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May 21, 2001

President Bush at Notre Dame: Disingenuous or Willfully Ignorant

Listed in: Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

Washington, DC: While President Bush was speaking at commencement ceremonies yesterday at the University of Notre Dame to tout his faith-based social service plans, according to today's Washington Post, "Bush noted that organizations like Catholic Charities already receive government funding. 'Do the critics really want to cut them off?' Bush asked."

"President Bush is being either disingenuous or willfully ignorant when he implies that the opponents of his misguided faith-based social service plans want to silence the wonderful and completely constitutional work of groups like Catholic Charities," Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said today. "Everyone - whether supporting or opposing the President's scheme - agrees that the work of such 'religiously-affiliated' organizations as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and the Jewish Federation system is invaluable and constitutional. Unlike the churches and other houses of worship that President Bush would like to directly fund with government money, groups like these three - while affiliated with larger religious organizations - have no religious components to the social services that they are providing with government funds. And this distinction is not a minor one, only for what the President termed 'the process-oriented;' this is one of the very distinctions upon which America was founded, and upon which our religious liberty is premised.

"None of the other examples of government subsidies that the President suggested opponents of his plan might wish to end - including Medicare and Medicaid funding of care at religious hospitals - can be fairly compared to his plans to directly fund programs that require attendance at prayer services as a condition of receiving desperately-needed benefits. I don't know why President Bush has chosen this moment to engage in these scare tactics, but I do hope and believe that he understands the difference between government subsidizing a critical heart operation at Holy Cross Hospital and government directly funding a drug rehabilitation program that requires participants to sit through denominational prayer services.

"Much of the rest of President Bush's rhetoric yesterday rang true; America does have a responsibility to help the less fortunate among us. But to meet this crucial goal, providing increased resources - and not just increasing the competition for the same pot of money - is needed."