Magazine article Church & State

White House Report on Faith-Based Initiative Aims for State Boost

Magazine article Church & State

White House Report on Faith-Based Initiative Aims for State Boost

Article excerpt

Hoping to give new momentum to its "faith-based" initiative, the White House last month issued a report claiming that in 2003, $1.17 billion in federal funds went to groups with religious affiliations.

The report, issued early in January, detailed grants doled out by five federal agencies. According to the tally, about 8 percent of the $14.5 billion spent on social programs in 2003 ended up in the hands of religious organizations.

Critics of the initiative said the White House report was designed to encourage state officials to give support to religious agencies by highlighting federal practices.

The report is useful because it provides some specific details about the faith-based initiative. Although Bush and his supporters often portray the initiative as a revolutionary approach, it turns out that most of the religious groups getting money under the program have been doing so for years.

Many of these organizations, such as Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish relief agencies, generally provide secular services to all of those in need and do not proselytize or discriminate in hiring.

In Florida, for example, the report noted that Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida received $1 million in 2003 to help political refugees. Karen Rieley, an official with the group, said the organization does not try to convert anyone.

"We provide services as Christians, not for the purpose of conversion," Rieley told the Associated Press.

In Florida, the news service noted, most of the money was given to continue existing projects by religious groups. Many of these programs are many years old, pre-dating the Bush initiative.

An analysis by the AP found that was the model nationwide. Most of the money, AP correspondent Laura Meckler reported, went to "well-established, large social service providers that have received federal money for decades. …

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