When President George Bush gave his State of the Union address Tuesday it was reported (“Bush Touts Religion-Based Drug Treatment,” Associated Press, January 29, 2003 by Laura Meckler) that Henry Lozano of Teen Challenge in California, was sitting with the first lady throughout the presentation.

Bush pushed the idea of funding faith-based drug rehab programs with federal money.

But would it be appropriate to include Teen Challenge within such a scheme?

According to Teen Challenge literature its entire approach can be summarized as “Basic Confrontational Evangelism.” And the organization has stated specifically, “The only cure for . . . drug abuse, is Jesus Christ.”

The Teen Challenge program is essentially religious training and indoctrination.

There is nothing wrong with including faith as a meaningful component when confronting drug abuse. And such approaches can be successful.

But should federal money be used to pay for a sectarian cure? This would certainly seem to set a troubling precedent.

Before televangelist Pat Robertson received $500,000 for a pet program through Bush faith-based funding, he pointedly objected to the president’s project.

Robertson previously said such grants would be like opening “Pandora’s Box.” And that once opened would not easily be shut.

How can the federal government decide which theologically based cures should be funded?

Would Scientology’s Narconon drug rehab receive federal money? What about Krishna? They might have a substance abuse solution based upon chanting? Maybe the Raelians have some special cure coming from outer space?

Will the government now be in the business of judging which religion works best?


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