Bush again calls for Senate to pass watered-down faith-based initiative bill
A day after calling for the Senate to ban all forms of human cloning, President Bush pushed for the Senate to pass another piece of legislation: the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act (text | audio | video). "It's an urgent time for you to act," Bush said in the East Room. "And I think it's going to help America."
Bush says he wants the bill passed by Memorial Day, and Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, thinks it's probable. "I may be a ridiculous optimist," Towey told The New York Times, "But of everything out there on the horizon, this seems to be one thing that can get to the president's desk by Memorial Day."
The Senate should rush to pass the bill, said the President, because too many charities are in trouble. "It's ironic to me that in the immediate aftermath of September the 11th, we responded and, yet, there are too many charities hurting," he said. "Part of it is because of a recession; I recognize that. Part of it is that a lot of money has gone into those charities directly involved with the relief efforts. And that's good; but it's not good enough for the future of our country that many charities suffer today, and we're going to do something about it."
The bill focuses mainly on giving tax deductions to married couples who give to charity but don't itemize on their tax returns. Unlike the House bill, it doesn't expand "charitable choice," which would have allowed more religious organizations to compete for government funds without compromising their religious character. However, the bill does include some protections for religious organizations that apply for grants. "The federal government must not … worry about the role of faith-based programs in providing help to people in need," Bush said.
Let me put it a little more bluntly: the federal government should not discriminate against faith. There must be a level playing field available. When we have federal monies, people should be allowed to access that money without having to lose their mission or change their mission. We need to know that in our society, faith can move people in ways that government can't.
Beliefnet is bankrupt
"We all believe in something" reads the tagline at multifaith Web site Beliefnet, and the venture capitalists backing the site believe they've had enough. The company filed for bankruptcy Thursday night, having burned through at least $25 million. "The irony is … the importance of religion on the Internet has continued to grow," site editor and CEO Steve Waldman tells the Associated Press. "There is a tremendous appetite for independent information and ideas about religion and spirituality, and a multi-faith approach."
The site is still operating with a staff of nine (down from 50), and Waldman has a very chipper, optimistic outlook on the site ("Chapter 11 will give us a financial breathing spell, so we can reorganize Beliefnet's debts and work toward a healthier future," he writes).
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