20 Feb 2001

boobookittyone@webtv.net (Tigger)

Excerpted from the Ney York Times, 20. Feb, 2001,

'Bush's Call to Church Groups Attracts the Untraditional'

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 13 =97 After eight years in prison, Joseph Fabio now lives in a halfway house ... where counselors have helped him steer clear of drugs ... and contain the uncontrollable anger that earned him a murder sentence at age 18.

His three months in the program have been "a blessing," hesaid his only complaint was that for some reason the kitchen served nothing but vegetarian food. When he was told that the cuisine was restricted because this halfway house was affiliated with the Hare Krishnas, Mr. Fabio looked as if he had been ambushed by "Candid Camera." For almost 20 years, Hare Krishna devotees in Philadelphia have received millions of dollars in government contracts to run a network of services, including a shelter for homeless veterans, transitional homes for recovering addicts and this halfway house for parolees.

The unusual collaboration between government agencies and a religious group that depicts God as a baby-faced boy with blue skin offers a glimpse of the challenges ahead for President Bush's initiative to expand government support for social service programs run by religious organizations.

Mr. Bush's new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives officially opens for business on Feb. 20. The president says religious programs will be judged not on their beliefs but on the results of their work.

=A0"We do not impose any religion," Mr. Bush said at a prayer breakfast on Feb. 1. "We welcome all religion." The president's assertion may be questioned in the coming days. While established charitable programs, like those run by Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army, are expected to have little trouble winning further government support, it is the smaller programs run by less traditional faiths that are likely to test the president's promise to avoid discriminating on the basis of belief, and the public's acceptance of his approach.

=A0Now, members of a wide variety of religious groups, some once considered far outside the mainstream, are busy preparing proposals for government financing to support the kinds of programs that Mr. Bush has said he will make his focus: literacy, sexual abstinence and substance abuse. The Church of Scientology plans to seek support for its drug rehabilitation and literacy programs.

Mr. Bush's effort could provoke new questions about what constitutes a legitimate religion. One definition of religion likely to be applied grows out of the Supreme Court's ruling in a 1965 case involving draft exemptions. In that case, the court defined religion as "a sincere and meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified for the exemption." By any measure, the definition is broad.

=A0"One of the big issues that people haven't talked about much is that some very controversial religions could get active in this," said Philip Jenkins, the author of "Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American history"(Oxford University Press, 2000), and a professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University.

"Running a faith-based program raises the question, what faiths are out of bounds?" Mr. Jenkins said. "Either you fund all faith groups, even groups you radically don't like, or you fund none. I have nothing against funding everybody, but I think people need to be prepared for the issues that might arise. How do you distinguish between a Methodist and a Moonie? The answer is, you can't."

There are a few clues so far to how the Bush administration will look on proposals from less traditional religious groups. In an interview with The New York Times during the campaign, Mr. Bush was asked if, for example, he would approve of government financing for a Church of Scientology antidrug program. He answered: "I have a problem with the teachings of Scientology being viewed on the same par as Judaism or Christianity. That just happens to be a personal point of view. But I am interested in results. I am not focused on the process."

For its part, the Church of Scientology, founded as Dianetics in the 1950's by the science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, claims it can document the effectiveness of its literacy programs and its drug and prisoner rehabilitation programs, Narconon and Criminon. In Oklahoma, the church receives state money to treat drug addicts at Narconon Chilocco, a Scientology rehabilitation center, said Kurt Weiland, director of the Church of Scientology International. =A0=A0"In Scientology, we believe in past lives and future lives," Mr. Weiland said, adding that the church's programs are open to people of all beliefs. "Nobody who does anything in drug rehabilitation or in literacy programs has to formulate that belief in order to go through the program."

NY Times, 20. Feb 2001 -- 'Bush's Call to Church Groups Attracts the Untraditional'


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