NEW ORLEANS – President Bush expanded the government grants to church and religious groups for programs dealing with support for crime victims and preventing child abuse. The $3.7 billion addition in federal funds was announced in a Jan. 15 address at the Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Orleans.
"Dr. King understood that faith is [a] power greater than all others," Bush said while speaking from a pulpit once used by Martin Luther King Jr. "It's an important lesson for us to remember here in America that God's Word can humble the mighty, can lift up the meek, and can bring comfort and strength to all who yearn for justice and freedom. Those of us who are involved with public policy must not fear that philosophy as we all work together to save lives."
The expansion is the latest in a the Bush administration’s “Faith-based Initiative,” which opens federal funds to explicitly religious charities. The initiative, coined in December 2002, has been the centerpiece of Bush’s domestic social agenda.
Supporters believe faith groups are more effective at providing social services than governmental or secular providers, and should therefore be funded by government. Critics however, argue that providing direct government funding to religious groups violates the Constitutional amendment of separating church and state. Others argue that minority religions may not receive the same funding as majority groups, causing religious strife within society.
Bush noted that all religious groups can do work worthy of government support.
"Miracles happen as a result of the love of the Almighty, professed, by the way -- taught, by the way -- by religions from all walks of life, whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu -- people who have heard that universal call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself," he said.