- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2001

The Rev. Jesse Jackson yesterday urged churches and faith-based organizations to shun President Bush's plan to allow religious institutions that do charity work to compete for federal funding.
The government, he said in a sermon at a suburban Washington church, writes the laws of the country, often catering more to what is popular than what is right.
The church, which he called "the highest house on the highest hill," defends the poor, helps the sick and brings people closer to God.
"The church must never give up its reign," said Mr. Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "The cross and the flag should never interchange. When the government and the church get too close, neither one can see Jesus."
Mr. Jackson visited Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md., where he delivered a sermon to hundreds of congregants who gave him a standing ovation when he approached the pulpit.
In an hourlong sermon, Mr. Jackson criticized Mr. Bush's faith-based initiative and praised Black History Month.
He did not elaborate on his acknowledgment that he fathered a daughter during an extramarital affair with a former official at Rainbow PUSH's Washington office. The finances of his ministry and business ventures have come under new scrutiny as well. Mr. Jackson canceled without explanation a news conference that was scheduled to begin after the service.
Mr. Jackson's troubles seem not have upset many of the Ebenezer church members, who said they admired Mr. Jackson for admitting to the affair and hoped he will recover. "None of us are perfect or without sin," said Charles Mackey, a church member who lives in Charles County, Md. "If we're going to be good Christians, we have to forgive and love. I admire that he acknowledged that he fathered the child and that he's taken care of the situation."
William Millett of Prince George's County, Md., said he was never a fan of Mr. Jackson's but wished him well.
"In the eyes of some people this news could lessen his credibility," Mr. Millett said. "But leaders are human and humans make mistakes. Let's not chuck rocks at someone unless we are pristine and pure and never made any mistakes of our own."
The Rev. Grainger Browning Jr., the senior pastor at Ebenezer, introducing Mr. Jackson, said the civil rights leader "will always have a standing invitation" to preach at Ebenezer. "He's a friend and I stand by my friends." The packed sanctuary burst into applause.
Most of his remarks were devoted to the perils of church and state partnerships, including the Bush proposal to allow any church, synagogue or mosque doing charitable work to compete for government grants. Under the Bush plan, the money could not be used for religious purposes and the work would be monitored for religious discrimination.
"Don't let the government get into your books because they come in sheep's clothing looking for money," Mr. Jackson said. He said he feared federal money would change the character of the programs. "The character will change because federal funding will precede faith."
He cautioned against churches trying to fix social ills, such as drug addiction or homelessness, because places of worship are not equipped to address those issues.
"Can this church really handle the problem of drug addiction?" he asked. "You need psychologists, you need housing. Churches do not have the capacity to address America's unfinished business."
He encouraged churches to be wary of threats to their independence. "The church needs the money, but it needs its independence even more. It must protect its independence and its integrity."

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