ACU's McCaleb briefed on faith-based plan


Thursday, June 28, 2001

By Tracy Kershaw
Reporter-News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Touting his faith-based initiatives plan Wednesday, President Bush met with more than 100 Christian college and university leaders at the White House, including Abilene Christian University Vice President Gary McCaleb.

The White House-backed initiative would remove legal barriers that keep faith-based groups from getting government funding for social programs.

The administrators, all members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, did not formally endorse plan, but the mood was receptive, McCaleb said.

"You could sense a very positive tone in the room," he said.

Bush spoke for about 15 minutes, giving a basic overview of the plan.

"It was more a contextual briefing than it was getting down to details," McCaleb said.

But the details are consuming legislators and First Amendment activists on Capitol Hill, where the bill faces heavy opposition from Democrats and some Republicans. Critics on the left fear the plan will blur the separation of church and state. Some in the faith community worry that federal dollars will compromise their religious mission.

"I think separation of church and state is about not having a government-sponsored religion," McCaleb said. "I don't think it is to say that there should be no recognition or opportunities for faith to grow and churches to be involved in their communities."

ACU officials have not discussed applying for funds if the initiative is enacted, McCaleb said.

ACU students already volunteer with social programs, such as Habitat for Humanity. Communities need their faith-based groups to get involved with social services, McCaleb said.

"In cities all across America, there are hungry and homeless and children who are suffering, and the basic need there is just to try to provide a better overall network of trying to reach those people and help them," he said.

On Monday, Bush promoted the plan to the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Detroit, assuring the mayors that "the money will be spent on social services, not worship services."  

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