- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

Two days after creating a faith-based office in the Department of Homeland Security, the White House released a report showing that more than 10 percent of grants from federal agencies with faith-based offices went to religious charities.

“President Bush delivered on what he promised to do: Addicts, the homeless and the jobless should have access to the best programs available,” said Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

According to a report released yesterday by the White House, in fiscal 2005, religious charities received $2.15 billion in federal grants, a 7 percent increase from 2004. Last year, 2,760 grants were distributed — a 22 percent increase from 2004.

“I believe all of us, no matter if we’re private or public, ought to allow religious organizations to compete for funding on an equal basis, not for the sake of faith, but for the sake of results,” President Bush said while speaking yesterday at the second annual meeting of faith-based and community initiatives at the Washington Hilton.

The largest percentage of faith-based funding came from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which gave 24 percent of its competitive, discretionary funding to religious charities.

However, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) distributed the highest dollar amount, nearly $780.5 million. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and HUD were the second and third-largest donors, with more than $591 million and slightly less than $521 million given, respectively.

The Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Justice, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments also have faith-based offices.

Many of the faith-based groups that receive federal funding, such as Habitat for Humanity, have contributed to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

“Habitat for Humanity International commends the White House for recognizing the important role that faith-based and community organizations play in responding to the needs of individuals and families across our country,” said Habitat spokeswoman Sara Vasko.

Not everyone agrees with having faith-based offices in the government sector. Critics say Mr. Bush is playing favorites with religious conservatives, who make up a significant portion of his political base.

“This is just another example of the administration trying to create the illusion that it’s in control of something,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “[President Bush] is winking and nodding to these groups about the rules.”

The White House report shows that HHS gave nearly $7 billion to secular nonprofits last year, or 66 percent of its grant total. USAID and HUD gave more than $3.2 billion and $1.25 billion, respectively.

Faith-based organizations have fared best when making competitive bids for grants on programs such as HUD’s Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program, which won 43.1 percent of those grants in the past fiscal year.

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