Bush's Faith-Based Initiative Gave Obama's Former Church $1.5 Million
August 26, 2008The church where Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama worshipped for two decades has received more than $1.5 million in federal tax money through the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI).
Obama and his wife officially left Trinity United in May 2008 after their friend, the former long-time pastor of the church, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, gave a controversial press conference in Washington, D.C.
Obama supports the FBCI and said in a speech in Zanesville, Ohio, on July 1, 2008 that the office has been "consistently underfunded" and "never fulfilled its promise." He estimated that his program would cost about $500 million per year.
Under the FBCI program, Trinity United Church of Christ received a grant of $253,231 in 2003, the same amount in 2004, $363,200 in 2005, $352,450 in 2006, and $324,254 in 2007 for a total of $1,546,366. The grants went to the church’s child care centers.
The money was provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Head Start program, according to an official White House 1,054 page "aggregated data sheet" of FBCI funding.
According to the FBCI Web site, the program was established by President George W. Bush through an executive order on Jan. 29, 2001, to "lead a determined attack on need by strengthening and expanding the role of Faith Based and Community Organizations (FBCOs) in providing social services."
Under the program, 11 federal agencies have Faith-Based and Community Initiative centers that distribute grants to various religion- and community-based organizations across the country that apply for the federal funding.
"The paramount goal is compassionate results, and private and charitable groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field," said President George W. Bush in the executive order.
While pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Wright gave many sermons considered controversial, touching on topics such as U.S. foreign policy, the 9/11 terrorism and racism. Wright also allowed guest preachers, such as the controversial Catholic priest Fr. Michael Pfleger, to speak at Trinity United.
In a sermon, Wright referred to the United States as the "U.S. of K.K.K. A.” He also, for example, said the following on April 13, 2008:
“The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme.”
Fox News reported in March 2008 that Wright is moving into a new, 10,340 sq. ft. home paid for by Trinity United. He stepped down from his post on June 1, and Pastor Otis Moss took over as senior pastor. Moss invited Pfleger to speak on May 25, 2008, calling him "a friend of Trinity."
"We must be honest enough to expose white entitlement and supremacy wherever it raises its head," Pfleger said from the pulpit of Trinity United. "When Hillary was crying and people said it was put on, I really don't believe it was put on.
“I really believe she just always thought, 'This is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white and this is mine. I just gotta’ get up and step into the place.’ And then out of nowhere came 'Hey, I'm Barack Obama,' and she said, 'Oh damn! Where did you come from? I'm White. I'm entitled. There's a black man stealing my show,'" Pfleger said.
Obama gave Trinity United $22,500 when a member of the church, according to his 2006 tax returns.
On the stump, Obama has made his support for faith-based initiatives a primary component of his campaign's outreach to Evangelical voters, vowing to expand the Bush administration's current program if he is elected president and create what he calls the "Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships."
“Every house of worship that wants to run an effective program and that’s willing to abide by our Constitution – from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques – can and will have access to the information and support they need to run that program," Obama said during a speech on the Faith Based and Community Initiatives in Ohio on July 1, 2008.
“The challenges we face today – from saving our planet to ending poverty – are simply too big for government to solve alone,” he added.
The current program has been criticized during President Bush's two terms by many groups, including Americans United for the Separation of Church and State who think the so-called separation of church and state precludes faith-based federal programs. On July 1, 2008 at a campaign stop in Ohio, Obama said the program was used to "promote partisan interests."
"One of the key activities of these offices is to provide training and resources to faith- based organizations to ensure that they are adhering to church-state guidelines under the Constitution," said Rebecca Neale, spokesperson for the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. "It's not a partisan strategy. It is an effective governing strategy."
If elected president, Obama has said his commitment to faith-based initiatives will not interfere with his belief in the separation of church and state.
"Make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea," Obama said.
CNSNews.com spoke with persons at Trinity United about this story, but they declined to comment as of press time.