DALLAS – In a speech replete with references to "miracles" and a "higher power bigger than people's problems," President Bush (search) on Wednesday renewed his push to let religious groups compete for government money.
"The best way to help the addict ... is to change their heart," Bush said in a reference to how he stopped drinking at age 40. "See, if you change their heart, then they change their behavior.
"I know!" Bush said, thrusting a finger into the air.
Bush spoke to a packed auditorium at the Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship (search) here where several halked in.
There to dedicate a new youth education center for Operation Turnaround, a job, literacy and social services program, Bush called for legislation that would give religious groups access to federal funds as long as their services are available to anyone.
When Bush's faith-based initiative (search) stalled in Congress, Bush began sidestepping lawmakers with executive orders and regulations to give religious organizations equal footing in competing for federal contracts.
"We don't want the church to be the state and we don't want the state to be the church," Bush said. "But the government should support the good work of religious people who are changing America."
Opponents worry that government would wind up paying for religion.
"Bush's faith-based initiative would inevitably entangle government with religion," said Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
La Fayette Holland, the congregation's director of Project Turnaround, said that while he agrees with the philosophy of Bush's faith-based initiative, if the federal money came with restrictions that violated the congregation's strategy of helping individuals from the "inside out," it would likely decline it.
"We need to wait and see," Holland said. "So much of what we do is based on a biblical program. We just don't want to help an individual on this side of the Earth; we want to help them throughout all eternity. On this campus, we will share our faith."
About 50 people lined the street in a south Dallas neighborhood where Bush spoke to protest the war in Iraq, Bush's stance on education and health care and what they said was his neglect of the black community. One carried a sign that read: "Who would Jesus bomb?"
Bush flew to Dallas after a White House event where he underscored his support for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. He plans to stay to stay at his ranch through the weekend, leaving from there to attend events in four states.
On Thursday, Bush is to talk about energy and attend two fund-raisers in Columbus, Ohio, and another money-raiser in San Antonio. On Saturday, he is to make two stops in Mississippi and two in Kentucky to support Republican gubernatorial candidates facing voters there next Tuesday. Before returning to Washington on Monday, Bush stops in Birmingham, Ala., to raise more money for his campaign.