WASHINGTON (ABP) — In what many view as the unofficial kick-off of his 2004 re-election campaign, President Bush will speak to the issue of marriage as well as his attempts to fund social work through religious charities during tonight's State of the Union speech.
According to a senior administration official, Bush's speech will focus mainly on the president's domestic agenda, including two new proposals involving the White House's so-called “faith-based initiative.”
“Tonight, he will offer two very specific and new plans” involving the use of religious organizations to perform government-funded social work, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, the official declined to provide details about the proposals, noting that one is a “legislative issue” and the other involves “appropriations.”
The official noted that Bush has mentioned the initiative in previous State of the Union addresses. Last year, the president announced a proposal to open federal drug-treatment funds to religious groups. However, that legislation — like many of Bush's faith-based proposals — was stymied in Congress.
The official said tonight's announcement “will be a new initiative along those lines” and also would involve an announcement about “protecting the rights of religious charities.”
One of the most controversial aspects of the issue has been the White House's insistence on allowing religious groups receiving government funds to retain their rights to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion or ideology.
The official also said Bush would address the hot-button topic of the sanctity of marriage. However, he reportedly will stop short of saying whether he will cast his full support behind the Federal Marriage Amendment. That legislation, currently making its way through Congress, would ban same-sex marriage nationwide.
Many of Bush's most conservative supporters have been urging him to say that he supports the amendment. However, the White House has declined thus far to provide unequivocal support.
A complete report of the State of the Union address will be issued by Associated Baptist Press.