Faith-based initiatives quietly lunge forward (Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2003): When the Senate failed last year to act on President Bush's signature "faith-based initiative," the White House did not give up. Bit by bit, through executive orders and changes in agency regulations, the administration has been carrying out the initiative anyway. [...] The most controversial proposal to date has come out of the Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD has proposed a change in its rules to allow taxpayer money to be used for the construction, acquisition, or rehabilitation of houses of worship. Under the plan, the government would subsidize those portions of a building that would be used for social services, such as food pantries, counseling, or homeless shelters. Until now, HUD has been the only federal agency that explicitly forbade grants to religious groups. If the new rule is approved, after the public comment period ends in mid-March, that restriction would no longer apply.
You wonder what part of the doctrine of "separation of church and state" is completely slipping under the administration's radar. One can allow that permitting religious groups and organizations to compete with secular groups and organizations for federal grants would not seem to be a violation of the doctrine, although sometimes it may push it right to the edge. Surely, however, contributing to the building of houses of worship would seem on its face to be a direct and flagrant violation. After all, once a building is raised, you can't really dictate its use. It's fairly likely that most religious organizations would have multipurpose buildings, used for both religious and charitable purpose -- that's the way most smaller organizations work, after all, religious or otherwise. Untangling the religious use from the allowed charitable use would be almost impossible.Posted by iain at February 07, 2003 08:19 PM