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Bush Seeks Federal Funds for US Religious Charities - 2002-07-02

President Bush wants Congress to give federal funds to religious charities. Mr. Bush was in the Midwest state of Wisconsin Tuesday where he also called for changes in welfare. President Bush is campaigning for the social programs on his domestic agenda.

Speaking at a church in the city of Milwaukee, Mr. Bush urged Congress to pass what is called his "Faith Based" initiative to give religious charities that same access to federal funds as non-religious groups. "The federal government should not ask, 'Does your organization believe in God?' That is not the question they ought to ask," Mr. Bush said Tuesday. "They ought to ask, "Does your program work? Are you saving lives? Are you making a difference in people's lives?"

The Republican-led House of Representatives has already passed legislation giving religious groups greater access to federal funding as long as those participating in social welfare programs are not forced to worship. The president says Senate Democrats should pass similar legislation to end what he calls "discrimination" against religious-based charities.

Mr. Bush spoke at the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ which provides educational assistance as well as job training for people on welfare.

Tougher work requirements are a big part of the president's welfare reform program. States now require 30 hours a week of work from an average of five percent of adults on public assistance. The president wants seventy percent of welfare recipients working 40 hours a week. "Welfare reform to me means liberation from dependency," Mr. Bush said. "It means we realize each person matters, and if we can help people find work, it means there is dignity. And this state has been fantastic about encouraging work and helping people work and providing services to help people work, and recognizing that faith-based institutions can make a huge difference in the training and helping people train to be able to find work."

Democrats say tougher work requirements make it harder for states to take an individual approach to getting people off welfare. They want more spending on vocational training and child care to get recipients into better-paying jobs.