Bush Administration's Own Survey Shows Little Need for Faith-Based Plan; Charities Want More Resources, But Not Right to Discriminate

August 7, 2001 12:00 am

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Tuesday, August 7, 2001

WASHINGTON – Religious organizations responding to an Administration-ordered survey expressed little support for President Bush’s faith-based plan, a development that the American Civil Liberties Union today said further discredits the current push for an expansion of government-funded religion.

“The response of faith-based groups to the survey is an amazing repudiation of the Bush initiative,” said Christopher E. Anders, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “In an unusual turn of events, the ‘armies of compassion’ are rallying against the Administration.”

The survey was conducted in response to an Executive Order signed in January that directed a number of federal agencies to “identify all existing barriers to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social services.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was the only agency to issue a notice calling for public comment and received 130 replies from a variety of religious and other community charities. The ACLU analyzed the responses to the survey in a special report released today.

While a large number voiced their opposition to the faith-based plan, only one of the 130 respondents expressed support for the Bush plan’s most significant, and most contentious, reform: the right to discriminate while receiving taxpayer funds.

The responses to the HUD notice also showed a marked disconnect between the current needs of religious charities and the faith-based initiative’s proposals, the ACLU said. Respondents to the HUD notice were three times more likely to cite secular restrictions than religious ones as barriers to federal funds. According to many groups, the greatest current need of religious social services providers is more government money and resources – things that are not provided for under the faith-based plan. Among the respondents were such prominent charities as a diocesan Catholic Charities, Covenant House, the United Methodist Church and the UJA-Federation of New York.

For instance, the New York-based Covenant House noted that, “Whenever an organization accepts a grant from the taxpayers’ money, it takes on a responsibility to those taxpayers. If the organization does not want to assume such an obligation, then it should not seek funds from this source.”

“The Administration is not listening to America’s charities,” Anders said. “Religious charities want more resources for all community groups that play by the rules, but they do not want to finance religious discrimination with taxpayer dollars.”

Click here for the HUD survey (in PDF format).

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