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Fact Sheet: Seeking Fair Treatment for Faith-Based and Community Charities

January 23, 2004

Presidential Action:

In his State of the Union Address, President Bush called on Congress to codify the principle of equal treatment for faith-based organizations in the Federal grants process, putting an end to discrimination against these charities. This legislation would ensure that more Americans in need would be able to get vital social services from the country's most effective charities, whether they are secular or faith-based organizations.


During his first week in office, President Bush directed the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) and faith-based offices in five Cabinet agencies to identify barriers that kept effective faith-based programs from serving Americans in need. OFBCI issued an August 2001 report, entitled "Unlevel Playing Field," detailing the barriers faced by these groups. In December 2002, the President issued an Executive Order directing agencies to take steps to ensure that all policies are consistent with the "equal treatment" principles enunciated in the Executive Order. In response to the President's Executive Order, Federal agencies have issued six final regulations and three proposed regulations, along with numerous other policy changes, to implement the equal treatment principles. As a result of these regulatory changes, faith-based organizations will be ensured equal treatment when they compete for approximately $10 billion in grant funds.

Many faith-based organizations that had been effective in serving the poor faced discrimination in their efforts to partner with the Federal government. The regulatory reforms instituted by President Bush have remedied some of these problems, but without the permanence of Federal statute, these reforms could be short-lived. These examples illustrate the need for Congress to enact "equal treatment" provisions and end discrimination in all programs against faith-based charities:

  • Under HUD regulations in effect when the President came into office, the faith-based organization Safe House for Battered Women and Their Children was told that it was ineligible for funding because it wanted to hold religious activities on-site. (Old HUD regulations had said that religious organizations must provide services in a manner free from "religious influences.") When Safe House learned about the new HUD regulations finalized in September 2003, it reapplied, and in January 2004, the City of Baton Rouge awarded Safe House a $60,000 grant.

  • Several years ago, the Loving Hands Community Development Corporation (part of the Bethel Baptist Church of Barnesville, Georgia) found some of its funding for its after-school program cut off under a new state policy that prohibited school systems from subcontracting with faith-based organizations. The Supplemental Educational Services (SES) program, part of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, directs States to allow faith-based organizations to participate fully. In September 2003, Loving Hands became an approved provider of SES services and now receives fee-for-service payments to provide after-school services to 25 children.

  • When the Orange County Rescue Mission in California applied for a grant under HUD's Supportive Housing Program, they were awarded the grant but were told they would need to ban all religious activities from their facilities, create a secular nonprofit organization, and begin calling their chapel an "auditorium." Rather than compromise their religious identity, the Orange County Rescue Mission forfeited the $1.1 million grant. Since the HUD regulations finalized in September 2003 would not require them to form a secular entity to receive HUD funds, and inherently religious activities would still be allowed as long as they are separated in time or location from HUD-funded activities, the Orange County Rescue Mission recently applied for a new HUD grant.

George W. Bush, Fact Sheet: Seeking Fair Treatment for Faith-Based and Community Charities Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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