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Bush Pushes Senate to Approve Faith-Based Initiative - 2002-04-11


President Bush wants Senate Democrats to approve a plan giving more money to religious charities. The president wants to make it easier for more than 80 million taxpayers to contribute to charities.

Millions of Americans contributed to groups helping people recover from the terrorist attacks of September 11. But many more traditional charities now find they have a budget shortfall, in part because of contributions to September 11 funds and in part because of a slow economy.

President Bush wants to change that by helping community-based and religious charities get more federal money in what he says is part of the fight against terrorism.

"In order to fight evil, we must do good. It is the gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness and compassion which define the true face of America, that shows what this country is truly made out of," he said. "On the one hand we are strong and tough militarily. But on the other hand, we are a nation that is compassionate and decent and caring."

President Bush wants Senate Democrats to approve his so-called "faith based" initiative which has already passed the Republican-controlled house.

He wants new tax breaks for the roughly 70 percent of American tax payers who do not itemize their returns - raising the amount of money an individual could deduct for charitable contributions to $400. Couples would be able to deduct as much as $800.

The president's plan also expands federal funding for religious charities which he says are too often discriminated against by bureaucrats focusing more on the separation of church and state than the real good that religious groups can achieve in the community.

"When we have federal monies, people should be allowed to access that money without having to loose their mission or change their mission," he said. "We need to know that in our society, faith can move people in ways that government can't. Government can write checks, but it can't put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives."

The president's plan originally faced opposition in the Senate because it included provisions that would allow religious charities to hire only those who are members of their own faith. That provision has been removed in the bill currently awaiting action in the Senate.

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