Faith-Based Plan Does Not Meet the Constitution Test

Jan 27, 2003 Issues: Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON -- Slamming a key part of the President’s domestic agenda expected to be announced at the State of the Union this evening, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) - the Democrat’s ranking Member on the Constitution Subcommittee - vowed to defeat President George W. Bush’s plan to give Federal tax dollars to fund religious proselytization as part of his so-called “Faith Based Initiative.”


“Again and again, this President has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the Constitution, or just doesn’t care about it. Using tax dollars to fund religious worship, and to allow government to take a role in the functions of religious institutions is not only unconstitutional, but a direct threat to religious liberty,” said Rep. Nadler. “The President’s plan to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into religiously oriented drug-treatment, and other social service programs that have no proven track record is a dangerous waste of resources. We have been told by this Administration that we don’t have enough money to spend on schools, health care, or the environment, yet the resources we do have will be diverted to these questionable programs, in violation of the Constitution.”

The President is expected to announce at the State of the Union that he plans to divert up to $200 million in public funds to houses of worship to treat drug abuse. Indeed, these programs will not need to be based on medical science, nor will anyone running the treatment program need to be licensed to run such a program.

The President’s announcement comes on the heels of news from the White House that Federal housing funds will be given to religious groups to construct and rehabilitate churches. And earlier this year, the President announced that he would change the law so that religious organizations could compete with Federal funds - without having to abide by Federal anti-discrimination laws.

“Religiously affiliated charities have been an important part of our social service delivery system for decades. No one questions the importance of their continued good work,” said Rep. Nadler. “What is radically different about the President’s proposal, and what is dangerously wrong, is the proposal to fund sectarian worship with public tax money, and to allow programs that are funded by every taxpayer to discriminate in employment. It is a completely extreme departure to require people to participate in a religious worship service not of their own free choosing in order to receive government funded assistance.”

“Religiously affiliated charities have always received federal funds to deliver vital social services. No one has objected to continuing that partnership. But I cannot and will not stand idly by as the President thumbs his nose at one of this nation’s core principles - that the Federal government not fund religion, and that no American should be denied federally funded employment or assistance on the basis of religion, race, national origin, or sexual orientation.”

Rep. Nadler has served in Congress since 1992. He represents the 8th congressional district of New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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