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U.S./world – Blacks back Bush – Unexpected support

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Black ministers are emerging as the most unexpected and vocal backers of President Bush’s plan to expand government support for religious groups that deliver social services, the Chicago Tribune reported April 6.

Rejecting federal dollars, black clerics say, is a luxury for affluent and plugged-in groups, not for urban churches struggling to help people in need, the Tribune said.

“I can bury my head in the sand for four years or we can recognize an opportunity before us,” the Rev. Walter B. Johnson, pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church – who didn’t vote for Bush – told the Tribune.

More than 90 percent of black churches provide some type of social services, according to a recent study by Hartford Seminary.

Given scarce resources, it’s pragmatic for ministers to back Bush’s faith-based plan regardless of their political differences with the president, Lawrence Mamiya, author of “The Black Church in the African American Experience,” told the Tribune.

Some fear that smaller black churches lack the administrative experience to apply for and manage money and paperwork, the Tribune said, while others fear churches will be beholden to Bush or get hooked on funding that might not be renewed.

And while critics of the Bush plan fear church-state lines might overlap, Mamiya said black churches are less convinced separation is needed because of their faith in religious solutions to social woes.

For full story, go to Chicago Tribune.

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