WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 1, 01 (CWNews.com) - 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
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
"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."