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Special Event

Bush Touts Plan To Fund 'Faith-Based' Charities

Aired January 30, 2001 - 1:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, for a second day, President Bush is preaching the virtues of so-called "faith-based" social work.

Mr. Bush is visiting a school in Washington, which describes itself as an afterschool family and child support center, providing a safe haven for vulnerable children and youth. It was founded in 1990 by a retired police officer. And it relies primarily on private donations.

Under the plan Mr. Bush is sending to Congress today, programs like this could compete with government and private secular programs for taxpayer funding.

So we will listen in to the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (JOINED IN PROGRESS) ... working with Republicans and Democrats and people who don't really care about political parties to revitalize neighborhoods and places where hope may have been lost by rallying faith-based organizations.

And so, John, I'm so honored that you've sacrificed for the country.

It's good to see Steve Goldsmith here, who is a partner as well.

A little over a week ago, a few miles from here, I was honored to be inaugurated your president. I'm here today to repeat the promise I made on the steps of the Capitol: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity.

I'm going to need some help to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

And so I'm so honored four members of the United States Congress are here. Senator Joe Lieberman from the great state of Connecticut.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania.

(APPLAUSE)

Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana.

(APPLAUSE)

Congressman Tony Hall of Ohio.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm also pleased that two members of my Cabinet came: one, Mel Martinez, secretary of housing and urban development; and finally, Rod Paige, a fellow Texan, who is now the secretary of education.

(APPLAUSE)

The Fishing School obviously attracts people who seek excellence. And all of us up here, regardless of our political party, love to herald excellence. And we love to stand next to people who've got vision and good intentions and a good heart. And that's Tom Lewis (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

This little haven is a refuge from violence and addiction and abuse. Children find learning and care. But most important, they find something that we can never pass legislation to achieve, and that's love. They find love. They find an adult saying, "Somebody cares about you. Somebody loves you. Somebody wants to help you."

Tom knows what we all know, that through loving children, you find deep fulfillment in your own heart. And you can just see it on his face, and you can hear it in his voice.

As a candidate for president, I had the privilege of visiting a lot of churches and synagogues and charitable groups all across the country, groups that offer food and shelter, hope and dignity. I've seen how effective and committed these groups are at saving and changing lives.

As president, I'm resolved to put government on your side, Tom, on the side of the committed and the caring and the compassionate.

There are so many people in need. The good news about America is there are so many willing to serve. It's the great strength of our nation. There is no limit to the talent and energy and compassion of this great land.

But sometimes the need is too great, and the resources are too limited.

And all of us, as private citizens and public officials, should help where we can.

Today, I'm sending to Congress a set of ideas and proposals that mark a hopeful new direction for our government. We will encourage community and faith-based programs without changing their mission. We will eliminate barriers to charitable works wherever they exist. And we will encourage charitable giving wherever we can. I'm open to any good ideas that will come from the Congress, and I can assure these four good members of Congress will have some good ideas.

(LAUGHTER)

And they're probably not going to be afraid to tell me either.

(LAUGHTER)

But here are some of my proposals: I want to fully open up the federal after-school programs, called 21st Century Learning Centers, to all after-school programs, including faith-based groups.

(APPLAUSE)

I propose to create a compassionate capital fund, which will provide start-up funds for promising new programs serving people in need. We'll make sure that funding is available to faith-based programs on an equal basis with nonreligious alternatives.

Government, of course, cannot fund and will not fund religious activities. But when people of faith provide social services, we will not discriminate against them.

(APPLAUSE)

I propose to encourage mentoring programs for children of prisoners...

(APPLAUSE)

... as well as programs that, when possible, help to mend broken families.

The change we seek won't come all at once, by any act of Congress or any executive orders signed by the president. Real change happens street by street, heart by heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. It happens in places like this one, the Fishing School.

Yet, I hope that good policies can expand and multiply these efforts, uplifting lives all across America.

You know, those of us in public life oftentimes are honored to be able to see the best of America, to be able to find the true strength, the true heart of the country. I believe the true heart of the country can be defined here at the Fishing School -- an idea started because somebody said, "What can I do? How can I hear the universal call to love a neighbor just like I'd like to be loved myself." In this case, the person I call a social entrepreneur, and this is a country of social entrepreneurs.

And our job, regardless of our political party, is to recognize the strength of the country, to nourish it and feed it within the Constitution, in the bounds of the Constitution, and to herald success when we find it. And today, all of us are honored to be here to herald success because we have found it right here.

God bless Tom. God bless your program.

(APPLAUSE)

ALLEN: President Bush announcing a major expansion of charitable choice which has been limited to welfare, drug treatment and community development programs. This proposal by Mr. Bush that he is sending to Congress today would open all federal grant programs to religious groups.

This plan is expected to sail through the House. However, there are those worried about breaching the wall between church and state. But one of the men, who will run the office that will distribute funds if this is approved, says, this organization can fund the soup; it can fund the shelter; it should not fund the bibles. That's from a former mayor, who will be working on the agency that will oversee, as I said, giving out this money.

Civil liberty, civil rights groups, however, have plotted a strategy to fight this. And they vowed a court challenge, if they lose.

So we will continue to follow it.

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