Robertson's Operation Blessing Receives $500,000 Federal Grant

Associated Press, 10/3/2002

A charity founded by Pat Robertson is to receive $500,000 in the first wave of grants under President Bush's "faith-based initiative," which the religious broadcaster had criticized.

The money for Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing International was among $25 million in Compassion Capital Fund grants that were announced Thursday for 21 groups, including several that are deeply religious in nature as well as traditional social service providers.

The grants are the first tangible result of the "faith-based initiative," which stalled in Congress amid debate over how religious programs can get government money without running afoul of the constitutional separation of church and state. In March, Robertson said on his "700 Club" television show that the program to give federal money to religious organizations that provide social services was a "Pandora's box" that could make legitimate religious charities dependent on government and finance cults that "brainwash" prospective adherents.

Robertson said the groups getting funds "will begin to be nurtured, if I can use that term, on federal money, and then they can't get off of it," according to The Washington Post. He added, "It'll be like a narcotic; they can't then free themselves later on…"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, issued a statement Thursday saying Robertson should not receive the grant because of comments he has made about Islam.

For example, in 1997, Muslim leaders demanded that Robertson apologize for saying on his program that converting to Islam "is nothing short of insanity" because it is the religion of those who sold Africans into slavery. A spokeswoman said at the time that Robertson's remarks were taken out of context.

"Anyone who exhibits such bigoted views is unworthy to receive taxpayer dollars," CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said. "Mr. Robertson should be repudiated, not rewarded, for his Islamophobic hate speech…"

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