Gore Would Give Federal Funds to Religious Groups: Says Organizations Can Do Better Job Than Government
Sammon, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
ATLANTA - Vice President Al Gore yesterday promised to give significant federal funding to religious groups if he is elected president, creating a "new partnership" between church and state that would treat each poor person as "a child of God."
Quoting Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa in the second major policy speech of his campaign, the vice president said churches, synagogues and mosques can serve society's downtrodden with greater compassion and efficiency than self-perpetuating government bureaucracies.
Although the idea was promptly denounced by the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Gore appeared willing to alienate such groups in order to challenge Democratic rival Bill Bradley's monopoly on the "values" issue.
"Most Americans are hungry for a deeper connection between politics and moral values - many would say `spiritual values,' " the vice president said to scores of volunteers and rehabilitated drug users. "I believe strongly in the separation of church and state. But freedom of religion need not mean freedom from religion. There is a better way."
That way, according to Mr. Gore, is to funnel federal funds to religious organizations so they can help the homeless, train the unemployed and keep teen-agers out of gangs. In return, Mr. Gore made it clear he is counting on the support of religious groups in next year's election.
He promised that churches would "have a seat at the national table when decisions get made. Today I give you this pledge: If you elect me president, the voices of faith-based organizations will be integral to the policies set forth in my administration."
In an apparent reference to recent school shootings, Mr. Gore decried "the cultural soul sickness we've confronted recently." Although he called for a return to spirituality, he was careful not to cast his lot with evangelical Christians.
"Some on the right have said for too long that a specific set of religious values should be imposed, threatening the Founders' precious separation of church and state," the vice president said. "In contrast, some on the left have said for too long that religious values should play no role in addressing the public needs.
"They are false choices - hollow secularism or right-wing religion," Mr. Gore continued. "Both positions are rigid. They are not where the solutions lie."
By describing religious groups as better suited for social work than government agencies, Mr. Gore is gambling that he can win over one key constituency without alienating another. When it comes to treating the mentally ill, homeless, and those addicted to drugs, churches "have done what governments can never do," the vice president said. …