White House Faith-Based Report Should Have Reflected Lack of Support in Religious Community, ACLU Says

August 14, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — With the release of a White House report this afternoon on barriers to federal funding for religious organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union pointed once again to comments solicited by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from religious and community organizations that show no real need for President Bush’s faith-based plan.

“”There is no mention in today’s report of the less than lackluster support from faith-based groups for the faith-based initiative,”” said Terri Schroeder, ACLU Legislative Representative. “”The Administration is not listening to America’s charities.””

The White House report – released this afternoon at the Brookings Institution – summarized the results of five cabinet department audits prepared by each agency’s own newly created faith-based office. The internal audits were compelled by an Executive Order in January to “”identify all existing barriers to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social services.”” Unlike the four other departments, HUD issued a notice several months ago calling for public comment and received 145 replies from a variety of religious and other community charities. The HUD comments, of which there was no mention in the Administration’s report, showed religious and community organizations to be, for the most part, opposed to the Bush plan.

Only one of the 145 respondents expressed support for the Bush plan’s most significant, and most contentious, reform: the right to discriminate while receiving taxpayer funds.

“”While the report is conveniently supportive of the President’s imperiled agenda,”” Schroeder said. “”Hundreds of pages of comments from real, front-line charity groups show otherwise: the ‘armies of compassion’ are rallying against the White House.””

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.

“”The facts are clear: faith-based charities believe they can maintain their religious character without turning their backs on civil rights,”” Schroeder said. “”It’s time for the Administration to face the facts about its faith-based plan.””

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