'Faith-based' groups got $1 bil from U.S. government in 2003
Federal funds given to mixed bag of charities in '03
Jan. 3, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The government gave more than $1 billion
in 2003 to organizations it considers "faith-based,"
with some going to programs where prayer and spiritual
guidance are central and some to organizations that do
not consider themselves religious at all.
Many of these groups have entirely secular missions
and some were surprised to find their names on a list
of faith-based groups provided by the White House.
"Someone has obviously designated us a faith-based
organization, but we don't recognize ourselves as
that," said Stacey Denaux, executive director of
Crisis Ministries, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen
in Charleston, S.C.
Other recipients are religious, offering social
services that the government may have deemed too
religious to receive money before President Bush took
Visitors to TMM Family Services in Tucson, which
received $25,000 for housing counseling, are greeted
by a picture of Jesus and quotes from the Bible.
"We believe that people being connected to the faith
of their choice is important to them having a
productive life," said Don Strauch, an ordained
minister and executive director of the group, which
offers social services. "Just because we take
government money doesn't mean we back down on that
All told, faith-based groups were awarded $1.17
billion in 2003. That is about 8 percent of the $14.5
billion spent on social programs that qualify for
faith-based grants in five federal departments.
The list of 2003 recipients provided is the first
detailed tally of the dollars behind this "faith-based
Elected with strong support of religious
conservatives, Bush came to office promising to open
the U.S. checkbook to religious groups that provide
social services. Often, Bush says, religious groups do
a better job of serving the poor.
Civil libertarians fear the government will wind up
paying for worship, eroding the constitutional
separation of church and state.
Jim Towey, who directs the White House Office of
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said the Bush
administration has been clear that "government money
is not to fund religious activities."
In the past, the government has refrained from giving
money directly to religious groups, requiring them to
set up independent, secular organizations to get
taxpayer dollars. Bush tried to get Congress to change
that. Congress refused, so he unilaterally put many of
his changes into effect.
It is unclear how much religion is too much religion
when government money is involved. The courts have
issued mixed rulings. The administration says a group
getting federal money can sponsor religious activities
as long as they are separate from activities paid by
The grants on the White House list were not
specifically targeted to religious organizations.
Rather, the list includes all groups believed to be
faith-based that won federal grants open to all
It includes recipients of grants administered by
Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban
Development, Education, Labor and Justice.
An analysis of the $1.17 billion and nearly 150
interviews with grant recipients found:
• Many are social-service providers that have received
federal money for decades.
• Two programs account for half of the $1.17 billion:
One known as Section 202 that builds housing for
low-income poor people, and Head Start, a preschool
program for poor children.