Bush Meets With Religious Leaders to Discuss Federal Support of Churches and Charities

In a meeting with more than two dozen ministers and religious leaders at the First Baptist Church in New York City, President-elect George W. Bush discussed his plans to give churches and charities a greater role in federal welfare programs, the New York Times reports.

The president-elect's plan, which is being floated under the title "Armies of Compassion," calls for the creation of a federal Office of Faith-Based Action, the expansion of "charitable choice" to all federal laws that authorize the government to use non-governmental entities to provide services to beneficiaries, and the creation of additional tax breaks for charitable contributions. (For more information on the program, visit: http://www.georgebush.com/issues/armiescompassion.html.)

While some in attendance at the meeting expressed support for the plan, others questioned whether it might not violate the separation between church and state. Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, noted, "There are many religious traditions in this land. How do we guarantee that minority religions have the same access [to faith-based programs] that majority religions have?"

Richard Oppel. "The 43rd President: The Churches; Bush Meeting Focuses on Role of Religion" New York Times 12/21/2001. Jim Wallis. "A Church-State Priority" Washington Post 01/08/2001.