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`Faith Czar' Calls For Government Funds To Repair Old Churches.

John J. DiIulio Jr., the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says tax money should be used to repair dilapidated houses of worship.

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer in April, DiIulio noted that a 1995 administrative ruling forbids the National Park Service from using tax funds to repair houses of worship. That regulation, he said, will be reviewed by his office and possibly overturned because it is "unfriendly."

"We don't view it as historic preservation," DiIulio said. "We view it as community use and stewardship."

DiIulio added that many inner-city congregations are strapped for funds. He said President George W. Bush will create a "compassion capital fund" that may pay for "infrastructure improvements."

DiIulio was in Philadelphia to address an organization called Partners for Sacred Places, which seeks to preserve historic houses of worship. During his speech, he charged that the public is "behind the curve in thinking of our older religious properties as civic assets."

DiIulio asserted that neighborhoods around churches tend to be neater and safer. "If those congregations crumble and fail," he asserted, "just try to imagine what it would be like. It's like the old song says, "You don't know what you got til it's gone."

In other news about the "faith-based initiative":

* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) has said no thanks to the Bush "faith-based" initiative. The large, Utah-based denomination, which provides social services in many states, says it has no need for direct government funding.

"We're neutral," said Dale Bills, a spokesman for the church. "That's not saying we think it's wrong for every organization, but we just don't need it."

* Right-wing opposition to the Bush "faith-based" initiative continues to escalate. Two editors at the conservative National Review magazine have now criticized the Bush proposal. Advancing a conservative argument against the plan, Kate O'Beirne and Ramesh Ponnuru argued in a Wall Street Journal column April 30 that the Bush plan will make houses of worship dependent on the government and expand the welfare state.

"The initiative may well bring a new set of organizations into this network of futility and mutual dependency," O'Beirne and Ponnuru write. "It is no good to say that charities that fear dependency do not have to participate. Nobody has to collect welfare either, but people become dependent on it nonetheless."

* A new poll of black clergy shows little enthusiasm for the Bush "faith-based" plan. The survey, conducted by the Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith of Morehouse College in Atlanta, found that 39 percent of those polled said they strongly oppose the Bush plan. Twenty-one percent said they strongly back it, and the rest were undecided or in the middle.

* The Virginia Department of Health has awarded $61,000 to a Baptist group to find ways to improve cardiovascular health among African Americans. The Associated Press reported that the Greater Tidewater Peninsular Baptist Association accepted the grant to draft a plan congregations can follow to improve heart health.

According to the AP, "The Baptist association already has begun compiling a booklet with sermon ideas and Scripture references to exercise and eating right."

* Anti-poverty crusader Jonathan Kozol says he's skeptical of the "faith-based" initiative. Kozol recently told The Boston Globe, "I'm opposed to the way the Bush administration is promoting this idea. I do think we ought to have respect for religious organizations. I prefer not to call them 'faith-based' because that's a new, Orwellian euphemism. It means religious. I love and revere the influence religion has on the low-income kids. I think these kids benefit enormously from their faith.... But I do not want to see the line between church and state crossed because if you cross it for a benign little Roman Catholic church like St. Ann's, you can cross it for a white, fundamentalist hate group in Montana."
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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