Bush Defends Faith-Based Charity Plan

Asked by reporters on Monday whether he was backing away from his plan to allow faith-based charities to compete for more than 100 government programs, President Bush answered, "Not at all."

The exchange was prompted by a report in the Washington Post earlier in the day that quoted Don Eberly, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, as saying the administration would delay sending the bill to Capitol Hill. According to the Post, Eberly acknowledged that President Bush's proposal to boost the role of religious groups in the delivery of social services "may need to be corrected in some areas."

Since it was introduced during his second week in office, the president's plan has been criticized by liberal First Amendment advocates who argue that it violates the separation of church and state as well as religious conservatives who fear that provisions attached to government funding will compromise the ability of faith-based groups to pursue their religious activities.

Aware of the controversy surrounding the plan, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration was listening to the various concerns. "We're working closely with members of Congress as well as leaders across the political spectrum," McClellan told reporters. "We appreciate their concerns and that's why we're continuing to work with them as we move forward."