U.S./world – Barring faith – Action urged

A White House report says federal agencies curb support for religious groups out of excessive concerns about keeping church and state separate, the Associated Press reported Aug. 16.

“It is not Congress, but these overly restrictive agency rules that are repressive, restrictive and which actively undermine the established civil rights of these groups,” says the report.

“Such excessive restrictions unnecessarily and improperly limit the participation of faith-based organizations that have profound contributions to make in civil society’s efforts to serve the needy.”

President Bush asked for the report to track institutional hurdles keeping religious groups from taking part in government programs, AP said.

The report was released in the face of mounting resistance to Bush’s plan to expand government support for religious groups that deliver social services, The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 16.

After winning a narrow victory in the House, a bill to increase funding to religious groups is struggling in the Senate and generating opposition from diverse groups, the Journal said.

It said that John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, has stumbled in his efforts to push Bush’s plan.

In an opinion column published in the Journal the same day, DiIulio said government funding “strongly favors large nonprofits, whether religious or secular, that mirror the large government bureaucracies that make and monitor the grants.”

He cited the report, which said, “There is a funding gap between the government and the grassroots. Smaller faith- and community-based organizations receive very little federal support relatie to the size and scope of the social services they provide.”

For full report, go to The New York Times.

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