“You know, I had a drinking problem. Right now, I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office. There is only one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar: I found faith. I found God. I am here because of the power of prayer.” –George W. Bush, September 2002
“What I would like to see [in Iraq] is a government where church and state are separated.” –George W. Bush, April 25, 2003
Shall We Gather at the Pork Barrel
Unable to persuade Congress to pass his legislation making religious groups eligible for federal funding, George W. Bush issued an executive order doing so. It bars discrimination “on the basis of religion or religious belief in the administration or distribution of Federal financial assistance under social service programs.” It also permits religious organizations receiving federal funding for social service programs to discriminate on the basis of religion and religious belief (also sexual orientation) in hiring. “God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both!” Bush told a group of clergy after signing the order.
What a Friend We Have In Dubya
In January, Bush took up the cross again. He proposed a new regulation that would permit religious organizations to receive HUD grants to construct or remodel churches, synagogues or mosques, so long as some part of the building is used for “social services.” Under current regulations, religious organizations receiving HUD money must prove their social welfare programs are “free from religious influences” (see “Religion in the News,” January 6, for examples of religious groups misusing HUD money). Bush said this requirement is discriminatory because secular organizations are not required to prove they are free from religious influences. Good point. Let’s start with proof from the Republican Party that it is free from religious influences.
On the Same Paige
Education Secretary Rod Paige says private religious schools that teach “the kind of values that I think are associated with Christian communities” are superior to public schools, “where there are so many different kids from different kinds of experiences.”
Faith, Hope and Prosperity
In his State of the Union address Bush singled out, as an example of faith-based “recovery programs that do amazing work,” Tonja Myles’s “Set Free Indeed” Friday-night services for drug abusers at the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge. Neither Myles nor her husband, Darren, is a trained substance-abuse counselor, and psychiatrists question the effectiveness of their prayer sessions. Nevertheless, they would be eligible for government grants. It is unclear whether the church’s other programs, such as Growing Kids God’s Way, for parents, and Cruisin’ for Christ, for motorcycle buffs, could also receive federal dollars.