The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

White House Report Seeks to Mask Monumental Failure of 'Faith-Based' Initiative, Says Americans United

Bush Initiative Was Focused on Politics, Not Policy, Charges Church-State Watchdog Group


Today's White House report on President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative seeks to mask the shortcomings of a badly failed policy, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"The Bush initiative played crass politics with social service funding and jeopardized civil rights and civil liberties," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "All the PR spin in the world can't turn this monumental Bush failure into a success.

"President Bush should have gotten the Golden Globe," Lynn continued, "for playing a 'compassionate conservative' while doing precious little to actually help disadvantaged Americans."

Americans United has spearheaded opposition to the Bush faith-based plan from its inception. A wide array of religious, civil liberties and civil rights groups has joined forces to oppose central elements of the Bush plan.

Lynn said Americans should remember that the Bush administration failed to get its faith-based initiative through Congress because it endangered basic civil rights and civil liberties. It would have subjected Americans in need to unwelcome proselytism in publicly funded programs and allowed faith-based agencies to discriminate on religious grounds in hiring for government-funded jobs.

When Congress said no, Lynn added, Bush forged ahead through executive orders.

"President-elect Obama has promised to roll back the Bush administration's civil rights and civil liberties infractions," said Lynn, "and we hope he will keep his commitment."

Lynn noted that even former Bush administration staff conceded that the faith-based initiative was more about politics than policy improvement.

John DiIulio, former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said political strategists controlled Bush domestic policy.

"What you've got," he told Esquire, "is everything and I mean everything being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

David Kuo, the number two staffer in the faith-based office, confessed in his book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction that faith-based conferences were manipulated to help Republican candidates win votes.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.