Relaymedia

Bush Asks Religious Broadcasters for Help

Feb 11, 2003 03:18 PM EST

"I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems," Bush said.

In particular, Bush emphasized his stalled proposal for legislation to let churches and other charities that provide social services receive federal funds.

He also asked the broadcasters to join in a national campaign to end remnants of racial and religious prejudice.

"It's been said that 11 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. We all have a responsibility to break down the barriers that divide us," Bush told the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention.

He also used his appearance to continue preparing the nation for possible U.S. casualties if there is a war with Iraq and to say he would not commit troops lightly.

"I hug the mothers and the widows of those who may have lost their life in the name of peace and freedom," he said. "I take my responsibilities incredibly seriously about the commitment of troops."

On social services, Bush has proposed federal spending of $600 million for vouchers that addicts could use in drug treatment programs, including religious ones. He also has proposed mentoring programs for disadvantaged children, including those of imprisoned parents.

He has previously proposed federal financial support for religious and charitable groups that perform certain social services.

"America's religious broadcasters can really play an important role" in promoting such initiatives, Bush said.

He said that the organization's 30,000 members reach an audience of 141 million a year.

When his "faith-based initiative" stalled, Bush late last year sidestepped lawmakers with executive orders and other steps to help give religious organizations the same chance as other groups in competing for federal contracts.

Bush told the religious broadcasters that these organizations must be better educated on exactly how to qualify, "especially those programs that have a capacity to change heart, and thereby change habit."

"Government must not and will not endorse a religious creed, or directly fund religious worship," he said. "But governments can and should support effective social services provided by religious people, so long as they work and ... go to anyone in need, regardless of their faith."

Bush's proposal has been denounced by some critics as a potential violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

On the way into the Opryland Hotel complex, where Bush spoke, his motorcade passed several dozen anti-war demonstrators bearing signs such as "No war in Iraq" and "No war in my name."

Earlier, at the airport, Bush greeted several hundred members of the Tennessee Air National Guard.

Bush, who considers himself a born-again Christian, was greeted with thunderous applause from the broadcasters.

Bush's faith "has served as an inspiration to millions of Americans," said the group's chairman, Glenn Plummer.

By Albert H. Lee
[email protected]