Bush ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative Clears House Ways and Means Committee

Measure Is Deeply Flawed, Says AU’s Lynn

A key component of President George W. Bush’s “faith-based initiative”
cleared the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday, and the plan is now
headed for a vote in the full House, despite its serious church-state flaws.

On a party-line vote of 23-16, the committee approved changes to the tax
code, allegedly with the aim of spurring more charitable giving. These
aspects of the bill have been overshadowed by the more controversial
provision of the initiative that gives direct government funding to
religious groups to provide social services, a concept known as “charitable
choice.”

The Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7) now is ready for a floor vote on the
House floor, perhaps as early as next week. Americans United Executive
Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn urged the full House to reject the bill.

“This bill is misnamed,” Lynn said. “It purports to offer communities
solutions to their problems, but in reality it is little more than a giant
battering ram aimed at the wall of separation between church and state.”

Lynn noted that the bill directs tax aid to churches and other sectarian
organizations with no meaningful oversight. He said it allows religious
discrimination with public funds, subjects needy people to religious
pressures and entangles government with religion.

Lynn added that the tax breaks approved yesterday are insignificant. While
ostensibly designed to spur charitable giving among taxpayers who do not
itemize deductions, the bill, according to media reports, would offer most
of these taxpayers a break amounting to $3.75 per year — about one cent a
day.

The Americans United leader said this demonstrates that approving direct
federal aid to religion has been the primary objective of the Bush plan all
along.

“This absurd ‘benefit’ proves that all of this talk about tax breaks and
sparking charitable giving is window dressing,” said Lynn. “The real goal of
the Bush ‘faith-based initiative’ is to usher in a new era of
government-supported religion. It’s a disastrous idea and one that the
American people do not want. I am counting on the House to put a stop to
this reckless proposal by voting it down when it comes to floor.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington,
D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the
importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

To check AU’s full coverage of the White House faith-based initiative, visit AU’s online report at www.au.org/faithbased.htm