- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

The White House director for the faith-based initiative yesterday singled out Democratic Sen. Jack Reed as stalling a bipartisan bill that would promote charitable giving to religious groups aiding the homeless, drug addicts and the poor.
"It's sitting there, being held hostage by one senator from Rhode Island," James Towey, director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, told a conference of researchers. "I don't get it."
The Senate bill provides tax incentives for charitable giving to welfare ministries but does not expand on the charitable-choice law of 1996, which allows such religious groups to bid directly for federal grants.
Mr. Reed wants to add amendments to limit such bids on grants and to ensure that religious groups using federal dollars do not discriminate in who they hire.
"We're not blocking the bill," said Reed spokesman Adam Bozzi. "We are preparing [four] amendments in case this comes to the floor. We hope this bill comes to a vote."
The Reed amendments bar government funds from use for proselytizing and also protects state laws, such as those protecting the rights of homosexuals. Some religious groups will not hire homosexuals.
The amendments also require religious groups using federal funds to become 501(c)(3) nonprofits, a step the Bush initiative aims to avoid.
One administration official said Mr. Reed has either been designated by Democratic leadership to block the bill or he has made it a personal cause. "They don't want to give the president a victory," the official said.
The bill, called the CARE Act, was crafted by Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican. The bill does not directly fund religious groups, so critics of the Reed amendments see them as attempts to stall the Bush initiative.
Supporters of CARE say the 1996 charitable-choice provision already forbids proselytizing, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act allows religious groups handling federal money to hire people of the same faith in some circumstances.
"Charitable choice has now been on the books since 1996," Mr. Towey said. "Where are the horror stories" of abuse and discrimination?
The 1996 welfare law was passed by a bipartisan vote during the Clinton administration, and Congress is likely to extend its funding for a year so Congress can reauthorize the legislation.
Still, Mr. Towey suggested Congress will not get to the CARE bill before the Nov. 5 election. "When Congress comes back in November, we will continue to work with Congress," he said.
The five federal agencies covered by charitable choice are rapidly expanding contacts with eligible groups, said panelists at the daylong forum sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and George Washington University.
The White House recently held a major training conference in Atlanta and will do the same in Philadelphia on Dec. 12. "The White House is going ahead," said one independent researcher. "The faith-based train has left the station, but Congress is still standing on the platform."
The Rockefeller Institute is analyzing faith-based welfare in 50 states. According to researchers from four states on the panel, the controversy swirls only in "partisan" Washington.
Religious groups are "just a natural part" of Florida social services, said Robert Crew of Florida State University. "Nobody ever sued anybody over anything."

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