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April 30, 2001

President Bush Fails “100 Day Test” on Issues of Special Concern to American Jews

Listed in: Women's Issues, Other Domestic Policy, Reproductive Rights, Separation of Church and State, NJDC News, Press Releases

Washington, DC: On issues that are traditionally of special interest to American Jews, President George W. Bush -- who completed his first 100 days in office this weekend -- has demonstrated through his policies that he is decidedly out of step with the priorities of the vast majority of American Jews.

"President Bush's budget alone demonstrates exactly how conservative his policy priorities are. But especially given all of the powerfully detrimental actions that the President was able to pack into his first 100 days in office in the areas of church-state separation, reproductive rights and the environment, I think it's easy to see why American Jews continue to be deeply concerned about the direction President Bush is taking us in," said William B. Dockser, National Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

"In only 100 days, President Bush has worked to erode the separation of church and state in a manner that we have not seen in decades," Mr. Dockser continued. "In pursuing his initiative for government funding of faith-based social service programs without much-needed safeguards, the President has signaled his intention to directly fund religious institutions with taxpayer dollars on an unprecedented scale. The legislative vehicle which the White House supports to enact the President's plan -- the Watts-Hall bill (H.R. 7) -- would erode the separation of church and state by:

  • Permitting government-funded programs to require beneficiaries to attend religious services before receiving benefits;
  • Allowing a judge, for example, to order a young juvenile offender to attend a church-run counseling program that requires attendance at prayer meetings; and by
  • Letting a church, synagogue or mosque discriminate in the hiring of government-funded staff for these programs based solely on the applicant's faith, beliefs or practices.

"And just days after taking office, President Bush took steps to limit reproductive rights by reinstating the global 'gag' rule, which prohibits any U.S. international family planning funds from going to any family planning or reproductive health organization that conducts abortion services or abortion-related counseling or advocacy -- even if such counseling and education activities are paid for with separate, private funds," Mr. Dockser added. "The President went on to limit reproductive choices by proposing a budget that has eliminated the requirement for health insurance programs for female federal employees to provide coverage for a range of birth control options -- thus directly affecting the covered options available to 1.2 million American women covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.

"And on the environment, we have all watched in astonishment as President Bush has shocked Republicans and Democrats alike with his determination to turn back the clock on protecting our environment. According to The Washington Post, in March alone, President Bush 'blocked implementation of a tighter limit on the amount of arsenic in water, suspended new cleanup requirements for mining companies, abandoned U.S. participation in the Kyoto global warming treaty and renounced a campaign promise to restrict carbon dioxide emissions.' And in his budget, President Bush has proposed disabling budget cuts -- $500 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and $345 million from the Department of the Interior -- that will clearly harm the US government's ability to protect the environment.

"There is no doubt about it," Mr. Dockser concluded. "The American Jewish community cares deeply about each of these policy priorities, and on each of them, President Bush has done about as much as he practically can to damage our religious freedom, our environment and a woman's right to choose. One can only speculate: if President Bush's actions can be this injurious in his first 100 days in office, what harm will the next 1360 days bring?"