- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001

PHILADELPHIA — President Bush yesterday celebrated Independence Day by arguing that authority for his faith-based initiative flows from the Declaration of Independence.
"From the ideals in the Declaration came the laws in the Constitution, including the free exercise of religion," Mr. Bush said in front of Independence Hall on the 225th anniversary of the Declaration.
"America's founding documents give us religious liberty," the president said. "Religious liberty is more than the right to believe in God's love; it is the right to be an instrument of God's love."
The president's sentiments were echoed by black Philadelphia Mayor John Street, who scolded his fellow Democrats in Congress for balking at passing Mr. Bush's faith-based initiative. Mr. Street is one of many Democratic mayors who support the president's plan to allow churches, synagogues and mosques the right to help provide social services.
"There are those in our country who would like to sit and debate the constitutional appropriateness of some of the programs that have been advanced by the president," Mr. Street said in introducing Mr. Bush. "We who are on the ground floor of delivering services to the people of our cities understand that when people need help, what they don't want is a constitutional debate."
To demonstrate his solidarity with religious groups, Mr. Bush attended a block party thrown by the Greater Exodus Baptist Church for participants in a mentoring program for inner-city youths. The president quarterbacked a game of touch football and judged a slam-dunk basketball contest before delivering his speech near the Liberty Bell.
"The Liberty Bell was originally cast to mark the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, the first guarantee of religious freedom in this commonwealth," Mr. Bush said.
"Now, exactly three centuries after William Penn's charter, the founders would be pleased to see that we have respected this right of the people and the limitation on the government," he said.
"They knew what dangers can follow when government either dictates or frustrates the exercise of religion," Mr. Bush said.
The founders were not the only historic figures Mr. Bush invoked in support of his faith-based initiative. He also quoted the Old Testament, Martin Luther King and Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Calvin Coolidge in an effort to portray the initiative as a right to religious freedom, not an argument over separation of church and state.
"Those who hold positions of power should not be wary or hostile toward faith-based charities or other community groups which perform important and good works," the president said.
"We should welcome their conviction and contribution in all of its diversity," he added.
"So today, I call on the United States Congress to pass laws promoting and encouraging faith-based and community groups in their important public work and to never discriminate against them," Mr. Bush said.
In addition to touting his faith-based initiative, Mr. Bush spoke patriotically about the ideals of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, and the other founders who signed the document. "Our founders considered themselves heirs to principles that were timeless and truths that were self-evident," the president said.
"When Jefferson sat down to write, he was trying, he said, to place before mankind the common sense of the subject," Mr. Bush said. "The common sense of the subject was that we should be free. And though great evils would linger, the world would never be the same after July 4, 1776."
Flanked by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, Mr. Bush praised the Declaration's creation of the United States. "A wonderful country was born and a revolutionary sent forth to all mankind," he said.
"Freedom, not by the good graces of government, but as the birthright of every individual; equality, not as a theory of philosophers, but by the design of our creator; natural rights, not for the few, not even for a fortunate many, but for all people, in all places, in all times," he said.
After the speech, Mr. Bush returned to the White House for additional Fourth of July festivities. He planned to travel this afternoon to his parents' home in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a long weekend.

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