stricter requirements for use of the
money, administration officials said today.
The change is part of an effort by Bush and his staff to get the legislation
back on track after Republican lawmakers told the administration privately
that it is dead in its current form. Bush plans to tell a U.S. Conference of
Mayors annual meeting Monday in Detroit that under his plan, federal money
that goes to religious organizations "must be spent on social services, not
The president's faith-based initiative was one of the earliest entries on
his list of six top goals and is the one to which he is most personally
attached. It is designed to allow religious groups the chance to win federal
contracts to help juvenile delinquents, the homeless and the elderly without
making the programs secular.
Bush plans to stress the benefits black congregations -- 70 percent of which
have community-outreach programs -- would gain from his plan. In addition,
the president is to announce a letter of endorsement for the legislation
from civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. She says it would reduce
"discriminatory barriers currently suffered by the many grass-roots churches
who are unable to access funding for education and social welfare programs."
Bush, who went swimming today as he finished a three-day weekend at his
ranch in Crawford, is using the Detroit speech to open the public phase of
his rescue mission. White House officials say the faith-based plan began to
founder while the administration was focusing on winning passage of the tax
cut that the president signed June 7.
The administration's efforts over the past three weeks constitute a rare
admission by White House officials that they had mishandled one of Bush's
signature initiatives. House Republican leaders had hoped to pass the
legislation before the July 4 recess, but House officials said that is
Several Republican lawmakers have warned the administration that the
faith-based legislation introduced in the House is unacceptable to Democrats
and has no chance in the Senate. Some White House officials say House
conservatives overreached when they were writing the bill, giving too much
leeway to churches. Some congressional negotiators retort that the president
invited trouble by sketching his plan too vaguely.
A senior Democratic Senate aide said, "There is a lot of discomfort over
here with the civil rights protections and also the constitutional
safeguards -- where they would draw the church-state line. It is beyond dead
unless there are significant changes."
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, which has jurisdiction over part of the bill, told Vice President
Cheney recently that the administration would never achieve bipartisan
support for the legislation in its original form. Sensenbrenner promptly
received calls from Bush and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft seeking to
satisfy his objections, administration sources said.
The White House worked with House aides last week to add language spelling
out protections that the administration contends it intended all along. The
administration wants new language specifying that direct government grants
must go to a separate account from private funds, officials said. Bush also
wants faith-based groups to have the same accountability requirements,
including self-audits, as other government contractors. And they want an
individual who objects to the religious component of a program -- for
example, a prayer service in a homeless shelter -- to be able to skip it and
still get the social services.
John J. DiIulio Jr., director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives, said he is optimistic about the package's eventual
success. He added that he believes the changes in the legislation are
pushing it toward common ground that still achieves Bush's aim of "helping
these groups that serve God with gladness."
"Democracy is about deliberation," DiIulio said. "We should think of ways to
satisfy legitimate concerns, especially when they come from the chairman of
a key committee."
Bush held a meeting Friday with about 30 ministers in Birmingham.
Participants said Bush prayed with the ministers, several of whom had
supported Vice President Al Gore in the presidential election, and told them
his plan was a way to help alleviate urban problems.
The administration has also been working behind the scenes to build support
for the plan. Michael S. Joyce, a proponent of school choice who has been
developing the intellectual framework for faith-based efforts for 12 years,
said Bush asked him at a Rose Garden ceremony May 10, "Did Karl call you
yet?" Joyce said Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser, phoned later that day and
asked Joyce "to undertake a private initiative to help get this legislation
Joyce said that he insisted on independence from the White House and that
the specifics were left up to him. On June 1, Joyce opened Americans for
Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise with a stable of consultants and
lobbyists and an office on Pennsylvania Avenue. He hopes to raise $500,000.
"For a lot of people, this conjures images of serpent-handlers and speaking
in tongues," Joyce said. "We're busy convincing centrist Democrats that
allowing equal access to public resources is not establishing a religion."
Bush's plan has critics across the political spectrum. Conservative
Christians have said they fear government involvement in church programs
could lead to corruption and waste. Civil rights groups worry that
government money could go to groups that discriminate in their employment
and that the plan will lead to cuts in government programs. Americans United
for Separation of Church and State calls the plan "unconstitutional,
unnecessary and unworkable."
Administration lobbyists maintain that support for the program also is
unusually broad, and they are circulating letters of endorsement from
Habitat for Humanity International, the United States Catholic Conference,
the National Association of Evangelicals and the Salvation Army.
The administration also hopes to get mileage from a U.S. Conference of
Mayors resolution, to be passed Monday, noting that cities have long worked
closely with faith-based and community service groups. The resolution said a
survey found that mayors of 164 cities have designated liaisons to such
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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