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Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press

Tuesday May 8, 2001
Church & State?
America was founded with the idea of preventing
religion from interfering in public policy.
By Amy Williams, Staff Writer

    CLOVIS - - An extensive Pew Research opinion poll of public response to a White House initiative to channel more government financing to religious social services surveyed 2,041 adults last month. The findings suggest that Americans do favor the principle behind President George W. Bush's exploration of the idea.
    Interestingly, about three of four of those asked, said they were in favor. And three of four respondents said that churches and other houses of worship contributed to solving social problems.
     In contrast, about an equal percent of respondents said they would be opposed if the religious groups that received government money were allowed to hire only people of the same faith.
     Under a hiring law passed in 1996, a similar Charitable Choice provision in the welfare reform legislation permits such hiring and firing. Majorities of those surveyed were also opposed to giving government money to, nonwestern or new-age religions.
     In the new Pew poll, only four out of ten respondents favored allowing Muslim mosques to apply for government funds, the same percentage that approved of letting Buddhist temples apply.
     Only three out of ten approved of the Nation of Islam's applying for government money, and twenty-six percent for the Church of Scientology. Even evangelical Christian churches had only a slim majority in favor, abou fifty percent, barely surpassing the Mormon churches, which drew the support of fivre out of ten.
     President Bush has said his proposal is open to all faiths, proclaiming at a prayer breakfast, "We welcome all religion." He has said government contracts and money would be awarded to social service programs on the basis of proven results, not creed.
     It has been Mr. Bush's stand that religious programs will not be required to omit their religious components and teachings to receive government money. He wants to fund drug recovery programs that include prayer and Bible study, as long as the government money did not directly pay for the Bibles.
     But among those polled, six our of ten said they were concerned that religious social-service programs would force the people they serve to participate in religious practices. And seven out of ten said they were concerned that government would interfere with religious groups that accepted government money. "
     Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, told reporters, "People like the concept, but when you question them about the specifics, there are lots of reservations they have that will have to be addressed if there is to be public support for this initiative."

       [Editor's Note: This issue has been around since the early Christian era. It is the relationship between the religion or religions of a nation and the civil government of that nation, especially the relationship between the Christian church and various civil governments. There have been several phases in the relationship between the Christian church and the state. The uncompromising refusal of the early Christians to accord divine honors to the Roman emperor was the chief cause of the imperial persecutions of the church in Roman times. After Constantine gave it official status, the church at first remained fairly autonomous, but during the 4th Century the emperor began to figure increasingly in religious affairs. In the American Colonial period, the Church of England played an oppressive role as an instrument of government.]     

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