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ADL Letter to President Bush

  January 29, 2001
Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush:

We write in response to your administration's initiative to expand government funding to faith-based organizations.

We share your appreciation for the vital role religious institutions have historically played in addressing many of our nation's most pressing social needs, as a critical complement to government-funded programs.

For decades, government-funded partnerships with religiously-affiliated organizations -- such as Catholic Charities, Jewish Community Federations, and Lutheran Social Services -- have helped to combat poverty and provided housing, education, and health care services for those in need. These successful partnerships have provided excellent service to communities largely unburdened by concerns over bureaucratic entanglements between government and religion. Indeed, safeguards have protected beneficiaries from unwanted and unconstitutional proselytizing during the receipt of government-funded services. They have also protected the integrity and sanctity of America’s religious institutions whose traditional independence from government has contributed to the flourishing of religion in our country.

We strongly believe that every component of your initiative must maintain essential constitutional safeguards for protecting both religious organizations and beneficiaries. Past experience with government and religiously-affiliated organizations working as partners has demonstrated well that these necessary safeguards do not interfere with these organizations' ability to provide excellent service to our country’s most needy citizens.

These safeguards should:

  • Ensure that no program beneficiary is subjected to unwanted and unconstitutional proselytizing when he or she receives government-funded social services,
  • Ensure that taxpayer money does not fund religious discrimination in the hiring and firing of people who will deliver the services,
  • Ensure that secular alternatives to religiously provided services are readily available, and that those who prefer secular alternatives are made aware of them and have realistic and convenient access to them,
  • Ensure the development of proper firewalls between government-funded services and the core religious activities of a religious organization, so that taxpayer dollars are not channeled into other religious activities of sectarian organizations (as a practical matter, this can best be implemented through religious organizations’ establishment of a separate corporate structure which would distinguish a sectarian religious entity from its government-funded social welfare organization),
  • Ensure that program recipients comply with all requirements and restrictions imposed upon all government-funded activity by the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and
  • Ensure that extremist, terrorist or hatemongering groups are not able to receive government money.

We applaud your administration's commitment to expanding the government's commitment to the most needy Americans and look forward to working closely with you to ensure that federally-funded faith-based initiatives maintain necessary constitutional safeguards in the delivery of these essential services.


Glen A Tobias
National Chairman
Abraham H. Foxman
National Director

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