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U.S./world – Faith backlash – Opposition from foes

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Plans by President Bush to expand government support for religious groups delivering social services have triggered criticism from some of Bush’s staunchest backers, The New York Times reported March 3.

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson and Marvin Olasky, author of the book “Compassionate Conservatism” say religious groups that accept government funds for social-service programs risk government intrusion in their mission and message, the Times said.

Bush says he won’t force charities to downplay their religion to get government funds, but Olasky says the Bush administration, under pressure from groups advocating the separation of church and state, will avoid funding programs that are overtly evangelistic, or will seek to limit their religious component, the Times said.

And last week on his TV show, “The 700 Club,” Robertson called it “appalling” that the Bush plan could result in government contracts for programs run by non-Western

religions and newer movements like the Church of Scientology and the Unification Church.

Times columnist Frank Rich reported March 3 that the Anti-Defamation League had lobbied to deny federal grants to Nation of Islam social programs, pitting the ADL against Democratic U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who favors such grants.

Rich also reported that, in an interview, Kurt Weiland, director of the Church of Scientology International, dismissed Robertson’s criticism as “very narrow-minded,” arguing that his church’s “extremely effective” drug rehab and literacy programs qualify on their merits for the Bush initiative.

For full story, go to The New York Times and Frank Rich’s New York Times column.

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