Will Bush’s “faith-based initiative” survive?

I’m not sure if our “host server” problems have been solved, but here we go…

It hasn’t gotten much attention, but the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case that could decide the fate of the Bush Administration’s much-hyped “faith based initiative.” It was the president’s first major domestic program way back in 2001, aimed at making it easier for religious groups to apply for and obtain tax dollars for social service programs.

It’s very hard to measure the success of the program, for an assortment of reasons. When I “wrote”:http://www.religionandsocialpolicy.org/homepage/article.cfm?id=3743 last year about faith-based grants in New York state during 2003 and 2004 — looking at a list given to me by the White House — I learned that the program had produced little change in NY.

Most of the groups on the list had no real religious mission or were the non-sectarian charitable arms of religious denominations. Most had been receiving federal money for a long time and had no idea that their grants were considered “faith based.”

Regardless of the program’s success in driving tax money to religious groups that could not have gotten it before, the faith-based initiative has been controversial since Day One because of church/state concerns.

According to “report”:http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0702280128feb28,1,2773143.story?ctrack=1&cset=true from the Washington bureau of the Chicago Tribune, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear Hein vs. Freedom From Religion Foundation, a case that “hinges on whether a group of taxpayers wishing to sue the executive branch for using tax dollars to fund faith-based initiatives has the standing, or legal right, to have its day in court.”

The paper said:

“This is arguably an indirect and technical conduit to addressing an intensely political issue. But if the Supreme Court rules broadly, it could significantly affect taxpayers’ ability to challenge programs they feel impermissibly breach the separation of church and state.”

The court’s eventual decision, then, will determine whether others can challenge the constitutionality of the faith-based initiative.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.