A segment of the Christian churches has long viewed the idea of government support for faith-based social services warily, believing accepting public funds will compromise their religious mission.
Now a related concern of unpopular and alternative religious groups receiving such support is adding another obstacle to widespread acceptance of this program. This is seen in how Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson has criticized President Bush’s plan to pay churches and other organizations to provide social services. Charisma News Service (Feb. 22) reports that Robertson warned that making more government money available for faith-based programs could open up a “Pandora’s box” that would aid fringe religious groups. In a commentary on his “700 Club” show, Robertson said that groups like the Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement and the Church of Scientology could all apply for government grants under Bush’s plan. Robertson said that the program “gets to be a real problem,”
He added that The Unification Church has been “proscribed for brainwashing techniques, sleep deprivation and all the rest of it that goes along with their unusual proselytizing . . . The Hare Krishnas [do] much the same thing.” Both the Unification Church and the Church of Scientology already have announced their intention to apply for federal money from the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI).
Unification Church spokesman Phillip D. Schanker said that “You will see us deeply involved in any area where we can partner in practical projects with government.” Under the program, groups can receive federal money for social service projects that have a religious dimension, as long as they do not force their beliefs on clients. Bush said that the OFBCI would welcome “all religion,” and that their programs would be judged on results, not beliefs.
Robertson’s opposition may signal “enormous political trouble” for Bush’s plan among conservatives, says Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups been among the chief critics of Bush’s plan, partly for church-state separation concerns and due to fears of anti-Semitic groups receiving support.
The Washington Post (Feb. 27) reports that Jewish leaders meeting with an official of the new program voiced concern that the Nation of Islam and other groups expressing anti-Semitic views can receive government support under the new arrangement.