Dilulio's Departure Signals Church-State Troubles

John DiIulio's announced departure as director of the White House Office on Faith-based and Community Initiatives opens the door for the program to be led by someone even less concerned with the constitutional and civil rights issues raised by the administration's push to divert billions of dollars in social service spending to religious groups, said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas today.

DiIulio has angered some Religious Right leaders by acknowledging that it is improper for government to directly fund religious proselytizing, Neas said.

"While we strongly disagreed with DiIulio on the wisdom and constitutionality of the administration's proposals," said Neas, "at least he understood that there were some problems with government funding of religious indoctrination. H.R. 7, the bill that passed the House with the administration's blessing, is a constitutional nightmare that would promote taxpayer funded discrimination."

Word of DiIulio's plans to step down comes just one day after the release of a White House report allegedly documenting barriers to an "even playing field" for religious groups seeking grants to provide social services.

Neas said that in many ways the report was not seeking an even playing field, but special privileges for religious organizations to discriminate while providing social services with federal funds. In addition, he said it was troubling that the Bush administration would characterize regulations protecting constitutional principles as barriers.

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