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Opening up a can of worms

Since the founding of our country, religion has been an integral part of society.

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Since the founding of our country, religion has been an integral part of society.

Through our constitution, we are given the freedom to worship our god how we see fit – it says so in the first amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…".

Any time the government attempts to get involved in anything remotely tied to religion, the argument of separation of church and state is brought up. The announcement that President George W. Bush plans to make taxpayer money available to religious groups and charities has already sparked both lawmakers and religious leaders to initiate the separation of church and state debate.

President Bush signed an executive order Monday to create the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. His reasoning: faith-based programs may be just what the doctor ordered when dealing with many of the problems the nation faces today.

Let’s examine this a little closer. Is helping fund the charitable work of church organizations the same as funding or promoting that group’s religion? Will certain denominations have access to more funds than others? Will one denomination claim discrimination if funds are awarded to another?

These are just some of the questions President Bush will have to answer in the days to come.

Although these funds will apparently be earmarked for certain programs – such as drug treatment and after school activities – some will argue the government is supporting the beliefs of the religion itself.

Bush is entering taboo territory here. He needs to examine the ramifications of establishing such an office and then ask himself if it is really worth it.