In Brief

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Interfaith leaders have called for President Bush to close the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives a week after the resignation of the office's director.

"The so-called faith-based initiative was a bad idea as a campaign promise in 1999, and it's even a worse idea today after we have seen the bureaucratic and political realities growing out of this initiative," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, speaking to reporters Wednesday in an audio news conference hosted by his Washington-based organization.

"The faith-based initiative turns houses of worship who receive its funds into contract employees of the federal government," Gaddy said.

H. James Towey, the director of the office since 2002, announced his resignation April 18. He will leave by June 2 to become president of Saint Vincent College, a Catholic school in Latrobe, Pa.

Shortly after his announcement, Towey predicted that the White House office would stay open, despite the hopes of its critics, which he described as "wishful thinking."

"The reality is this initiative has taken root in America and will carry on after the president leaves office," Towey said.

Opponents of the office are concerned about the connections it might foster between church and state. They say the office has sapped some religious groups' ability to speak out against the government.

"If you're bound to the government, it's very, very difficult to have that kind of prophetic voice," said the Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, senior adviser to the Interfaith Alliance board of directors and a retired Episcopal bishop of Washington.

-- Religion News Service

Bishop Says Condom Use Ethical in AIDS Fight

Welcoming news that the Vatican is studying the issue of condom use by those with HIV, a South African bishop fighting the pandemic said Tuesday that the church must look beyond its teaching on sexual conduct to regard condom use as an "ethical imperative."

Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, in a conference call from an AIDS-prevention meeting in Washington, expressed hope that the study will relax the Vatican's 1968 ban on condoms rather than reinforce it.

"It would in fact be an ethical imperative to use condoms in order to preserve and protect life. That's what I hope will come out," Dowling said.

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