Update On Bush's Faith-based Initiative (04-12-01)
A News Analysis By Terence T. Gorski
Once again the leaders of the addiction and mental health field had no voice on a public level as opposition over the White House Faith-based Initiative continued to grow. Although many leaders in the addiction field have expressed concerns about the Faith-based Initiative, their voice has not been heard on the level of national media. The leadership of the addiction field is concerned for three reasons: The Faith-based Initiative confuses spiritual counseling with addiction treatment. It undermines program licensure and professional credentialing standards that are necessary for the safe and effective treatment of addiction. And it will set-up unfair competition among publicly funded addiction and mental health programs who need to meet program licensure and staff credential zing and faith-based organizations that do not. This could lead to a dramatic shift of funding from licensed addiction programs staffed by properly credentialed professional treatment personnel to faith-based organization staffed by religiously trained workers operating under no quality standards or oversight.
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times reported on the growing public opposition from other constituencies. She reported that on April 12, 2001 the opposition to the White House Faith-based Initiative increased as several major labor unions joined the opposition. Legislation to enact the Faith-based Initiative has already been introduced in the House and Senate with hearings scheduled for late April 2001.
The new groups standing in opposition to the Faith-based Initiatives are:
1. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Their position is that the legislation will create unnecessary and unfair competition among religious, nonprofit, and public agencies and will force the government choose among religions giving some religions priority or preferential treatment over others.
2. The Coalition Against Religious Discrimination: This coalition includes religious and civil rights groups, educational groups like the American Association of University Women and unions like the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association. Their position is that it is unfair to allow faith-based religious groups to be exempt from non-discriminatory hiring practices by allowing them to hire only employees who share their religious faith.
3. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell publicly criticized the initiative as a possible source of taxpayer financing for religious groups outside the mainstream.
4. Christian conservatives expressed concern to the remarks of John J. DiIulio Jr., director of the White House Office on Faith- Based and Community Initiatives, which indicated that overtly evangelical social service programs would most likely not be eligible for direct government grants, but only for vouchers.
There was also a show of support for the Faith-based Initiatives when Mr. DiIulio accepted a statement of principles signed by representatives of 36 groups calling themselves the Coalition for Compassion from conservative leaders at a Washington news conference. The statement largely supported the principles set by the Bush initiative. The signers of the statement included the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Conservative Union, the Eagle Forum and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the evangelical World magazine.
The Leadership of the Combined Addiction and Mental Health Fields need to get actively and publicly involved. I hope this will happen soon.