Facing a stalemate in Congress, the White House announced on September 22 additional regulations designed to help move President Bush's faith-based initiative forward. The administration wants religious social service programs to have more access to federal funds.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved rules that together would make $28 billion in grants available to faith-based organizations.
"Under the old regulations, when Orange County Rescue Mission in Los Angeles applied for HUD funding, they were told that they needed to form a secular nonprofit, ban all religious activity from their facility, and call their chapel an 'auditorium,' " says a White House press release. "Groups like Orange County Rescue Mission will be able to apply for HUD funds while maintaining their religious identity. They will be able to expand their work in providing housing and supportive services to the homeless and make increased homeownership a reality."
The White House says the President wants to "ensure that no organization or beneficiary will be discriminated against in a federally funded social service program on the basis of religion." Religious groups will now face the same rules as secular groups when it comes to receiving forfeited assets, including real estate.
"It brings us a step closer to where there is a completely level playing field for faith-based groups," said Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
The HHS rules implement "charitable choice" guidelines for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and the Community Services Block Grant ...1