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March 4, 2005

Bush vs. Religious Liberty

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News

Ever since his inauguration in January, President Bush has redoubled his assault against the separation of church and state -- and the religious freedom it guarantees.

On Tuesday, Bush spoke in Washington about religious, federally-funded alcohol treatment programs -- saying that "drunks" are "welcome to be saved, so they become sober."

And in January we learned that under Bush's faith-based program, the federal government gave more than $1 billion directly to religious groups in 2003 (Associated Press, January 2, 2005). Later, a top White House official told the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club that the government gave more than $15 billion to religious groups in 2004. He added that Bush "is gearing up for a very aggressive run to advance his faith-based initiative." (Click here for full text.)

This week, President Bush's representative before the Supreme Court -- in defending 10 Commandments displays on government property -- argued "against a strict First Amendment wall between church and state" (Associated Press, March 2, 2005 -- see below). On the very same day, House Republicans led the charge to pass new legislation allowing federally-funded faith-based programs to discriminate on the basis of religion when hiring employees with taxpayer dollars. The bill passed on a party-line vote.

What do these items -- and the articles below -- all have in common? They are part of a wide-ranging assault being waged against the separation of church and state by President Bush.

Stay tuned for more steps backwards by the Bush administration on this front -- and plan to join us in fighting back. And please read on for further information...

High Court Hears Debate Over Commandments

By Hope Yen, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Ten Commandments displays should be allowed on government property because they pay tribute to America's religious and legal history, the Supreme Court was told Wednesday, in cases that could render a new definition of the role that religion plays in the life of the nation.

"The idea of having a fence around the Ten Commandments to make clear the state has nothing to do with it, I think that is bending it too far," said acting Solicitor General Paul Clement, in arguing against a strict First Amendment wall between church and state.

To read the full article, please click here.

Bush Stresses Support for 'Faith-Based' Agenda

By Peter Baker and Alan Cooperman
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page A04

President Bush renewed his commitment yesterday to promoting social welfare through religious groups with taxpayer funds, calling on a balky Congress to lift its "roadblocks" and implicitly rebutting critics who say he has shirked his "compassion agenda."

Setting out a second-term blueprint for advancing his faith-based initiative, Bush highlighted legislation, heading to the House floor today, that would allow religious charities to hire and fire based on religious beliefs even while receiving federal funding. If Congress does not follow his lead, Bush warned that he would try to circumvent lawmakers by using executive powers.

To read the full article, please click here.

President Highlights Faith-Based Initiative at Leadership Conference
Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:11 A.M. EST

President Bush: "...Today, 10 federal agencies have got faith-based offices, three of them set up last year. ...[I]f you're the Methodist church and you sponsor an alcohol treatment center, they can't say only Methodists, only Methodists who drink too much can come to our program. (Laughter.) All drunks are welcome, is what the sign ought to say. (Applause.) Welcome to be saved, so they become sober."

To read the full speech, please click here.