February 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 33

Bush Meets with Catholics on Charity Deductions, Vouchers

Following Morning Tells Prayer Breakfast the Importance of Faith-based Programs

    WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 1, 01 ( - President George W. Bush met with a group of Catholic bishops, priests, and nuns on Wednesday to discuss his plans for federal funding of faith-based social programs, increased tax deductions for charitable giving, and a limited school voucher programs.

    Among those attending the meeting were Cardinal-designate Edward Egan of New York, Archbishop John Favalora of Miami, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington. Bush was joined by three of his cabinet secretaries: Mel Martinez, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Rod Paige, Secretary of Education; and Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor.

    Earlier this week, Bush formally set up the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to coordinate his plans for empowering faith-based social services. In unguarded comments caught on an open microphone, Bush told participants at the meeting that there are many Republicans who don't like the idea of school vouchers.

    "They come from wealthy suburban districts who are scared to death of irritating the public school movement, and their schools are good," he said. "There's serious, serious heat on Capitol Hill, and it's not only from the Democrats. The Republicans won't yell it, but they'll whisper it. The Democrats will yell it."

    Bush also compared the controversy over his faith-based action plan to the abortion issue. "I mean, there is a kind of a built-in prejudice against a particular position on both sides on both issues," he said.

    Thursday morning President Bush told the 49th annual National Prayer Breakfast that faith-based charities can provide services to the needy that no government program can provide.

    "We have to set out to promote the work of faith-based charities. But government cannot be replaced by charities alone. We have to reach out to them as partners, instead of treating them like rivals to the government," he said. The annual meeting, sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, a Virginia evangelical group, gathers political leaders, and this year included the heads of state of Congo, Rwanda, Macedonia, and Slovakia.

    Although Bush said that without his Christian beliefs that "I doubt I'd be here today," he also addressed those suspicious of encouraging religion to take a bigger role in what many believe should be a secular, government enterprise. "The days of discriminating against religious institutions simply because they are religious must come to an end," he said. "But we have the obligation to make our case, not to demonize our opponents."

    Vice President Dick Cheney also addressed the breakfast meeting, citing faith as a means to peace and quoting President Abraham Lincoln: "We must be at peace with ourselves and with the people of other nations."

February 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 33
USA News
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