Mixed Reactions to Funding of Faith-Based Organizations

February 4, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On February 4, 2001, The New York Times published an article about the public's reception of Bush's new faith-based initiative. "Many Americans are indeed enthusiastic about stepping up government support to religious programs...But, as polls indicate, across the political spectrum Americans are wary of anything that appears to tamper with the First Amendment... [Americans] are instinctively uncomfortable when their government appears to promote one religion over another, or allows discrimination based on religion, or interferes in the freedom of a church or synagogue or mosque," or when religious institutions are the only choice. One Democratic pollster sums up the public opinion polls as saying "'Yes, but don't go too far.'...President Bush is betting that most Americans care more about helping poor people than they do about the First Amendment," and that only aggressive civil libertarians, some agnostic Ivy League professors and liberal editorial writers will oppose his plan. Bush insists he is not trying to impose any single religion. "A poll conducted in November by Public Agenda, a nonprofit research group, asked more than 1,500 Americans whether it was a good idea to increase government financing for religious groups that help the homeless and drug addicts. Forty-four percent said it was a good idea, even if the programs promoted religious messages; 23 percent said it was a good idea, but only if programs avoided religious messages; and 31 percent said it was a bad idea. The cornerstone of the president's plan is that religious programs will not be required to censor their religious teachings in order to receive government contracts."