Bush Sends Faith-Based Services Proposals To Congress

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A Washington religious community center was the scene Tuesday as President Bush announced he is sending proposals to Congress that would allow religious groups to receive public funds for social service efforts. Those proposals are already facing and are expected to face even more opposition.

With former Al Gore running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) at his side, Bush said, "Government, of course, cannot fund and will not fund religious activities. But when people provide faith-based services, we will not discriminate against them."

Other legislators appearing with Bush were Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio).

Bush made the announcement at The Fishing School, a Washington religious center. The President's appearance there is part of a series of meetings he has planned for this week with leaders of spiritual and charitable groups to secure support for his proposals.

On Monday, the President announced he is creating by executive order a new White House office focused solely on helping religious and community groups obtain federal tax dollars in order to fund social service work. The office is being called the "White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" and will report directly to the President.

The new White House office will be charged with distributing billions of federal dollars to a variety of religious groups and charities over the next 10 years.

"The change we seek won't come all at once, from any act of Congress or any executive order signed by the president. Real change starts street-by-street, heart-by-heart. One soul, one conscience at a time," said the President.

Not everybody agrees. The National Urban League on Tuesday said it is against faith- based organizations being government-funded.

"We at the National Urban League are troubled by the prospect of federal funding for faith-based programs. We believe this risks breaching the time-honored constitutional separation of church and state. Faith-based organizations traditionally are exempt from certain laws and rules of operation that apply to nonsectarian organizations and public agencies," said National Urban League Director Dr. William Spriggs in a statement.

"Some religious institutions," Spriggs added, "espouse views and practice forms of intolerance antithetical to prevailing American values. The prospect of public funding for such institutions is deeply troubling."