Most of the events were closed to the media. However, several lawmakers addressed a gathering of participants at the Library of Congress. They called on participants to support President Bush's faith-based initiatives and legislation introduced by Reps. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and Tony Hall (D-Ohio) which would allocate funds to religious entities offering programs to combat social ills like alcohol and drug abuse, illiteracy and teen pregnancy.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told the conference, "Congress and the president recognize the good works of these groups, and we want to work with you to do more good. That's why we've developed legislation that will create public/private partnerships to equip and empower these organizations and help provide more resources to serve more people in need."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. He has picked up seven co-sponsors.
House Republican Whip Tom DeLay said, "If religious groups can deliver services effectively, they should be able to compete for federal funding with secular organizations. It's wrong for government to discriminate against organizations that can effectively provide services just because those organizations are religious."
However, a group calling itself the "Coalition Against Religious Discrimination" took out a two page ad in Wednesday's edition of "The Hill," a Capitol Hill publication to print "An Open Letter to President Bush" to express opposition to Bush's faith-based initiatives and the congressional legislation.
"Such new legislation is not necessary. For decades many houses of worship have set up separately religiously affiliated institutions to perform government-related social services, a system that has protected both the autonomy of houses of worship and the integrity of government programs," the Coalition said in the ad.
The Coalition added, "Partnerships between religion and government must be undertaken with great caution so as not to undermine the very integrity and freedom that allows both the followers and the institutions of religion to practice and keep faith in our nation. We urge you to protect the sacred role of religion in our nation by rejecting this avenue of infusing government funds into America's religious institutions."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.