Bush calls for ‘Army of Compassion’

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PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH and Sen. Joseph Leiberman join other visiting Senators to discuss Armies of Compassion, a faith-based initiative from the United States Senate, in the Oval Office February 7, 2002. White House photo by Tina Hager

In a recent gathering with senators at the White House, President George Bush unveiled new compromise legislation that gives religious groups a larger role–and more federal aid–in providing social services.

Originally dubbed “the Faith-Based Initiative,” the program is now called “the Armies of Compassion Initiative.”

“The legislation will not only provide a way for government to encourage faith-based programs to exist without breaching the separation of church and state, it will also encourage charitable giving as well,” said Bush in remarks after the meeting.

The new bill recognizes the positive role that religion can play in delivering social service programs and offers tax incentives to those donating to faith-based and charitable organizations. One of the key elements of the initiative allows people who do not itemize deductions on their income tax returns to deduct up to $400 in charitable contributions for individuals and up to $800 for couples.

Instead of being open-ended, most of its provisions will have a two-year life unless renewed.

Senator Joseph Leiberman remarked “If you qualify otherwise, you can’t be discriminated against in applying for a grant to do social service work, if you have a cross on the wall or a mezuzah on the door, or if you praise God in your mission statement­and that’s the way it ought to be.”

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