Just two days after the AP reported on the first-ever tally of faith-based federal funding — over $1.17 billion in 2003 alone, including a number of grants to groups that don’t consider themselves religious at all — comes another AP story, reporting on President Bush’s intention to persuade states to channel more federal funds to “faith-based organizations.” Jim Towey, the director of the White House’s Faith-Based and Community Initiatives said the $1.17 billion wasn’t enough, and that as states distribute an additional $40 billion in federal money, they need to understand that theycan now fund religious groups too. But lest you think this is all about state choice, Towey also said his office would be monitoring cases where the administration believes that state or local governments are discriminating against religious organizations by keeping the federal money from them, such as a case in Wisconsin this fall, when a city council heard arguments from Americans United for Separation of Church and State opposing a quarter-million dollar grant to a Salvation Army homeless shelter that would also be used for worship activities. Hearing the opposition arguments, apparently, was “unfair” to the faith-based organization. There’s a story in these two reports, but if we’re not yet sure what it is, it could start with these questions: Why were social service organizations that were always qualified to receive federal aid (like those that distribute HUD funds) given the “faith-based” designation? And at what point does making sure a state understands its options become coercion?