To the Editor:

I was profoundly disappointed by Beliefnet running the highly biased and inaccurate article by Amy Sullivan critical of President Bush's faith-based initiative.

The article contains numerous falsehoods. For example, it asserts that allowing churches and other faith-based organizations to hire on the basis of religious beliefs is "a clear violation of federal anti-discrimination statutes." But in fact Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the seminal employment nondiscrimination statute of the past half-century, codified the right of houses of worship and ministries to hire based on religious beliefs. That right was unanimously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. President Bush's faith-based initiative legislation simply preserved this same right for religious organizations. President Clinton took the identical position and three times signed "charitable choice" provisions into law--each of which protected the right of religious groups to hire employees who shared their religious beliefs.

Second, it was not a synagogue that applied for FEMA funding after the Seattle earthquake; it was a Hebrew academy. No rules were changed to allow the school to receive funding; it was eligible under current guidelines. Existing regulations prohibit churches or synagogues from receiving FEMA funds for the sole purpose of rebuilding a house of worship--a fact that Ms. Sullivan failed to mention.

Third, the study funded by the Ford Foundation at the University of Indiana that the article cites on job placement was narrowly based and even the researchers acknowledged focused on groups that took the hardest to serve clients. The fact that it was released by the former executive director of the Indiana chapter of the ACLU--a strident opponent of the faith-based initiative--hardly inspires confidence in its objectivity.

It is also misleading to claim that President Bush does not genuinely support allowing full tax deductibility of charitable contributions for non-itemizing taxpayers. The charitable giving proposal was included in the President's faith-based legislation, which Democrats blocked, and as stand-alone legislation. Democrats in Congress held the charitable giving proposal hostage in order to satisfy liberal special interests who oppose the right of religious groups to hire employees who share their beliefs.

Was similar motivation behind the conclusions of Ms. Sullivan, the author of the story, who formerly served on the staff of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and has advised the presidential campaign of John Kerry? We can only speculate. That verdict is best left to the readers, but the bias was clear.

Liberals and Democrats attack the President's faith-based initiative for reasons that have little to do with faith and everything to do with politics: they fear it may help those that have been left behind, thus shattering the stereotype of conservatives as uncaring. Like the President's education reforms and minority housing initiative--which has led to 1.6 million more minority homeowners than when he took office--liberals fear not failure, but success.

Ralph Reed
Chairman, Southeastern Region
Bush-Cheney '04

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