George W. Bush Launches 'Values Campaign'
President George W. Bush's new "values campaign" is the latest evidence of an administration that is determined to merge religion and government, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
According to multiple media accounts, Bush is in the process of slowly implementing a broadly based agenda to promote conservative Christian religious principles through government policies.
"Bush is the nation's president, not the national pastor," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "He swore on the Bible to uphold the Constitution, not the other way around.
"Bush is working tirelessly and recklessly to permanently blur the line between government policy and church doctrine," Lynn continued. "These assaults on the First Amendment are unprecedented in presidential history. There's nothing wrong with supporting commonly shared values, but it's terribly wrong to shape the law to mirror religious dogma. Unfortunately, it appears Bush fails to appreciate the difference."
Lynn noted multiple recent examples to demonstrate Bush's ongoing crusade to merge church and state:
- Promoting religious revival: Media reports indicate that Bush believes the nation is "on the cusp of a religious revival," and he hopes to "break through" by means of his leadership and policy initiatives. The president's recent high-profile meeting with Pope John Paul II was designated by the White House as the kick-off of a broader initiative. (U.S. News & World Report, 7/23/01)
- President as moral leader: Bush intends to use his "values agenda" to position himself as the moral leader of the nation. The administration will downplay theological motivations. The White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, headed by Karl Rove, said in a memo the "project should not be seen as religious-based." (The Washington Post, 7/29/01)
- Stem cell policy and religion: On the controversy surrounding publicly funded stem cell research, Bush is working closely with religious leaders and advisors to help ensure that government policy is consistent with the principles of conservative Protestant leaders and the Catholic hierarchy. White House staffers, for example, take part in weekly telephone conferences with conservative Catholic activists to discuss strategy on the issue. (Los Angeles Times, 7/8/01; The Washington Post, 7/30/01)
- Abstinence-only education: The Bush administration is also promoting abstinence education policies with religion in mind. A Catholic deacon working in the Department of Health and Human Services recently expressed doubt about a sexual health program developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because he thought it was inconsistent with the Catholic beliefs of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. In addition, the White House is working to scale back traditional family planning programs while diverting public resources to "abstinence-only" programs run by evangelical Christian groups. (The Washington Post, 7/30/01)
- Faith-based initiative: For sixth months, Bush has aggressively promoted a "faith-based initiative," which would provide billions of tax dollars to religious groups to provide social services. On several occasions, while promoting this campaign, the president has indicated his willingness to "fund faith" and recognize the "power of faith" by awarding grants to ministries.
- Religious school vouchers: After unsuccessfully promoting voucher subsidies for religious schools in its education plan, the Bush administration has now urged the Supreme Court to grant an appeal from Cleveland pro-voucher activists. The White House, with assistance from Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Ken Starr, urged the justices to hear the case, despite the fact that the federal government has played no role in the lawsuit.
"The president's 'values campaign' would be far more constructive if it recognized the value of the First Amendment," concluded AU's Lynn. "Bush is not only blurring the line between church and state, he's also crossing the line between president and missionary."
Church and State