Haven’t heard much about Bush’s faith-based initiatives lately? Probably because they’d rather you didn’t. To date Congress has balked at enacting most of the proposals put forth by the administration to make it easier for faith-based organizations to acquire federal funds for their programs for one reason or another. What’s a conservative Republican President to do? Why, turn around have have five Cabinet agencies put the new rules into law in Congress’ stead.
At the Department of Health and Human Services, officials will let churches, synagogues and mosques use federal money for programs infused with religion and consider religion in hiring and firing workers.
The administration takes a broad view of the constitutional separation between church and state. If tax dollars are used for secular elements of the program—like a computer or a van—the rest can have a religious base, said Robert Polito, director of the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
At the same time, the director of the White House faith-based office, Jim Towey, said no decisions have been made about these and other guidelines. No matter what, the government will not pay for prayer, he said.
“We are going to comply with federal law,” Towey said Tuesday. He allowed that there are gray areas about what the law is but added: “We are certainly going to be very zealous to make sure people aren’t preaching on Uncle Sam’s dollar.” —Laura Meckler, Associated Press, as printed in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post.
Yeah, right. The article goes on to talk about how at the Department of Housing and Urban Development officials are busy rewriting regulations governing eight grant programs that now bar religious groups if they are unwilling to hire people of all faiths. Then over at the Education Department officials are “interpreting a new federal law on after-school programs as allowing groups to use religion in their hiring decisions. That prompted protests from Democrats who say they specifically barred this discrimination under a carefully negotiated compromise.”
Surprisingly the folks at the Times Record News out of Texas have a rather scathing editorial up lambasting the administration for trying to bypass Congress with their new rules for faith-based programs.
Perhaps the Bush administration has gotten so accustomed to filling a power vacuum when it comes to national security following the attacks of Sept. 11 that it’s chosen to ignore proper protocol in other less obvious instances.
Or perhaps the administration now feels that it’s not subject to the law when it chooses not to be.
Maybe it just believes people are so discombubilated by events of the past year that they won’t notice when the rules are changed for the benefit of Bush backers.
At issue is what the administration is doing without congressional approval on matters that do, in fact, require congressional approval that’s not been forthcoming.