BUSH asks public in radio address to urge senators to pass religious charity legislation

Saturday, August 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) _ President Bush called on the public Saturday to press their senators to vote to open government programs to religious-sponsored charities.

``Faith-based and community groups cannot replace the work of government, but with government's help they can serve many more people,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address. ``My administration is committed to providing that help.''

He noted that the House has already passed the necessary legislation, and he called on the Senate to do likewise as soon as it returns after Labor Day from its summer recess.

The measure has attracted little Democratic support. No legislation has been introduced in the Senate, where Democrats are in control.

Bush said the program can help broaden government programs intended to encourage home ownership among low-income people, and provide an array of social services, including shelters for battered women and children, pregnancy centers, drug addiction treatment programs, and care for the homeless.

``If you agree, let your senator know if you see him or her during the congressional recess,'' the president said.

He made no mention of Friday's resignation of John DiIulio as leader of his effort to steer legislation through Congress to open 10 government programs to participation by churches, synagogues and other religious groups.

DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said he was leaving for health and personal reasons.

He said he had always intended to assess his position after six months. He also indicated, however, that he had become frustrated at internal White House politics on the often controversial issue and worn down by critics from conservative as well as liberal groups.

``Things that should be bipartisan can turn partisan,'' said DiIulio, a Democrat on leave from the University of Pennsylvania faculty. ``Things that should bring people together divide them. The good news is that leadership ultimately trumps that.''

In his radio address, Bush attempted to provide such leadership as he made the case for one of his signature programs.

``The groups behind these caring efforts have advantages government social programs often can't match _ the idealism of volunteers and intimate knowledge of the communities they serve, and values stronger than the problems they face,'' he said.