MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Americans don’t know that President George W. Bush’s plan to provide federal funding to “faith based” organizations comes at the cost of repealing civil rights gains, according to US Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott, (D-VA). MINNEAPOLIS, MN - Americans don’t know that President George W. Bush’s plan to provide federal funding to “faith based” organizations comes at the cost of repealing civil rights gains, according to US Congressman Robert “Bobby” Scott, (D-VA).
Scott leveled charges against the White House faith based initiatives legislation at the Oct. 15 Insight/KMOJ Public Policy Forum. His presentation via videoconference continued the series of Public Policy Forums global webcasts which connect local communities with Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), members on national and local issues of interest to African Americans.
Website viewers across the country and around the world once more joined a discussion pertinent not only to Minneapolis and St. Paul, home of Lucille’s Kitchen, which hosts the weekly Public Policy Forum, but to the representative’s home district constituents and to Black Americans nationwide.
The Forum explored Bush’s espoused faith-based initiative and its impending impact on African Americans.
Scott joined panelists at Lucille’s Kitchen from the campus of historic Black college, Hampton University.
Scott, elected to the U.S. House of Repre-sentatives in 1992, is the first Black person in Virginia elected to Congress since the Reconstruction Era. He serves on the Education and Work Force Committee, is leading Democrat on the Crime Sub-Committee of the Judiciary Committee and is widely honored for his commitment to public service.
Appearing in person, among other Twin Cities notables, were White House advisor the Rev. Dan Williams, founder/pastor of North Minneapolis’ Grace Resurrection, the Rev. Randy Staten, Co-Chair of the Black Church Coalition/African American Leadership Summit and Pastor Craig Lewis of Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, and Barbara Cole, administrator, Oasis of Love Crisis Intervention Center.
Commenting on what the president means in talking about moving toward funding faith-based initiatives, Scott laid out the landscape of issues with unabashed candor. “First of all,” he said, “one of the problems we have is that no one has told the truth about what’s involved. Many faith-based organizations already get funding. They do good jobs. Many community organizations do well because they’re local and, knowing what the problems are, can deal with the situation.” He points out, however, that the initiative has been manipulated toward vested interests. Church-based institutions are compelled to comply with civil rights law. Utilizing its own finances, for example, a Catholic church can require as a condition of employment that the priest be Catholic.
“[But] when you take federal money you can’t discriminate. What the president’s faith-based initiative wants is allow you to take federal money and then tell certain Americans they’re not qualified for a government-funded job solely because of their religion and, probably, [their] race. If a Jewish organization gets a contract and only hires people within their faith, what chance does a person not Jewish have of getting a job. If a White church gets a contract and hires only within their church, what chance does a Black person have. This is illegal and you don’t need it to fund faith-based organizations.”
According to Scott, the bill passed by Congress specifically mandates that programs comply with civil rights legislation, but, he said, the Senate seeks to circumvent this process of equal opportunity. “When you listen to senators talk about their version of the legislation, they won’t answer the question, ‘Can you discriminate under your bill or not?’ The Attorney General, John Ashcroft let the cat out of the bag.”
Scott said Ashcroft recently issued a memo indicating that with the indirect language of the Senate’s bill, the church won’t, under the faith-based initiative, l