WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 1, 2001 (Zenit.org).- President George W. Bush told lawmakers, foreign heads of state and spiritual leaders at a prayer session today that government should not be a barrier to religious groups helping the needy, the Associated Press reported.
“Faith crosses every border and touches every heart in every nation,´´ AP quoted him saying.
Addressing the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering traditionally attended by presidents, Bush promoted a series of initiatives allowing religious institutions to compete for a share of social-services money that the government distributes, AP said. Bush also has proposed tax breaks to encourage charitable giving.
“Government cannot be replaced by charity, but it can welcome them as partners instead of resenting them as rivals,´´ he said. The Republican president said religious faith is deeply ingrained in America. “Our country has recognized the contribution of faith. We do not impose any religion. We welcome all religions. We do not prescribe prayer. We welcome all prayer. This has been the tradition of our nation and it will be the standard of my administration.´´
Critics say his religion-based initiatives could blur the lines separating church and state — a point denied by Bush. “An American president serves people of every faith and serves some with no faith at all. Yet I have found that my faith helps me in the service of people,´´ said Bush, a Methodist and regular churchgoer.