Americans United for Separation of Church and State has come out against President Bush’s initiative to direct more federal funds to “faith-based” social service programs that would rally “armies of compassion,” and his plan to establish a White House Office of Faith-Based Action that will remove roadblocks religiously affiliated groups face when receiving federal money. Americans United challenges the constitutionality of Bush’s initiative and Rev. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United said, “The Constitution created a separation between religion and government. The very existence of a federal office whose principal purpose is to give tax dollars to religious groups is in an irreparable conflict with the First Amendment.”
In addition to being unconstitutional, the proposal opens the doors for employment discrimination based on religious preference or non-belief—a private religious group could receive federal funds, but could require all employees to follow the same religion as the organization. The foundation of Bush’s proposal is “charitable choice,” an idea initiated by former Sen. John Ashcroft in 1996.
Media Resources: Americans United for Separation of Church and State press release – January 25, 2001; Washington Post – January 26, 2001