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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Religious Right Pushing "Faith-based" Diversion of Public Funds

Topics on this page: Faith-based funding under the Obama administration | 2007 and 2008 developments | Legal Challenge to "Faith-based" Initiative | Religious right fights for discriminatory hiring in Head Start program | The critique of former Bush official David Kuo | Jay Hein named to head Faith-Based Office | Congressional probe of faith-based programs' accountability | James Towey, White House Faith-based program director quits | Amid spending cuts, Bush administration touts increase in faith-based funding | Federal funds for faith-based homophobes | Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" | Religious right "Silver Ring Thing" loses federal abstinence-only funding | Bush administration preps groups to pursue faith-based funding | Religious right pastor gets faith-based funding | Jew Sues Salvation Army Over Faith-based Pledge Requirement | State-level faith-based funding | Jewish views of faith-based funding

Faith-based funding under the Obama administration

Obama Announces White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

News Release, The White House, February 5, 2009

Washington (February 5, 2009) – President Barack Obama today signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs.

"Over the past few days and weeks, there has been much talk about what our government's role should be during this period of economic emergency. That is as it should be – because there is much that government can and must do to help people in need," said President Obama. "But no matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone. There is a force for good greater than government. It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centers and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides." Continue.

This is my hope. This is my prayer.

Speech by President Barack Obama, National Prayer Breakfast, February 5th, 2009

Good morning. I want to thank the Co-Chairs of this breakfast, Representatives Heath Shuler and Vernon Ehlers. I'd also like to thank Tony Blair for coming today, as well as our Vice President, Joe Biden, members of my Cabinet, members of Congress, clergy, friends, and dignitaries from across the world.

Michelle and I are honored to join you in prayer this morning. I know this breakfast has a long history in Washington, and faith has always been a guiding force in our family's life, so we feel very much at home and look forward to keeping this tradition alive during our time here. Continue.

White House Faith Office to Expand

Jeff Zeleny And Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, February 5, 2009

Washington — President Obama signed an executive order Thursday to create a revamped White House office for religion-based and neighborhood programs, expanding an initiative started by the Bush administration that provides government support — and financing — to religious and charitable organizations that deliver social services.

"No matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone," Mr. Obama said. "There is a force for good greater than government."

In announcing the expansion of the religion office, Mr. Obama did not settle the biggest question: Can religious groups that receive federal money for social service programs hire only those who share their faith? Continue.

Saperstein to Serve on Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based Issues

News Release, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, February 5, 2009. Full text.

Washington, D.C.,Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was today named by President Barack Obama to serve on the new President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The advisory council will comprise 25 religious and secular leaders and scholars who will work with the newly re-envisioned Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which serves to mobilize community organizations, religious or otherwise, to provide effective social services. The official White House press release can be found here.

Of the appointment, Rabbi Saperstein said, "I am deeply honored to be asked by President Obama to serve on this advisory council to provide input on policies that will address a range of policy issues, including enhancing the role of community organizations in delivering services made possible through the economic recovery plan, finding common ground on reproductive rights issues, strengthening families, and expanding interfaith dialogue both domestically and internationally. This unique opportunity will enhance the Reform Movement's ability to speak out publicly and robustly, both when we agree and disagree with the White House's policies.

"The opportunity to have our voice heard in the decision-making processes before national policy is decided will further the Reform Movement core goals of tikkun olam, the repair of our world, in being a moral goad to the conscience of the nation and truly being able to speak truth (as best we understand it) to power." Click here.

Attorney General's "First Freedom" program cloaks lawyering for the Christian right
Gonzales rolls out "religious freedom" initiative for Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Broadcasting Network

by Jane Hunter,, February 27, 2007

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales launched a religious liberties campaign called First Freedom last week. It looked to us like a vehicle for the Justice Department to provide legal support for the Christian right's attacks on church-state separation. Gonzales' exclusive presentation of the First Freedom program to the Southern Baptist Convention and Pat Robertson's 700 Club underscored that impression. A series of email exchanges with a department spokeswoman this afternoon were hardly reassuring.

First Freedom is a project of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Its freestanding website promises an agressive outreach to religious audiences:

Initiation of a series of regional seminars to be held around the country to educate religious, civil rights, and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and other interested citizens about the laws protecting religious freedom enforced by the Department of Justice and how to file complaints.

A newly issued report on the website, Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom: Fiscal Years 2001-2006, lists a number of cases where the division protected citizens against religious discrimination. But sprinkled among the legitimate cases involving religious harassment are cases where the Justice Department has supported (often with amicus briefs) religious discrimination and incursions of fundamentalist Christianity into the public square. Continue.

Jimmy Carter Criticizes President Bush and Faith-Based Initiative

A compilation of news stories by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, May 22, 2007

In a May 19 interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, former President Jimmy Carter harshly criticized several Bush administration policies, saying about the Faith-Based Initiative:

Individual churches and religious seminaries and other strictly religious organizations have their own lobbyists now in Washington to make sure they get their share of taxpayers' funds. And, as you know, the policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion. Those things in my opinion are quite disturbing," Carter said. "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.

You can read the Democrat-Gazette report (at the bottom of the page) and subsequent reaction to Carter's statements here.

Religious right fights for discriminatory hiring in Head Start program

House Approves Funding for Head Start

By Jim Abrams, Associated Press, Christian Post, May 3, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House approved more money for the popular Head Start program Wednesday after rejecting a GOP-led attempt to allow religious groups participating in the program to hire and fire staffers based on religious grounds.

The bill, passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion in spending in fiscal 2008 for the 42-year-old program that helps low-income children prepare for school, up from $6.9 billion in the current year. Continue.

House rejects parochial Head Start

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, May 3, 2007

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have extended Head Start funds to religious groups.

A coalition of religious groups, including the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America, backed the Republican-backed amendment to a larger bill that would expand funding for the popular program aimed at preschoolers in low-income families.

Most other Jewish groups opposed the amendment, which on Wednesday was defeated 222-195, because it would have allowed funds to go to organizations that display religious symbols and discriminate in hiring. Continue.

ACLU Applauds Congress’ Vote For Religious Freedom

News Release, American Civil Liberties Union, Mary 3, 2007

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today praised the House for standing for religious freedom during its vote of HR 1429, the "Improving Head Start Act of 2007." The body rejected a motion that would have removed longstanding civil rights protections prohibiting the hiring of teachers, staff and volunteers based on religion in Head Start programs. The provision failed by a vote of 195 to 222.

"Head Start is not, and should not be about government-funded religion in the classroom," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This program gets remarkable results by putting underprivileged students first. We applaud Congress for not allowing limited federal funds to be used to discriminate based on religion. No matter what his or her religion, a good teacher is a good teacher." Continue.

U.S. House Passes Head Start Bill, Snubs Faith-Based Groups
Churches are not allowed to take religion into account when hiring.

by Jennifer Mesko, Focus on the Family, May 3, 2007

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to strengthen the federal Head Start program, but failed to protect the rights of faith-based groups.

H.R. 1429, which passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion for the next fiscal year, increases enrollment, boosts salaries and expands services. But it doesn’t allow religious groups to take religion into account when hiring.

“It is disappointing that Democratic leaders chose to drop language protecting the civil rights of faith-based organizations,” House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement. “Faith-based institutions are — by their very nature — ready, willing, and well-suited to deliver critical social services, and do not deserve to be discriminated against because of their beliefs.” Continue.

Support our Children
Oppose the Rollback of Civil Rights Protections

Religious Action Center, Washington, DC, April 30, 2007

Legislative Update: During the week of April 30, the House is expected to vote on the Improving Head Start Act of 2007 (H.R. 1429). During debate, a "Motion to Recommit" is expected to be offered containing instructions to repeal the bill’s long standing civil rights protections by permitting government-funded faith-based Head Start programs to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring. An amendment with identical language was already defeated in the House Education and Labor Committee during the mark-up of the legislation. Allowing this Motion to Recommit to pass on the floor of the House of Representatives is dangerous and could pose serious civil rights repercussions. The constitutionality of allowing government-funded religious organizations to hire on the basis of religion is complex. However, the blanket authorization for religious discrimination that such an amendment would allow is deeply problematic on a policy level. We expect Head Start programs to hire the most qualified teachers, not teachers whose religious beliefs or practices best match those of an employer. Thousands of Head Start parents have risen out of poverty by working for Head Start. If civil rights protections are rolled back, on the day this bill is signed into law faith-based Head Start programs could fire teachers with whom young children have bonded with for years. Entertaining this Motion to Recommit places this important legislation in jeopardy. Continue

Protect Civil Rights in Head Start

National Council of Jewish Women, April 30, 2007

This week, the House will vote on HR 1429, a bill to reauthorize Head Start. This acclaimed early childhood education program has included civil rights language protecting Head Start teachers and workers from employment discrimination for the entire four decades it has been in existence. The House committee which supported HR 1429 by a vote of 42-1 also rejected an amendment that would have allowed religious organizations participating in Head Start to discriminate in hiring decisions based on religion. Yet, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to offer a "motion to recommit," when the bill comes to the full House. If this motion passes, it would send the bill back to the committee and require the inclusion of the discriminatory amendment -- rolling back civil rights protections long part of Head Start. Click here to take action.

See also: You'll find more on Jewish positions on discrimination in Head Start here.

Head Start Vote This Week: Oppose Civil Rights Repeal!
Urge your Representative to reauthorize Head Start and reject any assault on civil rights protections in federally-funded programs.

American United for the Separation of Church and State, April 30, 2007

In March, the Head Start reauthorization bill (H.R. 1429) passed the House Education and Labor Committee by a 42-1 vote. The committee-passed bill leaves in place a crucial civil rights provision, which has been a cornerstone protection in Head Start programs since 1972. That provision has, for decades, protected over 213,000 Head Start teachers and staff, and over 1,360,000 parent volunteers, from employment discrimination based on religion in federally-funded Head Start programs.

The bill is expected to be on the House floor this week and we anticipate an attempt to repeal these critical civil rights provisions through either a "Motion to Recommit," which would send the bill back to committee with instructions to repeal the provision, or an "amendment" to the bill which would immediately repeal the anti-discrimination language before final passage. Click here to take action.

U.S. House Passes Head Start Bill, Snubs Faith-Based Groups
Churches are not allowed to take religion into account when hiring.

Jennifer Mesko,, Focus on the Family, May 3, 2007

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to strengthen the federal Head Start program, but failed to protect the rights of faith-based groups.

H.R. 1429, which passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion for the next fiscal year, increases enrollment, boosts salaries and expands services. But it doesn’t allow religious groups to take religion into account when hiring.

"It is disappointing that Democratic leaders chose to drop language protecting the civil rights of faith-based organizations," House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement. "Faith-based institutions are -- by their very nature -- ready, willing, and well-suited to deliver critical social services, and do not deserve to be discriminated against because of their beliefs." Continue

Faith-Based Groups Fight for Head Start Freedoms

by Jennifer Mesko, Focus on the Family, April 27, 2007

U.S. House votes next week, may add pro-faith amendment.

Faith-based groups are asking the U.S. Congress to protect their religious identity within the Head Start program.

Dr. John C. Holmes, director of government affairs for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), is urging Congress to protect the rights of faith groups. The House is expected to take up H.R. 1429, the Improving Head Start Act, next week. The act revises and reauthorizes the programs through 2012.

A religious freedom amendment to the act, proposed by Rep. Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, was dropped in the committee process – but now there’s a widespread push to reintroduce the amendment or some form of it on the floor of the House next week.

Nationwide, faith-based groups like ACSI say they can’t participate in Head Start grant programs because of policies preventing them from having the freedom to hire people who share their faith. They also say they need protection from being forced to remove religious displays and decorations from their walls, such as Scripture verses. Continue.

Religious Hiring Rights Take Center Stage in Head Start Debate

Anne Farris, The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, March 20, 2007

It has become a perennial congressional debate: Should religious organizations be allowed to spend tax money to hire employees based on their faith?

Last week, it was like déjà vu all over again in the House - until a Democrat-controlled committee called for a vote. The U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, departing from previous years, rejected an amendment to Head Start legislation introduced by Luis Fortuño (R-PR). The amendment would have repealed a 35-year-old prohibition against employment discrimination in Head Start early education programs.

Since 2001, proposals to modify the hiring provision have passed in the House with heated debate, but have never been successful in the Senate.

Last week's defeat of the amendment sent a bill to reauthorize Head Start to the full House, where it stands a good chance of passage as early as this week The religious hiring provision may be introduced again when it reaches the floor, said both opponents and supporters of the measure. Continue

2007 and 2008 Developments

Obama Wants to Expand Role of Religious Groups

By Jeff Zeleny And Brian Knowlton, New York Times, July 2, 2008

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — With an eye toward courting evangelical voters, Senator Barack Obama arrived here on Tuesday to present a plan to expand on President Bush’s program of investing federal money in religious-based initiatives that are intended to fight poverty and perform community aid work.

“The fact is, the challenges we face today — from saving our planet to ending poverty — are simply too big for government to solve alone,” Mr. Obama is expected to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks. “We need all hands on deck.”

On the second day of a weeklong tour intended to highlight his values, Mr. Obama traveled to the battleground state of Ohio on Tuesday to present his proposal to get religious charities more involved in government programs. He is scheduled to give an afternoon speech here outside of the Eastside Community Ministry, a program providing food, clothes and youth ministry.

“Now, I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square,” Mr. Obama intends to say. “But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups.” Continue.

Obama Delivers Speech on Faith in America

Transcript via New York Times, July 1, 2008

Following are the remarks on faith Senator Barack Obama will deliver in Zanesville, Ohio, as prepared for delivery and provided by the Obama campaign.

You know, faith based groups like East Side Community Ministry carry a particular meaning for me. Because in a way, they’re what led me into public service. It was a Catholic group called The Campaign for Human Development that helped fund the work I did many years ago in Chicago to help lift up neighborhoods that were devastated by the closure of a local steel plant.

Now, I didn’t grow up in a particularly religious household. But my experience in Chicago showed me how faith and values could be an anchor in my life. And in time, I came to see my faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I went out and did the Lord’s work.

There are millions of Americans who share a similar view of their faith, who feel they have an obligation to help others. And they’re making a difference in communities all across this country – through initiatives like Ready4Work, which is helping ensure that ex-offenders don’t return to a life of crime; or Catholic Charities, which is feeding the hungry and making sure we don’t have homeless veterans sleeping on the streets of Chicago; or the good work that’s being done by a coalition of religious groups to rebuild New Orleans. Continue.

Obama’s Faith Initiative Wins Praise

By Anthony Weiss, Forward, July 2, 2008

Senator Barack Obama’s proposal to expand federal funding for faith-based organizations is drawing a warm response from some Jewish communal groups who deal with church-state issues.

Obama’s speech on July 1 was building on the Bush administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. That program has drawn fire from a number of Jewish groups who criticized the program for allowing groups receiving government funds to discriminate in their hiring practices and for being too lax about letting religious groups proselytize while carrying out government programs.

Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, said that Obama’s position, as laid out in the speech, differed from Bush administration policy in two significant respects. One was that Obama pledged to ensure that groups using government funding do not proselytize — a count on which Stern said the Bush administration had been weak. Obama also asserted that religious groups could not discriminate in their hiring practices based on faith, a position that Stern said could lead to problems, particularly for positions that involve both secular and religious components. Continue.

Obama Sets Off a Debate on Ties Between Religion and Government

By Peter Steinfels, New York Times, July 5, 2008

On Tuesday, Senator Barack Obama did his best to reclaim for Democrats the idea of partnerships between government and grass-roots religious groups — and except for six little words he did a very smooth job.

First, he recalled his own community service in Chicago, noting that it had been church supported.

Then he reminded listeners that it was President Bill Clinton who signed landmark legislation widening the role religion-based groups could play in government-financed programs, and Al Gore who in 1999 first proposed a full-scale religion-based initiative.

While Mr. Obama acknowledged President Bush’s promise to “rally the armies of compassion” through such an initiative, he maintained that the promise had gone unfulfilled because of too little financing and too much partisanship — and that he, Barack Obama, would not only carry out but also expand what Mr. Bush had pledged.

He was two-thirds of the way through his remarks when he inserted the six words with the potential to put his whole effort at risk. Speaking “as someone who used to teach constitutional law,” he spelled out “a few basic principles” to reassure listeners that such partnerships between religious groups and the government would not endanger the separation of church and state. Continue.

Obama Support For Expansion Of 'Faith-Based' Program Is Disappointing, Says Americans United
But Watchdog Group Says Candidate's Opposition To Religious Discrimination In Hiring And Publicly Funded Proselytism Are Steps In Right Direction

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, July 1, 2008

Rather than try to correct the defects of the Bush “faith-based” initiative, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would do better to shut it down, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Obama today announced a proposal to expand faith-based funding during a speech in Zanesville, Ohio.

“I am disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded.” Continue.

Obama's Faith-Based Reform

Column by E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, July 4, 2008

Barack Obama keeps trying to end the wars over culture and religion, and good for him. The 1960s are so 40 years ago. But Obama's opponents, as well as some of his friends, won't let him do it.

His latest foray is on a subject dear to my heart: the effort to find constitutional ways to build partnerships between government and faith-based groups doing essential work for the poor and the marginalized.

The outline Obama offered Tuesday suggests that he wants to learn from President Bush's failures in this area, not simply reject an idea because it has Bush's name on it.

And give Obama points for acknowledging how hard it is to find the right balance between avoiding excessive entanglement of government with religion on the one hand and respecting the identity of religious charities on the other. "Some of these questions are difficult," he said in an interview, "and I don't have them all worked out." Continue.

President Bush to Spotlight Success of Faith-Based and Community Initiative at National Conference

The White House, June 25, 2008

On June 26, President George W. Bush delivered remarks at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) "Innovations in Effective Compassion National Conference" in Washington, D.C.

Joined by members of the President's Cabinet, OFBCI Director Jay Hein and more than 1,000 public- and private-sector leaders, the Conference will explore and expand the ways the Faith-Based and Community Initiative is transforming government's approach to human need, in partnership with faith-based and community organizations, to solve problems from addiction and homelessness to malaria and HIV/AIDS. Continue.

Press Briefing by Teleconference with Jay Hein, Director of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative

The White House, June 25, 2008

MR. HEIN: Good afternoon. This is Jay Hein. Thank you for joining this call and for your interest in the conference. Tomorrow, Thursday, the 26th, and Friday, the 27th, the White House is convening over 1,000 policymakers and faith-based and community leaders, researchers and others who are interested in the initiative. The purpose of this national conference is to survey the landscape of the changes that have been made and the progress that's been achieved since the President launched the Faith-Based and Community Initiative during the second week of his first administration.

So it's a longstanding initiative. The initiative has evolved and expanded throughout the federal government -- the White House and in federal agencies, in policy reform and innovation. Thirty-five governors have implemented similar initiatives following the contours of the President's leadership. The initiative also has an international dimension.

The conference attendees will hear from the President of the United States and Cabinet officials on Thursday -- the federal government perspective. And on Friday, we'll hear from many of the leaders from the field themselves, as we focus on social entrepreneurship -- a concept that's very important to the President. And as we seek to help the helpers, these are the leaders in communities that we have served by changing policy to be more accommodating of new partnerships, and by training these leaders who provide community services with direct training, such as this conference will provide, because -- in addition to the plenary speakers, we will have workshops on all the areas of great human need that they're engaged in and serving and our federal programs administer. And we'll also hear from Senator Lieberman, who has been a great champion of this initiative on the Hill. Continue.

Bush, White House Push 'Faith-Based' Agenda Despite Mounting Record Of Misuse
Administration Officials Steered Justice Department 'Faith-Based' Grant To Former White House Faith-Based Staffer

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, June 26, 2008

President George W. Bush’s “faith-based” initiative has been riddled with abuses and should be scrapped, not celebrated, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Today, the White House is sponsoring a national conference on “faith-based” social services, featuring a speech by Bush.

“The ‘faith-based’ initiative should be shut down, not celebrated,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Since day one, the Bush administration has misused the initiative to advance its political agenda and reward religious and political cronies. Continue.

Faith-Based Initiatives May Continue

Christian Broadcasting Network, June 27, 2008 - Faith-based initiatives from the government are very likely to continue after President Bush's term ends.

According to Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain have said positive things about the initiatives. Continue.

Interfaith Alliance Condemns Cronyism in Faith-Based Initiative

News Release, Interfaith Alliance, June 25, 2008

Washington, DC – The Interfaith Alliance called on Congress to take a more aggressive oversight role concerning the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives based on an ABC News story of cronyism and taxpayer-funded proselytizing.

According to the June 24 story, the Justice Department awarded a $1.2 million grant jointly to an evangelical youth charity called Victory Outreach and a consulting firm run by a former Faith-Based Office staffer. Several career DOJ employees objected to the grant because one-third of the money will line the coffers of the consulting firm and not be used to help children. The DOJ employees also noted that Victory Outreach had mismanaged a prior grant made by the state of Ohio. Continue.

Exclusive: Bush White House Pushed Grant for Former Staffer
Evangelical Group With the White House Connections Awarded $1.2 Million Grant.

By Murray Waas and Anna Schecter, ABC News, June 24, 2008

A former top official in the White House's faith-based office was awarded a lucrative Department of Justice grant under pressure from two senior Bush administration appointees, according to current and former DOJ staff members and a review of internal DOJ documents and emails.

The $1.2 million grant was jointly awarded to a consulting firm run by Lisa Trevino Cummins who previously headed Hispanic outreach efforts for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and a California evangelical group, Victory Outreach.

The grant was awarded over the strong objections of career DOJ staff who did not believe that Victory Outreach was qualified for the grant and that too great an amount of the funds was going to Cummins' consulting company instead of being spent on services for children.

Cummins' company, Urban Strategies LLC, was slated to get one third of the money for helping the self-described "evangelizing" Victory Outreach use the rest of the funds. Continue.

Interview with Steven T. McFarland of the Justice Department's Faith-Based Office

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, March 13, 2007

Steven T. McFarland has been director of theTask Force On Faith-Based And Community Initiatives in the U.S. Department of Justice since May 2005. The Task Force's mission is to eliminate any barriers preventing faith-based and community organizations from competing for Justice Department service contracts.

McFarland previously held the position of Vice President For Programme And Partnership Development for Prison Fellowship International, from 2002-2005; helped advise U.S. foreign policymakers regarding religious persecution as the first Executive Director of theU.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom, from 1999-2002; litigated for religious liberty in the U.S. as director of the Center For Law And Religious Freedom from 1991-99; and practiced commercial and First Amendment law in Seattle during the 1980s. Continue.

In Its Sixth Year, Fund Announces Latest Grants to Bolster Faith-Based Capacity
The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

By Anne Farris, The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, March 6, 2007

The federal government is awarding another round of grants worth $16.5 million intended to strengthen the ability of smaller faith-based and community organizations to deliver government social services.

The grants are available through the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) Demonstration Program, now in its sixth year and providing more than double the annual funding since its inception. The CCF is specifically targeted to assist organizations that are the focus of President George W. Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

This round of CCF grants goes to intermediary organizations that will deliver capacity- building skills to faith-based and community organizations. The intermediaries use the money, granted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), to teach and train smaller organizations how to develop leadership, organization skills, revenue strategies, program management and community involvement techniques. Continue.

After six years, opposition gaining on George W. Bush's Faith Based Initiative
Unmentioned in the president's State of the Union speech, the program nevertheless continues to recruit religious participants and hand out taxpayer money to religious groups

Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency, February 19, 2007

With several domestic policy proposals unceremoniously folded into President Bush's recent State of the Union address, two pretty significant items failed to make the cut. Despite the president's egregiously tardy response to the event itself, it was nevertheless surprising that he didn't even mention Hurricane Katrina: He didn't offer up a progress report, words of hope to the victims, or come up with a proposal for moving the sluggish rebuilding effort forward. There were no "armies of compassion" ready to be unleashed, although it should be said that many in the religious community responded to the disaster much quicker than the Bush Administration. In the State of the Union address, however, there was no "compassionate conservatism" for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Continue

Partnering With Faith-Based Groups Considered
Public Funds Might Go Toward Social Services

By Hamil R. Harris, The Washington Post, January 25, 2007

Corinth Baptist Church was humming with the sounds of the Sensational Nightingales one recent Sunday afternoon, and people were dancing in the aisles during a fundraising concert that included the Thompson Singers, the Rev. James Flowers and the Flowers Singers, and the church's male chorus.

"Look back over your lives! See where God has brought you," said Jo Jo Wallace, the lead guitarist for the Nightingales. "You need to thank him!"

And give thanks they did, as they prepared to give back to the community. The Rev. Roosevelt Dickens and members of the Capitol Heights church were raising money to build a fellowship hall and finance the church's many community programs to help the poor and the needy. Continue.

Faith at Work

Randy Cohen, New York Times Magazine, January 28, 2007

I answered an ad for a job as a data-entry clerk at a faith-based charity, but I stopped filling out the application when it said I could not work there unless I signed a "statement of faith," affirming that I had evangelical Christian beliefs. Isn’t this religious discrimination? Janet Lama, Charlotte, N.C.

If you ask a lawyer, he will explain why this group can reject non-Christians. Andrew G. Celli Jr., for example, an attorney with expertise in civil rights law, says, "This is what the law allows -- and for good reason, given the time-honored constitutional principle of separation of church and state." This charity sees its work as an expression of faith, Celli says, and "government should not be in the business of telling religious organizations which of their activities are religious and which are secular."

But if you ask me -- and you did -- I’m with you. Continue

White House Outreach Targets Local, Private Support of Faith-Based Groups

By Roundtable Washington Correspondent, Anne Farris, The Washington Post, January 16, 2007 via Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

The White House today (Jan. 16) launched a series of outreach events that some see as a mark of its new emphasis on encouraging local governments and corporations to back faith-based groups that serve the poor and needy.

"The White House is using the bully pulpit of this administration to highlight what is working in the social marketplace and invite individuals who have money and influence to hear firsthand and to meet some of our providers," said Robert L. Woodson, Sr., founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE) and the meeting’s keynote speaker. "This is the first of several meetings … to bring attention to successful strategies in low-income communities to address very perplexing problems." Continue.

The State of the Law 2006: Legal Developments Affecting Government Partnerships with Faith-Based Organizations

Report by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, January 2007

The Bush Administration´s Faith-Based and Community Initiative continued this year to face legal challenges that test its potential reach. Among the most significant cases in 2006 were those concerning prison programs, government chaplaincies, and grants to help faith-based organizations increase their ability to win government contracts, according to the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy´s annual "State of the Law" report.

Major controversies over the Initiative and related church-state issues involved both matters of legal procedure and substantive decisions handed down by judges, say George Washington University Law Professors Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle, co-directors of legal research for the Roundtable and authors of the report. Continue.

Legal Challenge to "Faith-based" Initiative

Justices Reject Suit on Federal Money for Faith-Based Office

By Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, June 26, 2007

The Supreme Court on Monday closed the courthouse door on a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's use of taxpayer money to support its Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

By a vote of 5 to 4, the court ruled that taxpayers could not sue to block federal expenditures that they allege violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

For 39 years, the court has recognized an exception to a general rule that taxpayers do not have standing to sue to stop government expenditures with which they disagree. That exception, created in the 1968 case of Flast v. Cohen, allowed taxpayers to challenge spending on programs that they believed promoted religion. But yesterday's decision said that precedent did not apply in this case. Continue.

Conservative rulings have groups rethinking advocacy strategy
Following the close of this year's Supreme Court term, Jewish groups are wondering whether or not their legal strategy is off kilter.

By Ron Kampeas, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 2, 2007

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Following a string of conservative rulings in the closing weeks of this year's Supreme Court session, some Jewish officials are suggesting that they may be forced to abandon their decades-long strategy of relying on the courts to protect liberal gains on a host of issues. For decades many Jewish groups counted on the top court to correct what they saw as the excesses of legislatures and chief executives across the country. But with the close of the court's first full term with two recent conservative arrivals, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, Jewish groups say the situation has reversed itself. Continue.

High Court Debates Suit Against White House's Faith-Based Initiative
Case is an important test for a 39-year-old precedent on First Amendment establishment-clause cases

Tony Mauro, Legal Times, March 1, 2007

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer looked skyward Wednesday as he tried to come up with a "more amazing" hypothetical during arguments in a key church-state case. With or without divine intervention, he found one: Could the federal government fund churches and ministers of a single religion nationwide "dedicated to the proposition that this particular sect is the true sect," without fear of taxpayer lawsuits against it?

"Horrible hypothetical," growled Solicitor General Paul Clement, but he went on to say yes. "The bottom line is that there would not be taxpayer standing." With a helpful suggestion from Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., Clement qualified his point by asserting that adherents of other religions could file suit against such a program on the basis that they were being discriminated against. But Clement held firm on the point that taxpayers, merely as taxpayers, could not challenge a network of government-funded churches. Continue

Supreme Court hears arguments in faith-based initiative case
The justices seem split on whether to allow a challenge to Bush's plan on 1st Amendment grounds.

By David G. Savage, The Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2007

Washington -- In a closely watched church-state separation case, a Bush administration lawyer urged the Supreme Court on Wednesday to shield the president's "faith-based initiative" from legal challenges in court.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement said taxpayers who believe the White House is unconstitutionally promoting religion should not be accorded legal standing to sue in court. It would be too "intrusive on the executive branch" to permit lawsuits contesting how the president and his advisors conduct their affairs, he said. Continue.

Justices Enter Church-State Fray
Challenge to President Bush's faith-based initiative raises standing issues

Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal, February 27, 2007

The newly constituted Roberts Court gets its first opportunity to wade into the politically sensitive area of church-state separation in a case involving President Bush's controversial Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

The arguments that U.S. Supreme Court justices will hear on Wednesday will not focus on the merits of the broad constitutional attack leveled in 2004 against the White House program, an initiative designed to increase religious groups' involvement in providing social services.

Instead, the arguments will target the key to the courthouse door -- standing to sue -- or, in this case, the ability of taxpayers to challenge the Executive Branch's expenditure of money in ways that allegedly violate the First Amendment's establishment clause. Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, No. 06-157. Continue

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Faith-based Program

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, Beliefnet, February 22, 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case next week (Feb. 28) on a technical aspect of church-state law that is being closely watched for its potential impact on how government and religious groups relate to one another.

The arguments mark the first time the high court will consider a case challenging the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

But the justices will only decide whether the taxpayers bringing that challenge -- staffers of the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation -- have standing to file the suit, not the merits of the faith-based program. Continue

Supreme Court Preview: Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation
(U.S. Supreme Court, No. 06-157, oral argument scheduled for February 28, 2007)

Ira C. Lupu & Robert W. Tuttle, Directors of Legal Research for the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, and Professors of Law, George Washington University Law School, February 20, 2007

On Wednesday, February 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives ("WHOFBCI") v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. ("FFRF"). Paul Clement, the Solicitor General of the United States, will argue the case for the WHOFBCI. Andrew Pincus of the Washington law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw will appear for FFRF.

As originally filed by FFRF on behalf of its taxpayer-members, the case involves a broad constitutional attack on expenditures and activities sponsored by the White House and various federal agencies in support of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative ("FBCI"). The single issue that has led the case to the nation's highest court, however, is the status of taxpayers as appropriate parties to bring such a lawsuit. The question of who may mount lawsuits falls under the lawyer's rubric of "standing to sue," and this case tests the limits of the standing of taxpayers to complain that the government has spent money in ways that allegedly violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.[1] If taxpayers lack standing, they will not be able to ask courts to hear cases involving such expenditures. Continue

Supreme Court Should Allow Taxpayer Lawsuit Against Bush 'Faith-Based' Office, Says Americans United
High Court To Hear Oral Arguments In Case Over Citizens' Right To Challenge Government Support Of Religion In Court

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, February 21, 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court should preserve the right of taxpayers to file lawsuits challenging government support of religion, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation. In the case, three Wisconsin taxpayers have challenged President George W. Bush’s creation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and other promotion of his “faith-based” agenda. Continue.

Experts: More danger than meets eye in upcoming Supreme Court case

Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press, February 22, 2007

There's more at risk for the separation of church and state than meets the eye in an upcoming Supreme Court case, a panel of legal experts agreed Feb. 21.

The experts previewed oral arguments in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, slated for Feb. 28.

The American Constitution Society sponsored the discussion between the attorneys who represent groups with friend-of-the-court briefs on opposite sides in the case. It was held at the National Press Club in Washington.

"What this case is really about is the basic question [of] whether citizens have the right to sue to keep the government from violating the First Amendment," said Richard Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Continue

ACLJ Urges Supreme Court to End Special Privileges for Church-State Separationist Taxpayer Plaintiffs

The Church Report, March 1, 2007

(Washington, DC) - The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which specializes in constitutional law, said today the Supreme Court has an important opportunity to put an end to put an end to federal taxpayer lawsuits by church-state separationists. The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the case of Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (U.S. No. 06-157) - a case that also focuses on a challenge of using taxpayer dollars to fund a program of President Bush’s faith-based initiative. The ACLJ filed an amicus brief with the high court in support of the federal government’s position.

“There is no constitutional conflict in using tax dollars to fund faith-based initiatives,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ who attended today’s oral arguments. “The Supreme Court should leave the faith-based initiative alone and focus on removing the special privileges afforded to atheists and others who are antagonistic to religion. The church/state separationists have been given a free pass in federal court to bring Establishment Clause lawsuits. The have not had to show that a law or government activity actually injured them in any way before they could challenge it in federal court. All they had to do was show that they were taxpayers. That is not only unfair, but wrong. We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will put an end to the special treatment given to these plaintiffs.” Continue.

Justices to Decide if Citizens May Challenge White House’s Religion-Based Initiative

By Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, December 2, 2006

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 -- The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide whether private citizens are entitled to go to court to challenge activities of the White House office in charge of the Bush administration’s religion-based initiative.

A lower court had blocked a lawsuit challenging conferences the White House office holds for the purpose of teaching religious organizations how to apply and compete for federal grants. That constitutional challenge, by a group advocating the strict separation of church and state, was reinstated by an appeals court; the administration in turn appealed to the Supreme Court.

The case is one of three appeals the justices added to their calendar for argument in February. Continue.

See also: Case documents and other resources related to the case on the website of The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, here.

For earlier reports on this case, click here.

The critique of former Bush official David Kuo

Book says Bush just using Christians
‘Tempting Faith’ author David Kuo worked for Bush from 2001 to 2003

By Jonathan Larsen, "Countdown" producer, MSNBC, October 13, 2006

More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, the former second-in-command of that office is going public with an insider’s tell-all account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points with both evangelical Christians and traditionally Democratic minorities. Continue reading -- and see also MSNBC's associated links.

For additional links regarding the Kuo book, please click here.

Jay Hein named to head Faith-Based Office

Bush names new faith-based czar
Experienced think-tanker Jay Hein will also be deputy assistant to the president

by Bill Berkowitz, Working for Change, August 31, 2006

The appointment of Jay Hein, a relatively unknown right-wing think tanker, to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives may be a sign that the George W. Bush administration has just about thrown in the towel on promoting what was supposed to be -- when announced in January 2001 -- the centerpiece of the president's domestic policy initiatives.

Unlike the high-profile appointments of John DiIulio, an independent-minded academic who first headed up the faith-based office and who resigned after being undercut by movement conservatives and his successor Jim Towey, the announcement of Hein's appointment came without any fanfare. Continue

Bush Names new Faith-based czar

Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency, August 19, 2006

Jay Hein, an experienced conservative think tanker, will also be deputy assistant to the president Jay Hein, a long-term conservative think tanker, has been named by President Bush the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and a deputy assistant to the president. Hein, who takes over the faith-based office from Jim Towey, will advise the president on domestic policies such as immigration or responses to emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, the Associate Press reported. Continue

Bush Appoints Conservative to Head Faith-Based Office while Jewish Community Isn't Looking

National Jewish Democratic Council, August 17, 2006

While the American Jewish community has been closely watching events unfold in the Middle East and Connecticut this month, President Bush and his Administration have been busy furthering their conservative agenda.

On August 3, Bush appointed a new director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI). Bush called the new director, Jay Hein, a "leading voice for compassionate conservatism" and advocate for faith-based organizations.

American Jews should beware this new appointment. In the mid-90s, Hein served as Welfare Reform Policy Assistant to former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. Hein helped Thompson develop, pass, and implement changes to the state's welfare system. Continue

Bush picks low-profile leader to head faith-based office

Robert Marus,Associated Baptist Press, August 10, 2006

President Bush has chosen a low-profile think-tank leader to head the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Bush announced Aug. 3 that he had tapped Jay Hein, currently president of the conservative Sagamore Institute for Policy Research. The group, which Hein founded, is based in Indianapolis. Continue

Congressional probe of faith-based programs' accountability

GAO report finds hit or miss monitoring of faith-based funding recipients

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Bush administration's faith-based initiatives raises concerns over the adequacy of federal and state monitoring of the grantees. The GAO's investigation, prepared at the request of Democratic House members George Miller and Pete Stark, found that auditors are not consistently reviewing whether people who are not members of the faith communities running the programs have access to them -- or whether the programs were using faith-based funds for religious functions.

This report on 10 programs -- in Texas and Ohio, where there are state-run faith-based offices, and Georgia and California, where there are not -- found confusion and weak guidelines. Most programs receiving faith-based funding did not have policies for distinguishing inherently religious programs from the service provided through the government grant.

JewsOnFirst is continuing to study this report in preparation for a more in-depth analysis. If you are also analyzing it we invite you to contact us; perhaps we can collaborate.

Faith-Based and Community Initiative
Improvements in Monitoring Grantees and Measuring Performance Could Enhance Accountability

Government Accountability Office, June 2006

For the report (in PDF format) produced in response to the 2004 request by California Democratic Representatives George Miller and Pete Stark, please click here. Or click here for the abstract (also a PDF document).

Report Faults Safeguards in Religion Program

By Neela Banerjee, The York Times, July 19, 2006

WASHINGTON, July 18 - The Bush administration's program of financing social service initiatives run by religiously affiliated groups lacks adequate safeguards against religious discrimination and has yet to measure the performance of the groups, a new Congressional report says.

The report, by the Government Accountability Office, did not find evidence of a widespread diversion of government money to religious activity from social services, which had been a concern of some critics of such religion-based initiatives.

But in looking at 10 federal programs, the researchers found that only four gave an explicit statement to religious organizations about protecting the religious liberties of the people they serve. Continue

Report -- Church-State Lines Not Always Drawn With Faith-Based Groups

Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service, July 20, 2006

An examination of the White House's faith-based initiative has found that some organizations are not separating religious activities from federally funded services.

At the request of two members of Congress, the U.S. General Accountability Office spent more than a year conducting a review of federal and state agencies related to the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. The GAO also investigated religious groups that have received government grants. Continue

Faith-Based Initiatives Criticized by Government Report
Advocates say the programs need to be defended from attack.

Focus on the Family, July 21, 2006

Faith-based groups may soon find their funding being cut, following a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO report charges that faith-based initiatives aren't guarding against religious discrimination. Continue

Recent developments

Federal Funding Of 'Bible-Based' Marriage Program Violates Constitution, Says Americans United Lawsuit
Legal Action Raises Questions Over Role Of 'Faith-Based' Groups In $500-Million Bush Effort To Fund Marriage Counseling

News release, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, September 12, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that seeks to block taxpayer funding of a Vancouver, Wash., program that offers "Bible-based" marriage education.

The Northwest Marriage Institute, a fundamentalist Christian organization, received two federal grants worth $97,750 in 2005. A $50,000 Compassion Capital Fund grant came from HHS and a $47,750 sub-grant came from the Institute for Youth Development, an intermediary organization that distributes "faith-based" funds for HHS. Continue.

Lawsuit Intends to Force the Bush Administration to Recognize the Constitution

By Gene C. Gerard, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, October 11, 2006

Since taking office, the Bush administration has successfully lobbied Congress to budget $500 million for marriage education programs. Much of this money is slated to go to religious organizations, despite the fact that the First Amendment mandates separation of church and state. A recent lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) against the Department of Health and Human Services aims to force the Bush administration to cease violating the Constitution by funding marriage programs with an overtly religious slant. If successful, this lawsuit would have a profound impact on the ability of the Bush administration to continue funding religious organizations with taxpayer dollars.

The target of the AU lawsuit is the Northwest Marriage Institute, a Washington State organization that provides "Bible-based" marriage education and counseling services. In 2005 the Department of Health and Human Services distributed almost $100,000 to the institute. The organization describes itself as providing "faith-based education in marriage" as well as "faith-based premarital and marriage counseling." And the organization's goal is to "promote successful biblical principles for everyday life." Obviously, this is a Christian organization that espouses a very specific religious viewpoint. All of which begs the question, why does it receive taxpayer dollars? Continue.

HHS Sued for Grant to Faith Group
Leftist Americans United for Separation of Church and State alleges recipient promotes "fundamentalist Christian agenda."

Focus on the Family, September 14, 2006

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is facing a lawsuit for granting $97,000 to a faith-based marriage counseling center. The suit claims the Northwest Marriage Institute promotes a "fundamentalist Christian agenda" and shouldn't receive federal dollars. Family advocates disagree. Continue.

Don't Extinguish a Bright Hope for Drug Addicts!

"Commentary" by Stanley Carlson-Thies, the Center for Public Justice, September 15, 2006

Back in the summer, the House and Senate appropriations committees pronounced a death sentence on one of the most promising innovations in substance abuse treatment. The committees decided with minimal discussion to shut down the Access To Recovery program and transfer its $100 million or so of annual funding into the conventional federal drug treatment block grant. But their recommendation hasn't yet been carried out. The full House and Senate, when they vote on the Labor, HHS appropriations bill, can reverse this decision. And they should—for the sake of drug addicts, faith-based organizations, and effective policy.

The Access to Recovery program—ATR, first funded in 2004—has given additional drug treatment funding to states that added new treatment types and providers beyond their traditional list of clinical treatment services. To win the extra money, 14 states and one Indian tribe created voucher-based systems that include faith-based providers and services that supplement or substitute for clinical treatment. Because of the vouchers, addicts can choose the path that works best for them—conventional clinical, or something more, or something different. And because of the vouchers, that something different can include religiously transformative services. Continue

Federal Religious Discrimination Lawyer Criticized

by Ari Shapiro, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, May 31, 2006

Since 2003 the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has had a Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination. The division does not have comparable special counsels for racial, age or gender discrimination. Eric Treene, who occupies the post, has frequently sided with right-wing evangelical Christians seeking to promote their religion in the public sphere. One example is its support of the Salvation Army against employees doing federally funded work whom it forced to sign a religious statement. According to NPR, Treene has worked on the side of the religious right Liberty Legal Institute in Texas. Hiram Sasser, Liberty's litigation director, said that in most instances where Treene collaborated, the defendant ended up settling the case, "doing the right thing." Click here for the audio link.

James Towey, White House Faith-based program director quits

Americans United Applauds 'Faith Czar' Towey's Departure From White House
AU's Lynn Says 'Faith-Based' Point Man Was First Amendment Foe, Urges President Bush To Shut Down 'Faith-Based' Office

News Release, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, April 18, 2006

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today applauded the departure of White House “Faith Czar” James Towey and urged President George W. Bush to close the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

“Jim Towey has waged an unrelenting war against church-state separation,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “He played a key role in using the ‘faith-based’ initiative for improper partisan purposes, and he did little or nothing to see that Americans get the social-service help they need from their government. That’s a sad legacy to leave. Continue

White House faith-funding chief to leave post in June

By Joseph Curl, The Washington Time, April 19, 2006

Jim Towey, who headed the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the White House for more than fours years, will leave his post June 2, but he said the compassionate-conservative agenda put in place by President Bush is strong in the heartland and will live on after his departure. Continue

Amid spending cuts, Bush administration touts increase in faith-based funding

White House hosts conference on faith-based funding

White House website, March 9, 2006

Quoting the bush administration: "The conference highlighted the important role corporations and foundations play in funding social services. The results of a data collection effort showing Federal discretionary grant activity with faith-based charities in 2005 was also released at the conference." Click here for the links to charts and documents prepared for the occasion.

Americans United Criticizes Bush Push For 'Faith-Based' Funding
Church-State Watchdog Group Charges That President Is Undercutting Civil Rights And Civil Liberties

News Release, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, March 9, 2006

"Americans United for Separation of Church and State today blasted the Bush administration for its relentless effort to steer federal funds to religious organizations, charging that the “faith-based” initiative undermines civil rights and civil liberties." Continue..

Grants Flow To Bush Allies On Social Issues
Federal Programs Direct At Least $157 Million

By Thomas B. Edsall, The Washington Post, March 22, 2006

"Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies, according to federal grant documents and interviews." Click here to read the report.

Bush Touts Grants to Religious Charities

By Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, March 10, 2006

A skeptical look at President Bush's claim that his administration has increased faith-based grants. Click here to read the report.

Bush Urges More Money for Religious Charities

By Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, March 10, 2006

"College Park, Ga., March 9 — President Bush said Thursday that his administration had made progress by awarding more than $2.1 billion last year to social programs operated by churches, synagogues and mosques, a modest increase over 2004.

"But Mr. Bush said that corporate foundations were not doing enough and that they should give more money to religious charities." Click here to read the report.

US religious charities win $2.15bn in state grants
White House increases awards to faith groups; Concern that public funds used to gain converts

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (London), March 11, 2006

"In the five years that George Bush has been in the White House, 11 government agencies have set up religious offices, ostensibly to help coordinate the provision of social services by faith-based organisations. This week, the president established one in the department of homeland security." Click here for the report.

Bush urges government, foundations to fund faith-based groups

Baptist Press, March 10, 2006

"President Bush called March 9 for governments at all levels to permit faith-based organizations to compete for funds to provide social services to the needy." Click for the article.

Federal funds for faith-based homophobes

Baptist unit, lesbian still at odds
Firing sparked lengthy lawsuit

By Peter Smith, The Courier-Journal, February 11, 2007

When the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children fired Alicia Pedreira in 1998 because her lesbian lifestyle contradicted its Christian principles, the case made headlines.

It was in the news again in 2000, when Pedreira and other advocates for strict church-state separation filed a federal lawsuit against the state and Baptist Homes, which receives state money to care for abused and neglected children.

The lawsuit, which tests the constitutional limits of government funding for faith-based social services, has rarely been in the spotlight since. Continue.

ACLU Targets Kentucky Children's Home

Focus on the Family, January 29, 2007

A Kentucky foster care program is facing a threat of closure thanks to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenge.

Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children (KBHC) receives state money to help fund residential homes, foster placements and pregnancy counseling centers for young people. The ACLU filed suit in federal court, charging the state funding runs counter to the First Amendment. Continue.

Millions In Federal Funds Handed To Anti-Gay Groups

by Paul Johnson,, February 10, 2006

"(Washington) With leaders of some of America's leading anti-gay marriage groups looking on President Bush has signed legislation giving $500 million to faith-based programs to promote and strengthen opposite-sex marriage.

"The provision is part of the deficit reduction bill passed by Congress. '[It] allows faith-based groups that provide social services to receive federal funding without changing the way they hire,' Bush noted at the White House signing ceremony.

"Under the law faith-based groups are able to circumvent local Under the law faith-based groups are able to circumvent local and human rights laws that are supposed to protect LGBT workers. Click here for the report.

Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing"

Pat Robertson: Raked over the coals while raking in the dough

Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange (publication of Working Assets), March 2, 2006

Noting that Robertson's Operation Blessing has received tens of millions of dollars in faith-based funding from the Bush government, Berkowitz recalls the televangelist's initial opposition to the program. Robertson worried that religions like the Moonies and Scientologists would share in the funds. Then, writes Berkowitz, he voiced other objections:

In an interview with the Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, Robertson said that "if the government gets into the faith-based initiative too much, they're going to dominate what the people of faith think. And one of the things they want to impose is on hiring practices. They want to force people to be hired by religious organizations who don't share the fundamental tenets of those religious groups."

As it turned out, recipients are able to discriminate in favor of their co-religionists, which Operation Blessing has done. Click here for the report.

Stop Bush Funding of Pat Robertson
National Jewish Democratic Council launches campaign to stop "faith-based" funding of Pat Robertson, other divisive figures

National Jewish Democratic Council, January 25, 2006

Federal funding for Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" has risen from $108,000 to $14.4 million annually. The NJDC is collecting signatures to urge the Bush administration to stop "faith-based" funding to the operations of such "divisive" figures. Click here for the campaign.

$14 million in federal faith-based money goes to Pat Robertson

Bill Berkowitz, Media Transparency, January 28, 2006

"Televangelist's claim that Ariel Sharon's stroke was an act of God may have cost him the friendship of some Israelis, but it hasn't prevented his charity, Operation Blessing, from garnering faith-based grants from the U.S. government." Click here to read the report.

Religious right "Silver Ring Thing" loses federal abstinence-only funding

Abstinence program loses federal funding

By The Associated Press, First Amendment Center, February 25, 2006

"BOSTON — A nationwide abstinence-only program that uses a silver ring to remind teens to refrain from pre-marital sex has lost federal funding with the settlement of a lawsuit alleging it used the money for Christian evangelization.

"The Silver Ring Thing, which presents its message though comedy skits and music, has received more than $1 million in federal funding during the past three years." Click here for the report.

ACLU Announces Settlement
in Challenge to Government-Funded Religion in the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program the “Silver Ring Thing”

ACLU News Release, February 23, 2006

"In today’s settlement, HHS agreed that it will not fund the Silver Ring Thing’s abstinence-only-until-marriage education program as it is currently structured, and that any future funding is contingent on the Silver Ring Thing’s compliance with federal law prohibiting the use of federal funds to support religious activities. In addition, HHS agreed to closely monitor any future grants to the program." Click here for the report.

Suit to Halt Abstinence-Program Funding Settled
Silver Ring Thing is free to apply for federal money

By Wendy Cloyd, Citizen Link (Focus on the Family), February 24, 2006

"A settlement agreement between the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the federal government means an abstinence-education group can keep the funds it has received and is free to pursue future government grants — although the group's leaders say it will endeavor to be totally privately funded." Click here for the report.

Federal Funds For Abstinence Group Withheld

By Ceci Connolly, The Washington Post, August 23, 2005

"The Bush administration yesterday suspended a federal grant to the Silver Ring Thing abstinence program, saying it appears to use tax money for religious activities...

In a letter to the program director, Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau, concluded that the project funded with federal dollars 'includes both secular and religious components that are not adequately safeguarded.'

"The action comes three months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against HHS, accusing the administration of using tax dollars to promote Christianity. In documents filed in federal court in Boston, the ACLU alleged that the activities, brochures and Web site of Silver Ring Thing were 'permeated with religion"' and use 'taxpayer dollars to promote religious content, instruction and indoctrination.'

"Teenage graduates of the program sign a covenant "before God Almighty" to remain virgins and earn a silver ring inscribed with a Bible passage reminding them to 'keep clear of sexual sin.' Many of its events are held at churches." Click here to read the report.

Bush administration preps groups to pursue faith-based funding

Faith-based groups get federal primer
Keeping the faith in funding
Groups try to learn how to compete for federal money

By Brett Lieberman, The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), February 07, 2006

"About 700 people are expected at the Hilton Harrisburg & Towers this morning for a conference on President Bush's faith-based initiative. They hope to learn how to compete for federal funding. It's the 21st event that the White House has organized nationally to promote faith-based efforts." Click here to read the report.

White House spreads word at Kansas City conference

By Joe Mathis, Lawrence Journal-World (Lawrence, Kansas), January 13, 2006.

"Kansas City, Mo. - If there is still a national debate over the wisdom of using government money to back 'faith-based initiatives,' you couldn't tell Thursday.

"More than 500 religious leaders from 31 states attended a White House conference on how to attract federal grants for church-led projects like teaching people to read, feeding the homeless and healing the sick. Click here to read the report.

Religious right pastor gets faith-based funding

Pastor Of Church Hosting Alito Rally Received Financial Support From Bush Administration
Church-State Watchdog Group Notes That 'Justice Sunday III' Pastor Has Received $1 Million In 'Faith-Based' Funds

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, January 4, 2006

"Pastor Herb Lusk, the Philadelphia preacher hosting the Religious Right-led 'Justice Sunday III' rally this weekend, has a long history of partisan activity on behalf of Republicans and has been awarded more than $1 million in 'faith-based' grants by the Bush administration, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "The event at Greater Exodus Baptist Church, which will be broadcast nationwide, is intended to rally support for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., President George W. Bush's choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor." Click here to read the entire article.

See also: In March 2006, President Bush appointed Lusk, a vocal homophobe, to his AIDS advisory panel. (Click here)

Jew Sues Salvation Army Over Faith-based Pledge Requirement

Wanted: True Believers Only
Salvation Army bias case may transform hiring at faith-based charities getting government funds

Larry Cohler-Esses, The Jewish Week (New York), November 18, 2005

"Anne Lown, a Jewish woman from Boston, had worked nearly 25 years for the Salvation Army’s children’s services arm in New York when she was thrust into the world of faith-based initiatives.

"Lown, associate director of the local Salvation Army’s government-funded Social Services for Children, was one of 18 employees to leave or be dismissed in 2003-04 for allegedly refusing to sign forms swearing loyalty to the group’s Christian principles." Click here for the report.

State-level faith-based funding

Faith-Based Initiatives and the States

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

In much of the country, there is a long, history of cooperation between local governments and religious organizations with a social service tradition.

To date, most state and local governments have not followed the Bush Administration’s example by mounting large initiatives to engage in faith-based social services. However, state and local governments are enormously important to this question. They have their own, and sometimes conflicting, constitutional and statutory provisions on the relationship between church and state, on hiring rights for employers, and requirements for contractors doing business with government. They administer the nation’s programs for public welfare, education and training, health care, and public protection, among many other areas. And more and more management – and often financial – responsibility has been devolved to them by the federal government.

The Roundtable monitors, examines, and reports on key developments among the states concerning the participation by faith-based organizations in providing social welfare services. Click here.

State Lawmakers Advance Proposals to Partner with Faith-Based Groups

By Claire Hughes, The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, March 6, 2007

A survey of current state legislation establishing faith-based funding. Click here.

The Theocratic Agenda Is Heading for a Statehouse Near You
Well-coordinated "faith-based" initiatives and anti-evolution lobbying in state capitols from New Jersey to Colorado signal a stealth national strategy by Religious Right organizations.

Rob Boston, Church and State (American United for the Separation of Chruch and State), March 10, 2007.

This report notes that Lori Roman, executive director of ALEC, a right-wing corporate lobby campaigning for school vouchers, once headed the faith-based office in the Bush administration's education department. Click here

Strickland unnerves his 'Faith-based' advisers

By Mark Rollenhagen, The Plain Dealer (Ohio), January 25, 2007 via The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy

The change in the governor's office is rattling some members of a board that advises the Governor's Office on Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

They fear the office could rapidly change its course under the control of Gov. Ted Strickland.

A Strickland transition team report suggested the office change its focus from strengthening marriages and re-entry programs for felons to determining how to care for Ohio's poor children and how to better use federal aid for poor families. Continue.

Court urged to reconsider closing ranch for troubled teens

Allie Martin and Jenni Parker,, February 5, 2007

Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorneys are challenging a decision by the three-judge panel of a federal appeals court -- a ruling the lawyers feel is responsible for forcing a faith-based outreach to troubled teens in Michigan to close its doors.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) are challenging a three-judge panel's decision, which the pro-family legal alliance blames for forcing a Christian youth program out of business.

Three years ago, the Michigan Family Independence Agency refused to place troubled youth at Teen Ranch, a faith-based facility for at-risk youth. State officials objected to the religious teaching to which young people were exposed at the Christian residential program in northern Michigan. Continue

Appeals court upholds ruling against faith-based group

By Robert Marus, Associated Baptist Press, January 25, 2007

CINCINNATI (ABP) -- A federal appeals court said Jan. 17 that the Michigan government was right to discontinue funding a Christian ministry for abused, neglected and delinquent children.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower federal court's ruling against Teen Ranch because the organization regularly incorporates overtly religious instruction and activity into its treatment regimen. Continue.

Tennessee: Kelsey Says Ruling Knocks Out State Funds To Churches, (Chattanooga, Tennessee), June 13, 2007

Rep. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) said he received a state attorney's general opinion today stating "it is unconstitutional to use state taxpayer dollars to further religion by providing unrestricted Community Enhancement Grants to churches."

Rep. Kelsey said, "Giving pork to churches or church youth groups with no restrictions on how it is spent violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

"If taxpayers want to give to charitable organizations, they should do it as individuals. The government shouldn't pick and choose which charities receive taxpayer dollars and which don't." Continue.

Wisconsin: Doyle’s creation of faith-based office elicits skepticism

By The Associated Press, La Crosse Tribune, June 16, 2006

MADISON — Taking a page out of the Republican Party playbook, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle on Thursday announced the formation of a faith-based office to fight poverty — a move that drew immediate criticism. Continue

Jewish views of faith-based funding

Religious Discrimination

National Council of Jewish Women, undated

Over the years, many religious groups have organized tax-exempt nonprofit divisions to deliver social services. These include the Jewish federations located in many communities, Catholic Charities, and Lutheran Social Services. All of these are organized under tax laws that require them to be nondiscriminatory in their own employment and in the delivery of services while retaining their religious identity. Many of these programs receive private donations and federal funding, but while private contributions remain unregulated, all federal funding carries with it restrictions barring discrimination.

In more recent years, there have been right-wing attacks on these anti-discrimination policies. In 1996, for example, then-Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) inserted a provision permitting "charitable choice" in the welfare reform law that took effect in the same year. This provision would permit strictly religious organizations -- synagogues, churches, mosques, etc. -- to receive federal funds themselves and operate federal programs while discriminating in hiring staff. Similar language appeared again in the 1998 Human Services Reauthorization Act. However, these proposals did not actually become practice, as the Clinton administration, recognizing the potential breach of separation of religion and state, did not issue implementing regulations for either provision. Continue

Head Start

National Council of Jewish Women, undated

Q: Does Head Start work?
A: Yes, Head Start is one of the most researched and evaluated early childhood programs in America. According to the latest study by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Head Start narrows the gap between disadvantaged children and all children in vocabulary and writing skills. Head Start children leave the program ready to learn, and, once in kindergarten, Head Start graduates make substantial progress in work knowledge, letter recognition, math skills, and writing skills. Many other studies confirm that Head Start graduates are less likely to repeat a grade or need special education services and more likely to graduate from high school, college, and earn more than their peers who did not participate in the program.(i)

Q: How does Head Start help parents?
A: Head Start also improves parents' ability to help their children prepare for school. Studies show that Early Head Start parents are more likely to read to their children, to be emotionally supportive, help with language development, and show positive parenting behavior. Continue

Reform Jewish Movement Blasts Expansion of President's Faith-Based Initiative

News Release, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, December 12, 2002

"By expanding his Faith-Based Initiative, President Bush has bypassed both Congress and the Constitution, promoting government-funded discrimination and engaging the nation in a divisive legal and political battle while there is little evidence to demonstrate that faith-based programs are more effective than government social services," stated center Director Rabbi David Saperstein. Click here to read the release on the Religious Action Center website.

Judaism's Conservative movement calls for resistance to "faith-based" government funding
Separation of Church and State and President Bush's Faith Based Initiative (2002)

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Resolution passed in 2002

Responding to the Bush administration's 'initiative" to give social service funds to religious organizations, Judaism's Conservative movement passed a strong resolution, rejecting it. Calling the initiative "a dangerous and unprecedented government endorsement of specific religious institutions," the resolution calls on the movements "rabbis and congregational leadership to educate congregants about the faith-based initiative and stand up to protect religious freedom. " Click here to read the resolution on the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism website

An interview with Bert Goldberg of the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, nd

Speaking from the perspective of his association with Jewish social service agencies, Bert Goldberg expresses a measured view of the new dispensation. He also explains the difference between the "faith-based" model and the traditional policy of funding Christian and Jewish social service agencies.

"It's appropriate for government to fund social services for people in need. And faith-based organizations are excellent providers of those kinds of services. We've got experience, we know the people, and so on. But I don't believe it's appropriate in any way for there to be any kind of religious connection to the provision of those services. In other words, our services are open to the entire community. If there is a service that we offer just to the Jewish community for one reason or another, then that's funded entirely privately. We would never ask the government to fund that."

Click here to read the interview with Goldberg.

Mixed reaction to Bush's faith-based initiatives

By Sharon Samber, Jewish Telegraphic Agency December 22, 2000

"WASHINGTON-President-elect George W. Bush's meeting this week with religious leaders shows he intends to move ahead with his controversial plan to involve religious institutions in social welfare programming.

"It also sent a signal about who in the Jewish community he plans to consult on the issue-a signal that some Jewish leaders are not happy about." The Jewish leaders were from the right side of the political spectrum. Click here to read the report.

Will Katrina open door for federal funding to faith-based groups?

By Matthew E. Berger, JTA, Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, September 16, 2005

"Washington | Concern is mounting among some Jewish groups that the massive federal-relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will become a launching pad for expanding faith-based initiatives and that some Jewish institutions might take federal money...

"There also is concern among liberal groups that future aid packages could contain specific provisions or grants for sectarian groups to provide government-funded relief efforts. That would put many Jewish groups and other opponents of faith-based initiatives in the unenviable position of opposing disaster relief." Click here to read the report.

Faith-Based Initiatives: Sacred Deeds and Secular Dollars

No. 5 in the Seminar Series, "Emerging Issues in Philanthropy", a joint project by the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy and the Harvard University Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, 2001

"Most participants agreed that there is not, and never has been, a strict wall preventing church and state from working together (see box). Government and faith-based organizations have a long history of cooperation, and some faith-based organizations, such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and United Jewish Communities, rely extensively on government funding to deliver services. What sets the new proposals apart from past practice is that for the first time pervasively religious groups, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, can receive government funds directly rather than through a nonprofit organization affiliated with the congregation. This departure charts untested waters in church-state relations and assures further debate." Click here to read the complete summary of the seminar.

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