Op-Ed Articles Respond to Bush's Faith-Based Initiative

February 1, 2001

Source: The Boston Globe

On February 1, 2001, The Boston Globe published an op-ed piece by Ellen Goodman about the debate over Bush's faith-based initiative. Goodman writes that, when ministers invoked Jesus Christ the savior at Bush's inauguration, "millions of Americans - from Buddhists to Unitarians - had to chose between saying 'amen' or feeling excluded." When Bush introduced his new faith-based initiative, "talk about public funding of faith-based organizations was polarized between forces we have come to label the religious right and the secular left...Many on both sides seem to have forgotten the time when our most prominent religious leaders, like Martin Luther King, were not a threat to civil liberties or social justice, but a force for them." She points out that the Rev. Jim Wallis, head of Call to Renewal, defines faith as "'believing that change is possible, even before it's possible.'...That's why faith can be at the heart of the programs that revive the lives of drug addicts or neighborhoods."

Goodman concedes, though, that "when George Bush says that he 'will look first to faith-based programs and community groups' to solve social programs, it's worth worrying that the conservative agenda is to privatize the responsibilities of government and shunt the homeless under a leaky church roof." She brought up other concerns: "how will the government know if there's a sermon with the soup? Do churches want those limits?...And can you imagine a Bush administration funding an after-school program run by the Nation of Islam or supporting a drug rehab program of the Church of Scientology on the grounds that they work?...What happens if a taxpayer funds programs that refuse to hire her on religious grounds?" Goodman concludes by saying that "for all the nervous reservations, there is quite simply an overriding need to help transform lives. Sometimes that takes a leap of faith."