For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 17, 2001
Embargoed Until Delivery
10:06 A.M. EDT Saturday, August 18, 2001
RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE NATION
The Bush Ranch
THE PRESIDENT: Good
morning. This month in my travels around the country, I am
talking about values that make communities strong and our nation
unique. One of those essential American values is
A little more than a week ago I visited a
Habitat For Humanity building site, where volunteers were helping a
family find the dignity of owning a home. Every community
offers its own examples of service -- shelters for battered women and
children; crisis/pregnancy centers; treatment for drug addiction; care
for the homeless; hope for those in prison, and their
families. The groups behind these caring efforts have
advantages government social programs often can't match -- the idealism
of volunteers, and intimate knowledge of the communities they serve,
and values stronger than the problems they face.
A compassionate government should find
ways to support their good works. Unfortunately, government
often treats charities and community groups as rivals instead of
partners. And this week came some new
evidence. Soon after I took office I instructed my Office of
Faith-based and Community Initiatives to examine federal rules and
regulations for discrimination against community and faith-based
groups. Five Cabinet agencies now have issued their
findings. Their report, entitled, "Unlevel Playing Field,"
documents a government bias against faith and community-based
organizations, a bias that exists even when constitutional concerns
about church and state have been addressed.
Government administrators restrict
religious groups from even applying for funding simply because they are
religious. They place artificial limits on what programs and
how much funding faith-based groups can apply for. In some
cases, they restrict civil rights these faith-based and community-based
groups enjoy under federal law. This is wrong.
Next Wednesday will mark the fifth
anniversary of a bipartisan charitable choice
legislation. This law says faith-based organizations should
be able to compete for some contracts to provide social services. But
even this limited charitable choice law has been almost entirely
ignored by many federal administrators. They've done little
to help or require state and local governments to involve faith-based
providers, as the law requires. I've appointed advocates in
five Cabinet agencies to end this bias, and soon.
My Office of Faith-based and Community
Initiatives is also working closely with groups to help them know their
civil rights, know how to effectively apply for funds so their good
works can be expanded. We must also broaden charitable
choice to more social service areas, removing barriers of
discrimination against the participation of faith and community
groups. By doing so, we will welcome them to more fully
confront the poverty and hopelessness that remain in America.
The House of Representatives took a key
step in leveling the playing field by passing my faith-based and
community initiative, which broadens charitable choice and encourages
charitable giving. I applaud the bipartisan House vote and
urge the Senate to pass that legislation, with the leadership from
Senators Joe Lieberman and Rick Santorum. The needs are
real. The time to act is as soon as Congress returns to work
after Labor Day.
If you agree, let your senator know if you
see him or her during the congressional recess. Faith-based
and community groups cannot replace the work of government, but with
government's help, they can serve many more people. And my
administration is committed to providing that help.
Compassion is one of the values that
builds communities of character, because every community of character
must be a community of service.
Thank you for listening.