Bush Signs Order Giving More Religious Freedom in Government Funding

Dec 31, 2002 02:19 PM EST

"People of faith are increasingly viewed by the federal government as allies and aids in the quest to build a more decent, compassionate, just and caring society," said Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care.

Harrison witnessed in Philadelphia as Bush signed the order "Equal Protection of the Laws for Faith-based and Community Organizations," which prohibits federal funding agencies from discriminating on the area of religion and gives religious organizations wider access to federal money to meet the social needs in their communities.

Hundreds of Christian leaders and representatives of other faith-based groups attended the signing in Philadelphia, which included workshops designed to help religious organizations obtain government funding.

"Faith-based groups will never replace government when it comes to helping those in need," Bush told those attending. "Yet government must recognize the power and unique contribution of faith-based groups in every part of our country."

Harrison commented that with the new order, there will be lesser instances of gratuitous discriminations and also it will provide reassertion to religious values where the federal program funding is received.

Synod entities, particularly congregations and districts, Harrison said, "must make use of the tremendous opportunities we have for new participation in the full range of social service, funded whole or in part by government, and to remain decidedly Lutheran in doing so."

The Philadelphia meeting gave Harrison a chance to reconnect with FBCI Director James Touey and Mel Martinez, secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He and LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick met in November with both at their respective offices in Washington.

Because of Bush's order and encouragement from Martinez, Harrison said he plans to apply for a HUD grant that would enable his office to provide housing funds and technical assistance, such as legal advice and how to partner with others, to LCMS districts and congregations.

By Tony C.