Bush Presses Forward on Religion Funding without Congressional Approval. (Faith-Based Foray)

Article excerpt

Robert Polito is a man with a mission. Polito, director of the faith-based office at Bush's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recently told the Associated Press that he and other Bush administration officials are moving full steam ahead on the president's controversial "faith-based" initiative.

"It would be great to have legislation, but there's a ton of stuff I can do without it," Polito said.

Since President George W. Bush unveiled his "faith-based" initiative, support for the project in Congress has been tepid, at best. While the scheme has its champions, many Capitol Hill lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have had lingering doubts about the plan's constitutionality, feasibility, cost and practicality. As a result, legislation to encapsulate the Bush plan into law has languished in Congress for months.

Not willing to let a skeptical Congress delay its plan for government-funded religion, the Bush administration is moving ahead with the faith-based initiative anyway.

James Towey, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told The Washington Post, "We really want the legislation badly. But this office isn't just about federal legislation. This office is going to move forward with the president's initiative."

Apparently, a great number of options are available to the Executive Branch in this area. HHS, for example, is already using its budget to finance religious groups' social service programs. Despite the yearlong debate over the most divisive elements of the president's plan, such as government-funded employment discrimination and separating secular and religious elements of publicly financed social services, HHS's faith-based efforts side-step these concerns altogether. In fact, the agency is following the 1996 changes to welfare reform law by allowing ministries to accept federal funds while considering religion when hiring and firing employees, as well as funding ministries that refuse to separate the religious and secular features of their work.

HHS' Polito freely admits the administration's goal of funding religious work with tax dollars. …