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Texas Freedom Network Calls for Strong Oversight, Accountability Measures in Expansion of Faith-Based Initiative in State

Legislature Should Add Key Safeguards for Religious Freedom

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2007

Proposed legislation that could significantly expand faith-based health and human services in Texas must include strong state oversight and accountability measures, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network told the House Public Health Committee today.

“Accountability and oversight are just common-sense safeguards,” said Ryan Valentine, the Faith Network director of the Texas Freedom Network. “Those safeguards are good for taxpayers, state agencies and, frankly, for faith-based charities and individuals who rely on the services provided by those charities.”

Valentine spoke at a public hearing on House Bill 289 by state Rep. Dianne Delisi, R-Temple, chairwoman of the House Public Health Committee. The bill would, among other things, establish a Renewing Our Communities account in the Health and Human Services Commission. The account would be available for funding faith-based service providers.

Various reports have revealed serious problems with the faith-based initiative at the state and federal level. A report in 2002 from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund found faith-based programs in Texas were prone to favoritism, misused public funds for religious purposes and discriminated against or even endangered the people they were supposed to serve. The report is available at www.tfn.org/religiousfreedom/faithbased/.

Last year the U.S. General Accounting Office raised serious concerns about oversight and accountability regarding federal faith-based programs. Also in 2006, a Washington Post study revealed that the Bush administration had used faith-based programs to funnel $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies of the administration.

The Texas Freedom Network has called for adding three important safeguards to H.B. 289 to avoid such problems with the Renewing Our Communities account:

  • Ensure that administration of the account is subject to state laws on open records and open meetings.
  • Require H.H.S.C. to report biennially on funding awarded through the account, including a breakdown of grantees and the purposes of awarded funding.
  • Require H.H.S.C. to cooperate with the Comptroller of Public Accounts in conducting biennial reviews of the account to ensure grants are awarded in a nonbiased fashion and are satisfying the purposes established by H.B. 289 for such funding.

The Public Health Committee took no formal action on H.B. 289 today.

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

 

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