Dec 12, 2002

Today President George W. Bush is scheduled to announce sweeping policy directives that require federal agencies to award funds and government contracts to churches and other religious groups, even if they discriminate in hiring with the money.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has spearheaded the opposition to Bush's "faith-based" initiative, denounced the move.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, "Bush is on a crusade to bring about an unprecedented merger of religion and government. We will explore every opportunity to challenge this in the courts.

"Bush is giving his official blessing to publicly funded religious discrimination," Lynn continued. "He is rolling back all Americans' civil rights and civil liberties. Trent Lott seems to fantasize about rolling back civil rights protections, but the president is actually doing so.

"Under this scheme," Lynn charged, "taxpayers will be forced to support churches they don't believe in, and workers will be denied publicly funded jobs because they don't conform to religious mandates.

"Most religious and civil rights groups strongly oppose the Bush plan," Lynn added. "Even the president's own denomination the United Methodist Church is strongly opposed to much of the Bush initiative."

"Bush failed to get his controversial faith-based initiative through Congress, so now he's trying an administrative end-run."

Americans United is a Washington-based watchdog group that advocates for the constitutional separation of church and state.