If Bush is trying to rally support for his faith-based initiative, maybe this isn't the best way to do it. In a short statement released yesterday, press secretary Ari Fletcher said, "The White House will not pursue the [Office of Management and Budget] regulation proposed by the Salvation Army and reported today." That regulation, as Weblog noted yesterday, would have protected churches and faith-based organizations that receive federal funds from having to hire workers who disagree with their religious teachings. The specific controversy in this case has been whether the Salvation Army—a church that already receives $330 million annually from the federal government—would be forced to hire homosexuals. Federal regulations going back to the 1964 Civil Rights Act allow religious organizations to hire only employees who share their religious commitments, but the issue gets a lot trickier when municipal governments start mandating that charities adhere to local anti-discrimination laws. As Salvation Army spokesman David Fuscus explains to the Chicago Tribune, "What's happening now is that when you get communities insisting that because [a group] is using federal dollars to fund homeless shelters or what have you, that they cannot hire ministers in the way they want to hire ministers, what happens is the church walks away from those contracts and the people who are hurt are the people who are on the street."
But yesterday's front-page article in The Washington Post set off fireworks in the capital. "It just puts a cloud over the president's intention to expand a faith- based initiative and unfortunately might terminally wound it in Congress," said Democratic ...1