It might sound ironic to some that the most common response from religious groups to Bush's plan to fund faith-based social service work is active opposition. But everyone from Louis Farrakhan to Jesse Jackson to Pat Robertson to Wiccan and Jewish leaders fall into this category. They might be against the initiative for different reasons, but opposition is opposition.
Liberal religious groups tend to object to Bush's plan on church-state separationist grounds. At a recent press conference, a coalition of Jewish groups warned that the faith-based initiative violates the separation of church and state in a way that could produce "sinful and tyrannical" results. United Church of Christ minister Barry Lynn, who is the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is one of the most vociferous and outspoken opponents of the measure. He said: "The president appears to believe that the government should use religion to solve all of the nation's social problems. This approach strikes at the heart of the religious freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment."
A coalition of pagan groups recently sent a letter to President Bush echoing this sentiment. It said, "We fear that the funding given to contract-winning faith groups will be used to pay the yearly incomes of persons who may support and spread intolerance or violence based on religious, racial or ethnic supremacist ideals."
Conservatives, most notably Robertson, object to federal funding for faith-based groups for precisely the opposite reason: "If government provides funding to thousands of faith-based institutions but, under a tortured definition of separation of church and state, demands in return that those institutions give up their unique religious activities, then not only the effectiveness of these institutions, but also possibly their very raison d'être, may be lost," Robertson wrote.
Jesse Jackson, usually not on the same side as Robertson, agrees in this case. He wrote, in early February, "The problem isn't the federal government being tainted by association with the church. The problem is the churches getting compromised by the government. My advice to the black church is -- Watch Out. This rosy offer of help comes with many thorns attached."
And Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan believes that Bush's faith-based plan is a ploy to garner support for the administration from blacks who supported Al Gore in the presidential race.
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