Mar. 9, 2006 – The Bush administrationâ€™s push for more government support of charities run by religious organizations is making its way into the Department of Homeland Security.
Tuesday, the president issued an executive order directing the Department to open a center that will ease the flow of federal funds to "faith-based and other community organizations."
According to the directive, Homeland Security is to open a Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives by April 21. The office is tasked with coordinating "agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations" in charitable and relief efforts.
President Bush issued the order on the evening prior to a visit to the Gulf Coast, where privately run relief organizations have reportedly out-performed the federal government in responding to the needs of hurricane survivors. A number of church organizations have complained that promised federal reimbursements have not materialized, the Associated Press reported.
Responding to the order, Homeland Security said yesterday that the new center will play a key role in future disaster-relief efforts, in part by helping to build a "culture of preparedness in every community across America."
A statement from DHS yesterday said, "The Department will more effectively channel the unique resources and capabilities of faith-based and other community organizations in times of crisis, and on an ongoing basis, in preparing for catastrophes of all types."
In a statement opposing the continued government grants to faith-based groups, Americans United for the Separation for Church and State accused the Bush administration of ducking its obligations and then using its own inadequacies to justify funneling money to religious organizations.
"The Bush administration budget proposes cuts in social service programs at a time when faith-based funding is being touted," the group said. "The White House is using incense and mirrors to cover up its domestic policy failures."
According to a February study by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Policy, the real dollar value of grants to faith-based organizations has decreased since 2002, even as the number of grants provided continues to grow. In addition, the report found that large programs receive a disproportionately larger portion of the funds, which equaled about $626 million in 2004.