Billions of government dollars no longer off-limits to faith-based organizations
The White House yesterday announced regulatory changes that will make it easier for religious organizations to compete for federal funds. In addition, it proposed six other rules to "level the playing field" in funding social services.

Faith-based organizations working to combat drug abuse, mental illness, and poverty can now apply for several grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. Previously, about $20 billion in these grants was off-limits to religious organizations.

Similarly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will allow faith-based groups to compete for $8 billion.

"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. "After the regulations are finalized, 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."

Proposed regulations from the departments Justice and Education will, according to the White House press release, "ensure that no organization or beneficiary will be discriminated against in a federally funded social service program on the basis of religion." Under the change, religious groups will now face the same rules as secular groups when it comes to receiving forfeited assets, including real estate.

The most significant announcement, at least in terms of the political debate over Bush's faith-based initiative, is proposed regulatory change at the Department of Labor, protecting religious hiring rights.

"In any employment decision, there's discrimination," Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told reporters (text | audio | video). "The World Wildlife Fund will make discrimination based on people they hire who share their tenets and beliefs. Universities hire smart people. … [President Bush] simply wants to see these other groups maintain that same type of autonomy in their hiring."

The meat of Bush's faith-based initiative has largely stalled in Congress—somewhat ridiculously, as most of the controversy has been over issues settled in 1996, when President Clinton expanded what's called "charitable choice" to level the funding field for religious groups. Congressional legislation would protect these executive branch expansions of charitable choice against future presidents' revoking them with the stroke of a pen.

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But meanwhile, if these regulatory changes are opposed, Towey said, don't expect the president to back down. "I think he's going to use every single tool that he has as Chief Executive" to see the changes implemented, he said.

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Will missionary killer become a martyr?

More on Graham Staines murder:

  • Activists urge India to stem anti-Christian campaign | Groups such as the All India Christian Council, the All India Catholic Union and Prashant stress that the federal government in New Delhi and the state administration in Orissa must clamp down on the activities of "a fringe group" protesting the sentence on Singh (

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  • Stricture against former officer by Staines case judge | The trial court, which awarded death sentence to Dara Singh and life imprisonment to 12 others in the Graham Staines murder case yesterday, has passed strictures on J K Mohapatra, the then officer-in- charge of Anandapur police station for derailing the investigation (PTI)

  • Widow keeps missionary's memory alive | The softly-spoken 52-year-old is carrying on her husband's good work, running his home for leprosy patients on a sprawling 36-acre campus in the town of Baripada (BBC)

  • 'I am trying to live on' | Rather than taking revenge, Gladys would continue the good work of her late husband (Outlook, India)

  • Enforce anti-conversion law, court tells Govt | The District and Sessions Judge, Khurda, M.N. Patnaik, who delivered the judgment in the Graham Staines case on Monday, has recommended strict implementation of the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 (

Politics and law:

  • Court bans religious gifts to classmates | Kindergartners and first-graders may not distribute to their classmates gifts that bear a religious message, according to a ruling by a federal appeals court (The Washington Times)

  • California district scraps high school's Bible history class | Officials say course hadn't undergone public review or received approval from school board and that there were questions about whether it violated church-state separation (Associated Press)

  • Critics sue N.M. school district over sculpture featuring crosses | The reasonable observer would perceive the three crosses to represent a specific religion, and therefore the basic tenets of that religion,' lawsuit states (Associated Press)

  • Defender of faith—or assailant? | Group opposed to cross says it's protecting religion (Ventura County Star, Calif.)

  • Christian Coalition turns to e-commerce | Group has signed up for a program called, which sells gift certificates redeemable at a range of stores and other businesses and gives a share of the proceeds to the sponsoring group (Associated Press)

  • Motion aims to defend commandments | Republican state Rep. Mike Gilb has offered a resolution, with 15 co-sponsors, that declares that the biblical mandates are the moral foundation of state government (Associated Press)

  • The pot calling the kettle [expletive deleted] | We sympathize with the victims of intellectual-property theft, but we are skeptical of the RIAA's sudden concern for the preservation of the innocence of youth. Today's pop music is a leading contributor to the corruption of children (Editorial, The Washington Times)

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Prayer and spirituality:

  • What is the meaning of life? | Today, many faith seekers are discovering their own "40 Days of Purpose" through a spiritual revival sweeping the country (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.)

  • Spreading the (quiet) word on centering prayer | About 5,000 people are active in the Christian contemplative prayer movement in Southern California, with more than 80 groups meeting weekly (Los Angeles Times)

  • Life's answers: Is religion in the mix? | We still ask the big questions seeking the meaning of life, but the search seems more personal, suggesting a shift from tradition. Two books tackle the struggle (Los Angeles Times)

  • Daily life can be so tempting | Higher power, friends will help get us through (Terry Pluto, The Beacon Journal, Akron, Oh.)

  • Heathens of Aberdeen defy belief | The west of Scotland is more God-fearing than the east and Aberdeen has more non-worshipers than any other community in Scotland, says research (The Daily Telegraph, London)

Pop culture:

  • And word was given unto the networks | This week's new shows were painstakingly chosen to tap into viewers' latest moods. Many of the networks have put their money on piety (The New York Times)

  • The greatest story ever sold | My capital crime was to write a column on this page last month reporting that Mr. Gibson was promoting his coming film about the crucifixion, "The Passion," by baiting Jews (Frank Rich, The New York Times)

  • Earlier: The Jesus war | Mel Gibson's obsession (The New Yorker)

  • Actor accused of anti-Semitism | But Abraham Foxman won't call Gibson an anti-Semite (Associated Press)

  • Jesus Christ movie star | New film offers word-for-word depiction of John, the most spiritual of the Gospels (Religion News Service)

  • Blogging my religion: for many, internet is forum to debate | While it's unclear just how many blogs are out there, it's evident that spirituality—and the intersection of faith and culture in particular—saturates many of them (Religion News Service)

Is it real?

  • Beyond miracles | Miracle healing is all the rage these days, especially in the so-called charismatic churches in Nigeria; but how believable are many of these claims of healing on "command" and via television? (Isaac Sagay, Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)

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  • New Mormon aim: Reach out to blacks | It's a tricky feat. In the not-too-distant past, the Mormon faithful were routinely taught that blacks were an inferior race (Los Angeles Times)

  • Senate okays Martin's Cove lease | U.S. land considered sacred by Mormons will be leased by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 25 years (Casper Star-Tribune, Wy.)

More articles of interest:

  • A wife first | Achievements aside, Dorothy Patterson relishes helpmate role (The Dallas Morning News)

  • Alberta man prays higher power will reunite him with preaching parrot | "I truly believe Satan terrorized him and he flew out of there so scared," says owner (Canadian Press)

  • The heart and soul of work | There's a double standard when it comes to the response of religious expression in Johnny Cash and George W. Bush, both of whom were strongly influenced by the evangelistic preaching of Billy Graham (Suzanne Fields, The Washington Times)

  • Swedenborgians view Bible through eyes of 18th century theologian | They believe that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are one entity made up of a soul, body and activity rather than part of a Trinity as in traditional Christianity (The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.)

  • Knowing God's mind | These fanatics feel compelled to inflict beliefs on others (Bill Tammeus, The Kansas City Star)

  • Bumper-sticker beliefs | A Lawrence pastor conducts a class on what symbols, slogans and bumper stickers say about people (Lawrence Journal-World, Kan.)

  • Rally inspires a look heavenward | Why use so much energy fretting about others' relationships with God? (Rob Borsellino, Des Moines Register, Ia.)

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