Latest Government Funding of Controversial Religious Programs One More Reason Not to Pass Faith-Based Plan Without Protections, ACLU Says

October 9, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today said that recent reports that the government is circumventing Congress and doling out taxpayer dollars to religious social services groups that engage in discrimination is one more reason not to pass the White House faith-based plan.

“The Bush Administration seems determined to ignore Congress and continues to argue that faith-based organizations should have the right to discriminate in hiring against people based on their religion in publicly funded programs,” said Terri Schroeder, an ACLU Legislative Representative. “Instead of rewarding the Administration’s actions, the Senate should flatly refuse to support President Bush’s initiative for government-funded religion and instead demand clear and explicit protections against discrimination.”

At issue is the announcement last week that the White House had been granting taxpayer funds to overtly religious organizations – including Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing International. The money, set aside in what is known as the Compassion Capital Fund, is being doled out with the understanding that its use does not preclude religious discrimination in hiring and firing, and can be used to provide social services in a pervasively religious setting. This is a switch from initial White House assurances to Congress that the fund would not be used in such a way.

Robertson’s group was one of a very few organizations to receive a grant when the pool of hopefuls numbered in the thousands. Interestingly, Robertson also had been a vocal critic of the President’s plan, but has stopped speaking out against it in recent months.

The Associated Press reported that the Florida-based National Center for Faith Based Initiative, which received $700,000, promises on its website to “empower our people to steward that wealth for the purposes of the kingdom.” It says that its framework for addressing social problems “is not the world?but rather THE WORD!!!” (on-line at:

The CCF grants story comes as the Senate remains deadlocked in its consideration of legislation implementing the President’s faith-based initiative over precisely the issue of workplace discrimination. Many Democrats remain worried that even the latest compromise legislation would allow overtly religious organizations to, for instance, put up figurative “No Jews Need Apply” signs.

The ACLU has consistently opposed any legislation that would allow discrimination and is also concerned that the President’s initiative would actually hinder religious liberty by placing certain denominations and faiths at a monetary advantage over others.

“This is just more proof of why legislation shouldn’t move forward,” said Terri Schroeder, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress needs to make sure that even faith-based groups are held to a level playing field.”

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