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Archive for Friday, January 13, 2006

Faith-based groups get federal primer

White House spreads word at K.C. conference

January 13, 2006

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— If there is still a national debate over the wisdom of using government money to back "faith-based initiatives," you couldn't tell Thursday.

More than 500 religious leaders from 31 states attended a White House conference on how to attract federal grants for church-led projects like teaching people to read, feeding the homeless and healing the sick.

"Faith-based groups are always trying to do what they can," said U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., who represents the west side of Lawrence in Congress.

The conference at the Kansas City Convention Center had a Lawrence feel to it. Ryun's daughter, Catharine, a Lawrence native who has served five years in the White House's faith-based initiatives program, emceed the event. The Rev. Bill Vogler, of Lawrence's Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church, gave the opening prayer.

"Finally, faith-based organizations are getting support from the government," Catharine Ryun told the Journal-World. "And that's helping the American people, the folks who are poor and needy and need assistance."

When the program made its debut in 2001, critics accused the Bush administration of breaching the wall between church and state. Those headlines have largely disappeared, even as federal funding for such efforts continues to grow.

Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told the conference that more than $2 billion in federal grants went to religiously based social service agencies in 2005. In Lawrence, for example, the Salvation Army receives roughly $48,000 a year for its homeless services.

Several officials praised faith-based programs for their response to Hurricane Katrina - a response so effective, Jim Ryun said, that the federal government had spent only $18 billion of $62 billion set aside for recovery.

And conference attendees were given a 15-minute seminar about the new Medicare drug program, widely described as confusing and intimidating to senior citizens, and asked to relay that information back home.

"As leaders, you have the responsibility to give all the information that is in your power to give," said Jennifer Hawkins, an official in the White House faith-based initiatives office, before describing the Medicare benefits.

In other cases, officials said, the private efforts save taxpayers money. Fred McLean, with Good Samaritan Health in Wichita, said his mobile health and dental clinic helped that city's poor while saving money.

"If I'm seeing uninsured people, then they don't go to the emergency room," he said.

Towey said one function of the conference was to ensure religious groups didn't proselytize on the taxpayer's dime.

"You can't preach on Uncle Sam's money," he said, "if you take federal dollars."

Comments

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 10 months ago

"You can't preach on Uncle Sam's money," he said, "if you take federal dollars."

I hope the "faith-based community" enjoys Uncle Sam's microscope probing into every orifice.

This will give the ACLU raison d'etre for many years to come.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 8 years, 10 months ago

HOW TO VIOLATE THE FIRST AMENDMENT !!

Agreed! If we are to maintain our status as the 2nd meanest city to the homeless, we need to stop funding the Salvation Army shelters and church soup kitchens! Let the homeless fend for themselves!

Ember 8 years, 10 months ago

As long as they are not acting evangelical in nature, faith based non profit is just like any other non profit out there. If they can avoid preaching, I don't have any overt problems with their continued community services.

They cross the line, however, they should be stripped of their federal funding.

Confrontation 8 years, 10 months ago

I was totally against this funding until I worked for a faith-based agency. We helped people of all religions and those with absolutely no religion. We never shared religious messages with any client. That was not the point of our program.

dex 8 years, 10 months ago

why is the federal government funding any charity or non-profit groups at all? i know the intentions are good, but is this the purpose of government? is it constitutional to tax for the purpose of funding government-chosen charities?

argue amongst your selves over the 1st amendment but the legislative purpose of taxes is the real issue issue. just follow the money.

Godot 8 years, 10 months ago

Why would the government give money to any non-governmental organization, period? Why is it okay to fund the local theater group or the local arts group catering to the educated, employed members of the community, who have organized as a non-profit organization (but who manage to pay their directors quite handsomely and build really nice buildings) but not okay to fund local soup kitchens or shelters sponsored by religious organizations and manned by volunteers?

dex 8 years, 10 months ago

pilgrim: i'm confused, did i say that "government-operated" charities are constitutional? are you making an assumption about my opinion? or are you just trying to knock down my straw man?

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