Mixed Reactions to Funding of Faith-Based Organizations

February 2, 2001

Source: .The Houston Chronicle

On February 2, 2001, The Houston Chronicle reported on some more responses to Bush's new faith-based initiative. One leading critic of Bush's plan is the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Another critic, Jim Harrington, of the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project, said Bush 'wants to almost constitutionalize religion.'" The program also has many supporters, including Carl Esbeck, a lawyer and director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom. Esbeck concedes, though, that many people "need to be reassured that they are not selling their souls for a bit of government money." Bush insists "he has no intentions of forcing his beliefs on anyone else." Bush's plan is not without precedent. Similar legislation "was inserted into the 1996 Welfare Reform Act by then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., and was adopted in other bills signed by former President Clinton. Former Vice President Al Gore...also has touted the concept of involving religious organizations in government work." Other Democrats, including Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, "also have embraced the idea," although they caution "against using the funds for proselytizing...Still,...many are uncomfortable with what they consider a too-cozy relationship between the Bush administration and religious conservatives...Bush in private linked his faith-based social services initiative to his goal of reducing abortions...'Whether the president is some sort of Trojan horse for the religious right, only time will tell,' said one observer."