Church and state – Vouchers an option

The head of President Bush’s effort to boost federal support for the delivery of social services by religious groups says groups using religious conversion as their main method and mission won’t be eligible for direct government grants, The New York Times reported March 8.

John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told a convention of evangelical leaders in Dallas that groups rooted in religious conversion could get government support only through vouchers distributed to poor clients, who could select from a variety of programs.

“We think the law is right,” DiIulio said at a news conference, explaining the two-tiered approach. “The Constitution is right.”

His speech marked the first time he has spelled out plans to keep Bush’s faith-based strategy from breaching the separation of church and state called for in the U.S. Constitution.

Some people attending the National Association of Evangelicals applauded DiIulio for explaining the rules.

But several conservative advocates for government financing of religious programs criticized DiIulio’s comments.

“There already is so much suspicion in the evangelical community about government activity, and this will only intensify it,” Marvin Olasky, editor of the evangelical World Magazine, told the Times.

He said the Bush policy was discriminatory and wrong.

For full story, go to The New York Times.

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