Faith-based politics – Church-state spat brewing

President Bush this week will propose legislation to boost federal financing of religious groups that support the needy, and aides say the initiative likely would trigger debate over the separation of church and state, The New York Times reported Jan. 26.

Bush wants to unleash “armies of compassion” by letting private and religious charities compete for government funds to provide after-school programs, prison ministries and drug treatment, the Associated Press reported Jan. 26.

He plans to form an Office of Faith-Based Action to oversee the program and hand out money, and he wants to give governors money to create similar state offices, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 26.

The new federal office is expected to spend billions of dollars over the next decade on new funding for programs and tax credits.

The office also will work to remove rules barring religious groups from competing with secular organizations for federal money and contracts.

Bush’s plan also would offer a $500-per-person tax credit for charitable donations and a charitable deduction for the 70 percent of Americans who don’t itemize their tax returns, The Washington Post reported Jan. 27.

Bush is expected to name John J.  DiIulio Jr., a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, to head the new office. He also will name Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor if Indianapolis and chief domestic policy adviser for Bush’s presidential campaign, as chairman of a new national advisory board whose work will support that of the new office, The New York Times reported Jan. 29.

Goldsmith also will serve as an official adviser to Bush on the issue.

Bush’s plan is likely to raise big constitutional questions, Bush aides say.

To build support, Bush met Thursday night at the home of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, leader of Washington-area Roman Catholics.

For full story, go to The New York Times, The Washington Post and New Jersey Online.

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