Faith in charity – Bush aide upbeat

Most Americans believe religion can help improve society but are reluctant to link religion to politics, a new survey says.

At the same time, the head of President Bush’s effort to boost the delivery of social services by religious groups says that plan won’t breach the constitutional wall separting church from state, or the integrity of religious groups that participate.

Six in 10 Americans favor the idea of government funding for church groups to help the poor, but are split on whether groups should promote their religious messages, according a survey conducted by Public Agenda and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

And while most Americans believe religious politicians would be more honest in office, the survey found, 58 percent says it’s wrong to consider a candidate’s religion when voting, and two-thirds could not name President Bush’s church affiliation.

John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, told a conference on religion and social work that Bush’s plan aims to involve corporate America and big foundations in fighting poverty, Reuters reported April 1.

The plan also is designed to correct a system that critics say ignores results while depending on secular groups to oversee funding for illiteracy, drug addiction, homelessness and other programs.

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