June 1, 2004 -- President Bush signed an executive order creating three new federal centers for faith-based initiatives on Tuesday. The Small Business Administration is among the government agencies gaining a center.
The initiative is intended to help religious groups compete for government funding for the social services they provide.
"Government can't spend money on religious programs simply because there's a rabbi on the board, cross on the wall or crescent on the door," said Bush, as he addressed the first annual White House Faith-Based Initiatives Conference in Washington, D.C. "I view this as not only bad social policy...I viewed it as discrimination. And we needed to change it."
The initiative is meant to help religious groups compete for government funding for the social services they provide. The SBA, according to spokesman Kevin Washington, is not aware of specific obstacles faith-based groups encounter in the agency's framework, but a broader analysis will be done to identify any.
"As the initiative relates to the SBA," said Washington, "we'll have specific points of contact for members of the faith-based community."
The executive order makes no mention of how the center will be funded, only that the already cash-strapped SBA is responsible for staffing and providing administrative support.
The other agencies that will establish centers are the Department of Commerce and the Deparment of Veterans Affairs, joining the seven others already created under the initiative since its declaration in January 2001.
The agencies have 45 days to open the centers.