The Boston Globe reported yesterday on some important questions that Democrats are asking about President Bush’s faith-based initiatives:
- Have current faith-based initiatives violated the separation of church and state?
- Did the Bush administration really give 98.3 percent of the faith-based foreign-aid money to Christian groups? How does this affect, among other things, our foreign relations?
- What are the effects of such faith-based initiatives on our fight against AIDS?
Questions such as these are being articulated mainly by Representative Barbara Lee (D) from California and Representative William Delahunt (D) of Massachusetts.
Representative Lee is sponsoring a bill that would overturn a measure that requires that one-third of the money spent by the US government on AIDS prevention overseas go for "abstinence until marriage" programs. This is a $1 billion measure and many Democrats have suggested that the money could be better spent on other measures such as condoms. "When you look at what has been exposed and revealed, I think we have a factual basis to move forward with this," Representative Lee said.
Representative Delahunt, who will soon chair the International Relations subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, said that if US-funded Christian groups work in Muslim-dominated countries, the effort could be "perceived to be proselytization and it can generate a harsh negative reaction that implicates and impacts in a negative way on America's image in the world and have significant consequence to our foreign policy goals."
Democrats are also attempting to repeal a measure that required US groups receiving faith-based funds to have a policy opposing prostitution. Many groups have said the pledge impedes their work with sex workers who are at high risk for HIV. Organizations have also raised a question of the constitutionality of the pledge as compelled speech. Two federal judges have ruled that the pledge is unconstitutional and the Bush administration has appealed these rulings. Read more.
Regarding the AIDS fight, Representative Tom Lantos, the California Democrat who will chair the International Relations Committee in January, said, "Our global HIV/AIDS policy should be about saving lives…It is inconsistent with this goal to place ideologically driven restrictions on the implementation of efforts to prevent spreading the virus."