Senate has faith-based initiative bill; Bush will back it
The White House and Senate leaders have agreed on a faith-based initiative bill, The Washington Post reports today. "In talks with the senators, the White House jettisoned the controversial elements of the legislation, provisions that would have made it easier for religious groups to compete for government grants without compromising their beliefs," reports Dana Milbank. But wasn't making it easier for religious groups to compete as religious groups the whole point of Bush's faith-based initiative? "As long as there are secular alternatives, faith-based charities should be able to compete for funding on an equal basis, and in a manner that does not cause them to sacrifice their mission," Bush said in announcing the initiative a year ago. Does he still believe this?

What we're left with in the Senate bill, according to the Post, is a charitable tax deduction for those who do not itemize on their tax returns, a "Compassionate Capital Fund" to encourage public-private partnerships, and the restoration of funding to the Social Services block grant (a pool of federal money for community organizations). But the effect of the legislation may be much greater. Now that the government has backed down and so much attention is focusing on how legislation won't allow religious groups to compete for federal funds, we may actually see a de facto repeal of charitable choice law we do have. The 1996 welfare reform laws explicitly said religious groups should be allowed to compete for federal funds. Bush's plan was to extend charitable choice, but the underlying principle had already been set—under a Democratic administration. It will certainly be harder for faith-based organizations ...

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