Bush Channeled $2.15bn (£1.25bn)
Faith-Based Charities Last Year
US Religious Charities Win $2.15bn in State Grants
SUZANNE GOLDENBERG / The Guardian (UK) 11mar2006
Washington — The Bush administration channelled $2.15bn (£1.25bn) to faith-based charities last year, advancing its mission to increase the share of government aid money given to religious organisations.
The figure, contained in a White House report unveiled on Thursday, does not account for all of the grants awarded by an administration determined to increase the involvement of churches and religious organisations in social services provision.
The revelation deepened concerns among aid professionals and civil liberty groups about the quality of services offered by some of the religious groups - especially at a time when funds for social programmes are being cut. There are also charges that the Bush administration is underwriting proselytising campaigns by the Christian right.
About 10.9% of competitive federal grants for programmes for the needy went to religious charities last year, up from 10.3% in 2004. Religious groups played an especially large role in public housing, receiving 24% of grant money . They also received 14.2% of funding from the international development agency. In the five years that George Bush has been in the White House, 11 government agencies have set up religious offices, ostensibly to help coordinate the provision of social services by faith-based organisations. This week, the president established one in the department of homeland security.
"It used to be that groups were prohibited from receiving any federal funding whatsoever because they had a cross or a star or a crescent on the wall," Mr Bush told religious leaders at the annual White House conference on faith-based initiatives on Thursday, adding: "and that's changed for the better."
Mr Bush's belief in faith-based charities has long provoked controversy overseas, where pressure from the US Christian right has diverted a quarter of the £15bn the White House pledged to fight Aids to abstinence programmes.
At home, civil liberty groups accuse the Bush administration of using the faith-based charities to cover up for spending cuts. They also say there is not enough monitoring to ensure that funds are not used to spread religion. "Some of these organisations do good work, but for some of them their first goal is winning a new soul to convert, and that type of activity should always be funded with private dollars," said Rob Boston of the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "There is virtually no attempt to monitor these religious institutions unless someone forces the issue."
Last month, the Bush administration cut off funds to the Silver Ring Thing, an organisation preaching teenage abstinence that has a branch in Britain. The decision followed a law suit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which found the group had been urging young people to embrace Christianity.
source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1728616,00.html 19mar2006