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Faith moves – Anti-bias deal

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Although a Senate deal is emerging to keep religious groups from skirting state and local anti-discrimination laws, the bill passed by the House would let charities that get federal dollars promote prayer and preaching, news reports say.

And as two new groups gear up to push President Bush’s faith-based agenda, a growing number of charities are encouraging taxpayers to protest his plan by giving their tax rebates to charity.

Republican Rick Santorum, the main Senate backer of Bush’s plan, said he would drop provisions that the House passed in July that would make it easier for religious charities to avoid state and local anti-bias rules, The Washington Post reported Aug. 2.

Still, the Associated Press reported, charities could push their religion on people they serve through a voucher system that would let people use vouchers to shop around for charitable services, the Associated Press reported Aug. 3.

The House bill also lets Cabinet secretaries convert $47 billion in social spending into vouchers, allowing big changes in nearly a dozen federal programs without any debate in Congress, AP said.

Some charities have reacted to Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut by encouraging taxpayers to using their rebates – ranging from up to $400 for most single taxpayer to $600 for a married couple filing jointly – to contribute to charity, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 2.

“Until government sends the message that giving to nonprofits is necessary and important, the sector has to seize every opportunity to get the message out to people,” Sara Melendez, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group for charities, told the Journal.

Some charities believe lower taxes could remove incentives for charitable giving and make less public money available for education, environment and social services.

At the same time, two new groups are gearing up to champion Bush’s faith-based strategy, The Business Journal in Milwaukee reported in its July 27 edition.

Michael Joyce, who left his post as president of the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation to head the to two groups – Americans for Community and Faith-Center Enterprise, a citizens lobby in Washington, D.C., that’s pushing Bush’s charitable choice legislation, and The Foundation for Community and Faith-Center Enterprise, a Phoenix-based group scheduled to open in September that will urge companies, philanthropists and private foundations and individuals to back faith-based community groups, the Journal said.

For full story, go to The Washington Post, Northern Light and The Business Journal.

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