Obama’s Faith-Based Initiatives: A Dissent

Yesterday Senator Obama delivered a bold address in which he spoke of establishing a “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” … Continued

Yesterday Senator Obama delivered a bold address in which he spoke of establishing a “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” This endeavor, he emphasized, “will be a critical part of my administration.”

I am not a legal scholar, but a mere biblical exegete. This disqualifies me from commenting authoritatively or even insightfully on the legality of this proposal–a proposal made by a politician who, incidentally, knows his constitutional law.

Still, Obama’s plan strikes me as deeply problematic on both theoretical and practical grounds. Those who may be familiar with my work know that I have been very critical of Old School Secular Liberalism, seeing it as out of ideas and energy. But what I am about to say is going to make me sound so Old School Secular Liberal.

So be it.

“Excessive entanglement”—The idea that the Constitution prohibits “excessive government entanglement” with religion emerged most noticeably from the United States Supreme Court’s 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman decision. This ruling has been the scourge of religious conservatives who wish to see religion play a greater role in the public square.

I too, admittedly, have often found the logic of Lemon to be a bit baffling. But assuming that Obama does not wish to alter any existing laws to put his program through, I can’t see how he doesn’t run afoul of Lemon. In Obama’s own words:

I will empower the nonprofit religious and community groups that do understand how this process works to train the thousands of groups that don’t. We’ll “train the trainers” by giving larger faith-based partners like Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services and secular nonprofits like Public/Private Ventures the support they need to help other groups build and run effective programs. Every house of worship that wants to run an effective program and that’s willing to abide by our constitution – from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques – can and will have access to the information and support they need to run that program.

But how will the federal government not entangle itself with religion by following these protocols? It will be training trainers to subsequently train representatives of, presumably, every religious group in America (“from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques”) to submit proposals for federal funding for faith-based outreach that will be, in turn, vetted by the federal government?

Obama’s plan doesn’t merely entangle the government and religion, it sets the two into a lengthy, complex, and costly bureaucratic symbiosis in which each serves as the other’s “enabler.” What the government can’t (or won’t) fix, it will delegate to a Church. The funding that a Church lacks to fix what it (and it alone) wants to fix, it will seek from the government.

Religion or Religions? One could counter that as long as the government excessively entangles itself in a way that neither “advances” nor “inhibits” (to invoke Lemon) any one religious group then no constitutional provisions are violated. As long as it treats all religion equally, it can excessively entangle itself as much as it wants.

Fair enough. But here we get to a problem with very the language of faith-based initiatives: they assume the existence of an abstract entity known as “religion” when in reality our government must deal with particular religions.

And religions, strange as it may sound, are actually very different from one another. This is where the idea of the government treating all groups the same becomes unmanageable. Put simply, some religious groups adhere to beliefs that will disqualify them from President Obama’s ecumenical largesse.

Here is one scenario. In his speech Obama laid down this groundrule: “if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.”

But what to do with religious groups for whom proselytizing is part and parcel of their theological mission and self-understanding? I know of, for example, more than a few types of Evangelicals who believe it is of the utmost importance that they devote their lives to bringing people to Christ. (And remind me to tell you one day of the Jews from the Chabad movement who once booted-up and invaded a soccer field I was playing on, running alongside the perplexed footballers asking each one “Are you Jewish?”).

Certain religious groups in the United States are unabashedly focussed on converting others–it’s part of their faith. When the federal government stipulates that it will withhold funding from a group that proselytizes–as indicated by Obama’s ground rules above– is it not, ironically, discriminating against that group on the basis of its religion?

Too, the government ought be very suspicious of a missionizing group that takes the funding and swears to lay off the soul-saving. It will need to devote resources to make sure that this never happens–something that will require surveillance and monitoring and like, you know, entanglement.

That’s enough from Professor B’s Catalogue of Potential First Amendment Litigation Disasters. The broader point I am making is that the diversity and particularity of religious groups in America makes it very hard (and labor intensive) for the government to treat them all equally—a state of affairs which validates the Founders’ good sense to keep Church and State separate.

I will follow up on this issue in the coming weeks. In the meantime the reader might consider picking up former Bush staffer David Kuo’s Tempting Faith—a cautionary tale about faith-based initiatives. I hope folks in the Obama camp have taken the time to look it over.

For more information about religion and the candidates check out Faith 2008 by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

By Jacques Berlinerblau | 
July 2, 2008; 12:12 AM ET


Save & Share: 

 


 

<!–Twitter
 –>

 


 


 


 


 


 

Previous: Faith and Values 2008: Q2 Report |

Next: Headscarves and Skullcaps

<!–
Main Index –>

  • TJ

    This bit of pandering, or idiocy, or whatever it is has turned me off completely. Not that it actually matters, but he just lost a vote.

  • Athena

    I look forward to the day that a Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Scientologist, or other non-traditional religion tries to get a program funded under this new plan. We non-Judeo-Christians will be watching closely to see what happens.

  • lassair

    Thank you for writing this article. Mr. Obama should not become President, period.

  • Steven

    TJ,Athena:

  • AnneS

    Policy issues aside, the plan as outlined doesn’t present an entanglement problem. Faith based organizations already have access to government money on the same basis as other nonprofits – hence the reference to Catholic Charities, etc. Obama seems to be proposing a capacity building network that will reach out to both new and/or inexperienced secular nonprofits and religious nonprofits to help them successfully apply for and manage government grants to provide secular social services.

  • AnneS

    Policy issues aside, the plan as outlined doesn’t present an entanglement problem. Faith based organizations already have access to government money on the same basis as other nonprofits – hence the reference to Catholic Charities, etc. Obama seems to be proposing a capacity building network that will reach out to both new and/or inexperienced secular nonprofits and religious nonprofits to help them successfully apply for and manage government grants to provide secular social services. Although for political reasons (Obama, a regular politician? Say it ain’t so!), Obama’s rhetoric emphasizes the religious organizations’ participation, the equal access that his proposal apparently entails will keep it out of the excessive entanglement territory, at least in the abstract. Of course, who knows what he actually means, Obama being as notoriously hard to pin down to anything as he is. The real problem is going to be what to do with the churches who just can’t understand why they can’t condition provision of social services on sitting through a sermon. But as long as we’re floating in the world of lofty rhetoric, let’s just pretend that none of the actual experience to date happened.

  • dcp

    Is Obama stupid or what? I didn’t even read the whole article, just the first paragraph. Is Obama intentionally trying to p*ss off his liberal base by reminding them of Bush as he recycles the phrase “faith-based?” I’m not even for Obama, but anyone can see this is a bad strategy. The conservatives are not going to vote for him anyway. Does he really think he can do what George Bush did? Bush ran from the right. Obama is just being an airhead right now.

  • Amy

    Obama’s personal experience with his Chicago church is supposedly the inspiration for this, but this also smacks of pandering. Why not have a “Charities Initiative” that’s open to religious groups that won’t prosletyze, instead of a faith-based initiative? Because that won’t get him any fundy votes. The extreme religiosity of the Southern Black base he hopes to excite and the conservatives he hopes to peel away from McCain are the real targets here.

  • Drill Drill Drill

    Southern black Baptist pickup trucks have full tanks? Obama is whistling past the grave yard. I’ll bet they’re worried sick about south side Chicago welfare cases getting religion.

  • Enemy Of The State

    Utter nincompoopery.

  • Anonymous

    Your a idiot! Bush’s faith based program was designed to funnal money to the religous right only.

  • Anonymous

    Obama continues to falter. No surprise. That “just peed my pants” rapture of his early backers- with time will leave them standing empty-handed in stinky drawers.

  • Secular

    Ah what a neophyte error. That is why I did not want him. Was for HRC all the way. One thing absolutely hate besides the “lil Bush” is the bearded old white guy in the sky. We know we will be rid of “Lil Bush” on 1/20/2009. I was afraid the Obama with his I wear my religion on my sleeve democrat thing. These seemingly smart guys claim to have been taken in by the stone age myths. I can understand others but this fellow had the benefit of his mother’s skepticism and he still wants to wallow in the same mud as the average joe six pack. It is a indeed a sorry affair.

  • Lee

    What happened to separation of church and state … one of the basic pillars of our founding fathers … one of the basic principals which separates us from the theocracies which are providing the intolerance that’s threatening peace in the world. Using faith and religion in a political race is just a way of preaching platitudes, while ignoring reasonable responses to real issues … a favorite red herring used by Barrack Obama … and, it sounds like a cheap attempt at pandering to religious Americans in order to get their votes in November.

  • Lee

    What happened to separation of church and state … one of the basic pillars of our founding fathers … one of the basic principals which separates us from the theocracies which are providing the intolerance that’s threatening peace in the world. Using faith and religion in a political race is just a way of preaching platitudes, while ignoring reasonable responses to real issues … a favorite red herring used by Barrack Obama … and, it sounds like a cheap attempt at pandering to religious Americans in order to get their votes in November.

  • Lee

    What happened to separation of church and state … one of the basic pillars of our founding fathers … one of the basic principals which separates us from the theocracies which are providing the intolerance that’s threatening peace in the world. Using faith and religion in a political race is just a way of preaching platitudes, while ignoring reasonable responses to real issues … a favorite red herring used by Barrack Obama … and, it sounds like a cheap attempt at pandering to religious Americans in order to get their votes in November.

  • R.S.Newark

    The Dems. have come a long way since denying the right of Pennsylvania’s govenor Bob Casey in ’92 to talk at the National convention attacking abortion haven’t they….all those totalitarian liberal fascista’s must be as an above writer said …peeing their panties.

  • R.S.Newark

    The Dems. have come a long way since denying the right of Pennsylvania’s govenor Bob Casey in ’92 to talk at the National convention attacking abortion haven’t they….all those totalitarian liberal fascista’s must be as an above writer said …peeing their panties.

  • R.S.Newark

    The Dems. have come a long way since denying the right of Pennsylvania’s govenor Bob Casey in ’92 to talk at the National convention attacking abortion haven’t they….all those totalitarian liberal fascista’s must be as an above writer said …peeing their panties.

  • Robin

    Besides pandering, this is the worst kind of slippery slope imaginable to the Framers. Athena has it right, of course, in implying that members of certain religions will go apesh*t when Eastern religions try to get funding under this plan. I myself am already going crazy knowing my tax money could be going to fund “charitable” organizations that are friends of groups like Focus on the Family, American Family Association, etc. Allowing the practice and then making a passel of rules to cover it isn’t the solution. The solution is to not allow it, period. The Office of Faith-Based Programs, brought to you by George W. Bush, that friend of the American Taliban, should have been shuttered years ago. Didn’t the current regime (and I do mean regime, not administration) go crazy and get all unconstitutional on Islamic charitable organizations that were suspected of funneling money to al-Qaeda? This is perilously close to the same thing.Not that I was planning to vote for any Big Government Democrat anyway….

  • R.S.Newark

    On another point, there has never been a “separation of church and state”, many religious organizations have always received money from the government. Additionally, there is a state religion now in place; it’s called secularism. It’s particularly virulent in public schools.

  • Enemy Of The State

    Great – Not only are we saddled with a $10 billion a month war without end (and it won’t end under Obama, either), but we also have the just dandy privilege of continuing to support churches with our tax dollars.And the best part? We get to present the bill to our children. Sweet!

  • Josh

    I agree with the major points of the author, even the Salvation Army has a central mission to bring people to knowledge of Christ. And if anyone has ever looked into discrimination laws, you would notice that there are laws protecting a faith based organization so that they are able to hire people of their faith and that is not considere discrimination. If it is considered discrimination to not hire someone that practices witchcraft in a baptist world evangelical mission organization, then we are invalidating most of the motivational effectiveness of all of the faith based social service organizations out there.

  • Lynn E

    MIxing religion and government can only harm the government and religion. Europe has state sponsored religion and no one wants to go to church. I’m not sure the churches even care much because their funding comes from the government so who cares if anyone attends or not. The Europeans have even given up having children because all their needs are taken care of so succinctly that they don’t need to depend on family for anything. While there should be more care for the poor and for health care, we should also be careful what we wish for.

  • Farnaz

    Pretty much fronts what the Post has become.

  • Michael

    The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” It’s likely the writers intended to prevent the establishment of a state religion, such as had happened in England, and also to prevent the persecution of persons whose faith might differ from from that practiced by those in power at any given time.

  • tiredofit

    I suspect that if Obama would agree to have face-to-face debates with McCain like he was able to avoid with Hillary, people would find out a lot more about him. Is this an example of the big “change” Obama is going to bring about? His church of 20 years, Trinity United church, will be able to expand and reach more people with their hate of whitey.

  • Jane

    Does a faith based outfit get to teach the Ten Commandments? What do they say about where they came from? If they teach Thou Shalt Not Steal what do they say about why?It is the shared belief system that makes faith sometimes an effective behavioral control system — and it is precisely a shared faith that the Government has no business forming, promulgating and defining.The government under this proposal — at a minimum gets into defining what is and is not faith unless all the faith based outfits are going to be restricted to service provisions such as soup kitchens with the length of the grace regulated.

  • Jane

    Does a faith based outfit get to teach the Ten Commandments? What do they say about where they came from? If they teach Thou Shalt Not Steal what do they say about why?It is the shared belief system that makes faith sometimes an effective behavioral control system — and it is precisely a shared faith that the Government has no business forming, promulgating and defining.The government under this proposal — at a minimum gets into defining what is and is not faith unless all the faith based outfits are going to be restricted to service provisions such as soup kitchens with the length of the grace regulated.

  • Ward M.

    I was shocked to learn Senator Obama has resurrected this troubling breach of the church-and-state separation which, pre-Bush, has served this country so long and so well. It is unclear whether he is pandering to a certain segment of his audience or if he really means to drag us back into the morass of involving government in transactions with “faith.” Quite aside from the possible Constitutional issues, I do not want charities–if that term is equivalent to “faith-based”–to come under even the shadow of government inspection or control.

  • socrates33

    Oh my. Obama sounds exactly like our current president, George W. Bush. Bush has been pushing for “faith-based initiatives” his entire presidency.Obama has been doing little more than talking about change his entire campaign. Now, finally, Obama is beginning to tell us about what “change” means to him.What Obama is proposing sounds remarkably similar to Bush’s proposal. You know, the man Obama has been villifying the past couple of years. Can someone tell me where I can find the “change” here???

  • zaney8

    We are all talking about how we are going to meld religion and state while denying we are doing it. Lately, NOT ONE WORD about changing the miserable health care system, the gas prices that are causing pain and misery, escalating food prices and we have yet to rebuild New Orleans or finish that border fence. The solution of Mccain is to travel to South America. The solution of Obama is to get old-time religion.

  • alethia

    It’s a dreadful idea and an intellectually indefensible proposal from a constitutional law scholar. imho

  • Sam

    You make a lot of smart, legal points. But, since I haven’t read you before… the only thing I’m interested in is what you wrote when Bush did the exact same thing. We’re you behind it when a Republican did it and troubled now that a Liberal is doing it?

  • Jason

    This seemed to me like an olive branch to the bitter people clinging to their bibles. He used the word “empower” which is vague enough to not really commit to any real specific action. Ao, wake me up when Obama stops tacking to the middle.

  • JohnL

    I’ve never been as disgusted with a candidate as I am now with Obama. He’s lost my support. The Democrats saved us from this ghastly and profoundly unconstitutional idea when Bush advanced it. Should Obama be the next president let’s hope Republicans repay the favor – not unlikely since Obama’s plan makes the coercive aspect of government even more evident. Whether you’re on the left as I am or the right, whether you’re religious as I am or are not, faith-based initiatives are a lose-lose-lose proposition. The integrity of religious organizations loses. Good responsible government loses. And our civil society loses. My Obama bumper sticker is in the trash can.

  • H R Coursen

    Obana is not just moving toward the center. He is moving through the center to the right. His decision to back immunity for telecom companies that knowingly broke the law is disgraceful. It means that no person or entity within this criminal administration will be held accountable for anything. Change? What change?

  • H R Coursen

    Obana is not just moving toward the center. He is moving through the center to the right. His decision to back immunity for telecom companies that knowingly broke the law is disgraceful. It means that no person or entity within this criminal administration will be held accountable for anything. Change? What change?

  • Abraham Adamson

    How can faith-based initiatives by government officials be considered taboo or inappropriate? Was not our nation based on the foundation of the motto, “In God we trust,”? Are we not one nation under God? To such a nation we have pledged our allegiance throughout our lives. Such attempts to promote faith-based activities are the very foundations of what this country is built upon: that man may rally under the common standard of a supreme being and creator who, in his might, may protect and shelter us. Such beliefs, if fostered indiscriminantly, will help prolong the values and morals that this –our nation– are in desparate need of. How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those that publish peace!!!!

  • Jim Talbot

    Sounds to me that Obama is wishing to get back in favour with Reverend Wright

  • 4shelby2

    I’ll never understand why anyone would believe a thing Obama says. Especially about faith issues. He’s suddenly excessively patriotic — I doubt it.

  • peace4world

    Dear Jacques:Thank you so much posting this: Yes what he is proposing is unconstitutional. I can’t believe that there are so many people who still believe in what he has said! Harvard Law School accepted him because he claimed he is a black; now he is opposing Affirmative Action. All of his records are inconsistent with the recent Supreme Court rulings. He claimed he taught US Constitution at U Chicago; yet he does not know anything about US Constitution—It does not allow such Executive Power for him to fulfill all of his promises and to implement all of his policies that he has been proposing!We need a president who defends our Constitution.

  • 4shelby2

    I’ll never understand why anyone would believe a thing Obama says. Especially about faith issues. He’s suddenly excessively patriotic — I doubt it.

  • Paganplace

    “How can faith-based initiatives by government officials be considered taboo or inappropriate? Was not our nation based on the foundation of the motto, “In God we trust,”? Are we not one nation under God? To such a nation we have pledged our allegiance throughout our lives.”Actually ‘under God’ was added to the Pledge in the Fifties, and shouldn’t be there. The national motto is ‘E Pluribus Unum.’ The ‘Faith based Initiative’ was Constitutionally troubling-at best in concept, and proved to be completely biased in practice regarding who gets the funding and how they use it. Since it exists, (And it’s not really the President’s job to declare something Unconstitutional, anyway) ….it’s problematic at best to take the funding *away:* picture the accusations from the cons of ‘He’s taking the bread from the mouths of starving families,’ that’d ensue *then,* …since it *exists* it does need more oversight and evenhandedness. Frankly, it ought to be replaced with something that *is* Constitutional, and still gets the job done.

  • Janet

    I agree with Mr. Berlinerblau. You cannot and should not ever mix church and state. Many phoney Christian churches exist as a front for political groups (right wingers) and they use their religion to promote their Republican values and agenda(anti-aborton, anti-gay marraige, displaying the 10 commandments – but not following the fouth commandment) – rather than those values Jesus found most important like helping the poor,the widowed, the orphan, the sojourner, etc.

  • Daniel A Turner

    Most commenters so far exhibit a very short or non-existent view of the history of religious provision of services, supplies, etc., and especially in the way in which such groups already have for about 50 years funneled government supplies, surplus food stocks to disaster areas.The “evangelical right” and the Bush “faith-based” initiative differed in extent, and in possible “political” as well as “religious” involvement.Groups such as Lutheran World Service, Catholic Charities, United Methodist Committtee on Relief, Salvation Army, and I’m sure many more, have utilized surplus government equipment, foodstocks to aid in their programs. I am also aware that many “Summer Camping Programs” could utilize foodstocks from Government.At the beginning of the Headstart pre-school program, many smaller communities had no other resources than churches to help Headstart get started.Many programs of employment training and self-help have had religious founding and some government assistance.A clearer understanding of “entangling”, “proselytizing”, etc is needed. Perhaps less of a “knee jerk” rejection or acceptance is needed in these areas. Obama appears to be willing to explore the extent of appropriate relationship government aid to non-governmental groups. It is in keeping with his general philosophy of moving the debate beyond some of the tired “my way or the highway” debates of the past.I happen to think the “faith-based” initiative of the Bush administration claimed too much and too little. It claimed to be entirely new (it wasn’t). It claimed too little (it used the program to burnish credentials with the religious right, but did little to fund the program effectively.)

  • Gerry Lee

    Obama does not need to run afoul of the Constitution on this issue… as a matter-of-fact, the Constitution will be an asset to him. He can promise faith based programs now, during the campaign. This will suit his evangelical voters. When he gets elected, he can say, “Well, I’d sure like to keep that campaign promise, but Lemon v. Kurtzman won’t let me!

  • Daniel A Turner

    Most commenters so far exhibit a very short or non-existent view of the history of religious provision of services, supplies, etc., and especially in the way in which such groups already have for about 50 years funneled government supplies, surplus food stocks to disaster areas.The “evangelical right” and the Bush “faith-based” initiative differed in extent, and in possible “political” as well as “religious” involvement.Groups such as Lutheran World Service, Catholic Charities, United Methodist Committtee on Relief, Salvation Army, and I’m sure many more, have utilized surplus government equipment, foodstocks to aid in their programs. I am also aware that many “Summer Camping Programs” could utilize foodstocks from Government.At the beginning of the Headstart pre-school program, many smaller communities had no other resources than churches to help Headstart get started.Many programs of employment training and self-help have had religious founding and some government assistance.A clearer understanding of “entangling”, “proselytizing”, etc is needed. Perhaps less of a “knee jerk” rejection or acceptance is needed in these areas. Obama appears to be willing to explore the extent of appropriate relationship government aid to non-governmental groups. It is in keeping with his general philosophy of moving the debate beyond some of the tired “my way or the highway” debates of the past.I happen to think the “faith-based” initiative of the Bush administration claimed too much and too little. It claimed to be entirely new (it wasn’t). It claimed too little (it used the program to burnish credentials with the religious right, but did little to fund the program effectively.)

  • tobinK

    Obama has made a tragic mistake. We looked to him for intelligence and for what appeared to be his deeply-felt convictions on matters of constitutional law. I fear that many of us have been tricked.This position can very well ruin his electability.

  • Mike Brooks

    Okay. Let’s accept your rational(s) and cut any faith based assistance to people in need. Who’s going to provide for the homeless, the hungry, abused children or spouses, the out-of-work, sick, teens in danger, all those people who need help? The govbernment? Get real! I live in Oregon, and any program run by any government agency gobbles up money for salary and benefits at a rate that would create a scandle around any non-profit organization. If you want to dribble out money to the needy at a rate of less than 5 cents to the dollar, then government programs are just the thing. But, with limited resources for social services, that simply means a whole bunch of overpaid public employees and not a whole of help going to the needy and a lot of those needy people getting nothing at all (while those public employees have fully paid up retirement programs, medical care for their families, and salaries that run up to three times their private sector counterparts). If we are going to get serious about providing social services for the truely needy, those faith based programs are the ONLY realistic delivery system we have. Government programs, staffed by public employees, have become bloated, expensive disasters.

  • Mike Brooks

    Okay. Let’s accept your rational(s) and cut any faith based assistance to people in need. Who’s going to provide for the homeless, the hungry, abused children or spouses, the out-of-work, sick, teens in danger, all those people who need help? The govbernment? Get real! I live in Oregon, and any program run by any government agency gobbles up money for salary and benefits at a rate that would create a scandle around any non-profit organization. If you want to dribble out money to the needy at a rate of less than 5 cents to the dollar, then government programs are just the thing. But, with limited resources for social services, that simply means a whole bunch of overpaid public employees and not a whole of help going to the needy and a lot of those needy people getting nothing at all (while those public employees have fully paid up retirement programs, medical care for their families, and salaries that run up to three times their private sector counterparts). If we are going to get serious about providing social services for the truely needy, those faith based programs are the ONLY realistic delivery system we have. Government programs, staffed by public employees, have become bloated, expensive disasters.

  • Franklin T.

    Could it be:

  • Eggy

    Don’t worry. It’s just Obama saying what he thinks people want to hear. If he’s elected, he’ll dump it as fast as he dumped all the things he supported in the primaries.That’s the difference between Bill Clinton and Barak Hussein Obama. Clinton told lies, but he knew he was lying. Obama doesn’t recognize the concepts “truth” and “falsehood.” He’s just too postmodern and sophisticated for that kind of “Manichaeanism.” He figures the “truth” is whatever will get him votes.

  • jhbyer

    Jacques seems to pose those very questions Barack took pains to answer. Groups obliged to proselytize to people accessed through grants won’t be eligible, he said – only those groups who don’t need to mention God in order to do God’s work. I’ve personally delivered groceries donated for the poor and worked in soup kitchens, both through a church program, admittedly Unitarian, where we’d no sooner talk about our religious beliefs “on the job” than we would in our paid employment. Am I being naive?

  • Matthew Held

    O do tell us about the Chabad running alongside and asking if you were a Jew. I had a similar experience—in Brooklyn. We were playing touch football and it was lste Friday afternoon!M. Held

  • Scrapster

    I guess I respectfully disagree with most of the posters here. Obama is doing the things that Democrats have been neglecting (and paying for) for years.If you think Obama’s plan and Bush’s are identical, than you’re delusional. If churches/temples/mosques that offer effective social service programs are willing to stop evangelizing within those programs–why not help them like any other? Keep the line nice and bright, and Dems can finally prove that we’re not religion haters–and therefore fit to lead a nation with many religions and religious citizens.

  • Chaotician

    Who is Obama? Is this the Clintonian affect or the real guy? In any case, every day in every way; it becomes harder and hardrer to vote for him! I suppose he does not care that more and more Democrats, exRepublicans like myself, and concerned citizens will vote against McBush; rather than for him. The lessor of 2 evils again and again; what a dismal place America has become!

  • JohnL

    Scrapster – Unfortunately, there’s no way to maintain a bright line between proselytizing and non-proselytizing work. Money is fungible. The funds gotten from government for non-proselytizing work leave just that much more of a religious organization’s privately gotten funds for the purpose of proselytizing. At any rate, this proposal on Obama’s part is probably going nowhere. Christian conservatives are already baulking at his provision that they won’t be allowed to discriminate in employment on the basis of religion and a faith-based initiative coming from a black “liberal” probably already has them imagining black Christian liberationists, Muslims, Hindus and Wiccans with their hands out. Hard to believe Obama doesn’t know this and that it isn’t all a cynical ploy for votes on his part. And I thought the Clintons were slick.

  • Mohamed MALLECK,Swift Current, Canada

    I am as scared as you that Obama may be losing the pedals very fast — and not just on the issue of faith-based initiatives, but the issues of withdrawal from Iraq and public/private campaign financing.The neocons are increasingly using the term ‘opportunist’ — I am not ready to succumb to unwitting acceptance of the notion, but I am coming dangerously close to that.

  • Paganplace

    “Okay. Let’s accept your rational(s) and cut any faith based assistance to people in need. Who’s going to provide for the homeless, the hungry, abused children or spouses, the out-of-work, sick, teens in danger, all those people who need help? The govbernment? Get real! I live in Oregon, and any program run by any government agency gobbles up money for salary and benefits at a rate that would create a scandle around any non-profit organization.”Well, that’s mostly because the conservatives in government keep diverting more of the money meant to actually help the poor, toward paying bureaucrats for makework of constantly reviewing cases and making families reapply for food stamps every two months with sixteen page forms that can only introduce more errors, (supposedly in the name of protecting us from freeloaders) in order to ‘prove’ how inefficient government is, before gutting the programs and kicking half of what they cut away back to their fundamentalist supporters who could have had federal money to feed the poor *anyway* as long as they didn’t use it to proselytize instead of feeding and helping people materially.(And, yes, that’s a run on sentence, but so is how this kind of issue is politicked.)

  • CALIFORNIAMARTY SAYS

    Rev. Wright’s Cauldron of hate is probably short on funds. Obama will make sure they get their share. Obama as a lecturer of Constitutional law , err SENIOR lecturer, should realize that church and state should not be dating let alone marrying up.

  • Carol Nourse

    I’m so glad that someone is speaking out about this. I couldn’t believe that Sen. Obama would take this position, which is bound to cause dissension, not ‘bring us together’. The pitfalls, both legal and practical are enormous.

  • Earl C

    Similar in many respects to Bush’s faith-based programs, there may be some real innovations with Obama’s. When one considers that the tax code currently gives the religious sector a big break by allowing a personal tax benefit by claiming such contributions to charitable or religious groups as an itemization, then the government should research appropriate opportunities to engage the religious sector in those areas where this sector excels in dealing with the welfare of people. It is obvious to most casual observers that the government lacks both the will and the resources to provide for the common welfsre of all of the people.

  • Ivy Crockron

    We have a homeless shelter in my town that is God-centered and does not evangelize. It has successfully served our community and hundreds of people for over 20 years by providing food, shelter, emotional counseling, financial counseling, and job training. As a former employee, I was trained to never discuss “spiritual” matters until asked. It’s really that simple. Never did I share my testimony, share a scripture, or lead anyone to Christ while working at the shelter. I saw Jesus change the lives of people beaten down by the world because they were fed, loved and respected. It is truly possible to show the love of God while abiding by the rules of our government. Senator Obama’s plan would help our shelter continue the work of Jesus.

  • oldhonky

    After reading Berlinerblau’s post, I went back and reread Chapter 3 of Obama’s book ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ on the U.S. Constitution. I still believe that Obama understands the Constitution very, very well; after all, he taught constitutional law for ten years. I do not share Berlinerblau’s concern that Obama’s approach will prove unsustainable or unenforceable. Reading Obama’s books with an open mind leaves the impression of moderation and practicality, rather than of far-left liberalism as some right-wingers have charged.

  • Leon Fainstadt

    Who voted for this guy? Obama is trying to tie himself to the cross. Where is Rev. Wright to set this guy straight- but wait – maybe that’s what he meant when he said Obama will do what politicians do. This guy did not wait long. Boo

  • Leon Fainstadt

    Who voted for this guy? Obama is trying to tie himself to the cross. Where is Rev. Wright to set this guy straight- but wait – maybe that’s what he meant when he said Obama will do what politicians do. This guy did not wait long. Boo

  • Eloist

    People who work in social service agencies can enroll in certification courses run by the government without clashing with the constitution. What’s your problem?

  • Eloist

    People who work in social service agencies can enroll in certification courses run by the government without clashing with the constitution. What’s your problem?

  • sisoto

    Why do we need to give our Federal Income taxes to churches? Aren’t these churches already receiving tax free dollars from their parishioners? Now, we are obligating all Americans into church giving by way of our tax dollars. Isn’t that in itself a violation of my constitutional right to be free from religion. Now it turns out I am a church contributor by proxy. Obama is turning into a right wing politician very quickly. The government already have avenues to help the poor via welfare, food stamps, medicaid, to name a few. Why not put the money into the programs we already have and let the church help with the money that their willingly participants members give every Sunday. Where do we throw the line? Is the answer obvious only to me?, Are there any people with common sense left in this country? Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Obama is willing to sell out just like any other dirty politician, that is all. That is it!!, I am voting for Ralph Nader again. An angry independent..

  • SISL

    Why do we need to give our Federal Income taxes to churches? Aren’t these churches already receiving tax free dollars from their parishioners? Now, we are obligating all Americans into church giving by way of our tax dollars. Isn’t that in itself a violation of my constitutional right to be free from religion. Now it turns out I am a church contributor by proxy. Obama is turning into a right wing politician very quickly. The government already have avenues to help the poor via welfare, food stamps, medicaid, to name a few. Why not put the money into the programs we already have and let the church help with the money that their willingly participants members give every Sunday. Where do we throw the line? Is the answer obvious only to me?, Are there any people with common sense left in this country? Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Obama is willing to sell out just like any other dirty politician, that is all. That is it!!, I am voting for Ralph Nader again. An angry independent.

  • Katie B

    the mayor of denver made a plea to faith based orginizations not too many years ago to work together to end homelessness in that area. It has been a huge success. The orginizations are in fact getting money from the city to do what they were alreading doing, but it doesnt go to the churches. The Denver Rescue Mission, for example, is a christian orginization has a program where they provide security deposits and first months rent to working homeless families, the state money goes to the families, not to the DRM’s general fund, in fact, churches, synagogs and mosques provide mentors and other expenses to the families out of their own resources, in partnership with the DRM.

  • GeorgiaSon

    All I can say is: Amen. Berlinerblau has hit every nail squarely on the head about what’s wrong with Obama’s proposal.It seems to me that it’s religious groups, more than “secularists,” who ought to worry about what all this means for separation of church and state. Government largesse equals government direction and control. You can’t have one without the other. Any relgious group that values its independence should say “thanks, but no thanks,” to Obama.

  • jamie

    katie bi was aware that denvers mayor challenged the faith based groups of denver to help the homeless. I know of the denver missions work and the family and senior homeless initiative whose leaders are evangelical, jewish, and catholic. i cannot find any info on the denver mosques/muslims involves with helping the homwless. will you please provide a link?

  • Bob Wineburg

    As the author of the 2007 book Faith-based Inefficiency: The Follies of Bush Initiatives, I am still in awe that I appear to be one of the few liberals who is for a faith-based initiative, but violently opposed to Bush’s efforts, not on constitutional grounds, but on conceptual grounds. Simply put: Bush’s initiative did not work and could never have worked. If Obama is guided by John Dilulio and David Kuo, his effort won’t work either. While both are very bright, they both work off of some 19th and 20th century assumptions about how little armies of compassion –given enough money—can be the little engines that could make a dent in our huge social problems. I have done 25 years of research on faith based social services and am in the middle of a study right now that examines the contributions the religious community makes to the governmental and nonprofit service sector. Such agencies quite often deliver mandated services, but have to use resources from religious congregations to meet unfulfilled needs.In simple English, feeding little armies of compassion with more government money and making it easier to get, it is nothing more than new dollars packaged in somewhat new and misguided rhetoric. The current study I am working on is in partnership with a United Way. Like the United Way or not, they are stewards just like community foundations, local Salvation Armies and other mainline voluntary agencies that have a stake in how money gets spent locally. My findings show that congregations – are limited partners in the work of solving, managing and preventing community problems. We now know that agencies named 47% of the community’s congregations in one or more partnership – providing volunteers, money, use of facilities, and goods and services. What does that information mean for a community steward like the United Way? Too much to explain here –but I will note that it means that 53% of the community’s congregations are fertile territory for eliciting help. But we know that of the 47% who were named, it was the larger and more historically active congregations who provided most of the resources. We will soon learn of the detailed resources of about 130 congregations. We know something of the needs agencies have. In the future, when all the data s in, the United Way can provide its community a 21st century way to plan for a comprehensive community approach to match religious resources to needs less randomly than the way it is done now.If the faith-based rhetoricians start to conceptualize things from the grassroots perspective with an ounce of understanding of how community social services systems need help from congregations and little neighborhood nonprofits, and that the key is not just more government money, but to get them in the mix of complex service arrangements, then they have a chance of doing something to make a dent in the problems strangling communities. Until there is buy in from the leaders in our 19,000 cites, 16,000 townships, 3,000 counties and 350,000 pulpits, no faith based initiative is going to work. How do you get buy in? Not by winning on the Constitutional battlefield but winning ideas that take hold in local communities.

  • Farnaz

    Many issues in faith-based funding have yet to be adjudicated, and no doubt will find themselves translated into briefs and brought before the Supreme Court. I am currently working on a grant that if successful, could be used as a model for social service delivery in different communities. Outreach will be coordinated.

  • CV

    This is insane. We need to be moving the other direction and start taxing religious organizations, not shelling out money to them. I’m afraid I may not be able to vote for Mr. Obama.

  • Paganplace

    The ‘Faith Based Inititatives,’ Bush version, were both unconstitutional and a crass kickback to his Religious Right supporters, who could have had government money to help the poor *anyway,* as long as they didn’t use the money to proselytize or discriminate. And, in fact, to make it seem pious to *cut* twice as much assistance to poor families out of the budget as he gave back for people to use it to push Christianity. No sooner did Bush’s version start than it became apparent who actually got the funds, as well: in the Pagan community we well remember some groups applying for some funds to help out in their communities, only to have it denied with public statements ‘Pagans are uncharitable.’ It’s no… we just don’t run around advertising ourselves like that. But it’s clear the whole Bush plan was meant to promote one religion, for the most part, with token Abrahamic diversity allowed at best. I don’t have a problem with religious groups actually helping the poor: and, frankly, I have no problem with the old rules of people not using the occasion to proselytize (not that they didn’t before, anyway. I wouldn’t have a problem if you couldn’t even *say* you’re a religious group, for that matter. But that never stopped me helping out at the food bank or whatever.) Obama is talking about *reforming* this system: the Bush scheme is effectively holding real poor people kind of hostage to a religious agenda, but the fact is you couldn’t just take it away and leave people with gutted public services *and* less private-run help. But there’s a lot of good people out there actually doing their best to actually help in their communities, not to support or be used by a religious-political agenda to try justifying the government paying Blackwater more and public assistance less, or do their much-vaunted ‘charity’ on the public dollar so they can use more of their own funds for theocratic political activities or whatever, while claiming it proves ‘Government doesn’t work,’ and ‘make more poor people destitute so they have to come to us.’ But, still. Really. If we can pay for stupid wars and bank bailouts, we can pay for some soup kitchens and shelters and whatnot, for folks who fall through the public cracks or live in communities that need to pull together. Just need to make it more Constitutional and, honestly, accountable. All of the things Bush has done won’t be able to be undone at a single stroke. That’s the reality.

  • Singh

    All he is trying to do is woo christians and evangelicals just to win the vote. Is that the change we are looking for?? We call Mccain as Mcsame 3rd term of Bush. How is this man any different? I am sure large sum of this initiative will be used to rehabilitate Rev Jeremiah at Trinity Church so he can keep his rants and anti amreican propaganda at higher volume. Is that the change we are going to live for?? One wonders…….

  • Paganplace

    “How is this man any different? “Cause he wants to turn this system, which presently just allows certain favored groups to use the money to promote themselves and proselytize, into one which actually helps people and is open for all to pitch in with the actual work to be done.

  • Anonymous

    uh yeah paganplace like all those wonderful pagan charities (hopitals, homeless shelters. hospices) that have benefited the world for centuries. oops. those charities were xtian not pagan..

  • Anonymous

    Paganplace, paganism has been around for much longer than Christianity. In Europe pagans readily converted to Christianity. There must have been a very good reason why Christianity became a world religion and paganism did not. What are the teachings and what are the good works pagans do as part of their religious tenets? What is the Scripture paganism uses? What the rest of the world understand about paganism is that there are many gods and goddesses. No definite teachings, just lots of great rituals and celebrations. Each one pretty much work out their own idea of right and wrong for there are no formal moral tenets. Kind of easy going and fun religion outsiders don’t know very much about. You’ll have to do much more to educate others.

  • Anonymous

    Paganplace, the many gods and goddesses and mythologies connected with paganism are pretty localised in their symbolism hence somewhat difficult to transfer to other communities and cultures. Pagans could learn from the way Arab paganism evolved to a monotheistic religion. Mohammad retained all the pagan gods, gave Allah alone the most prominent place, raised Allah to the status of YHWH endowing Allah with the Creator God attributes and integrated other Arab pagan gods by claiming that they were different names for the same Creator God. Arabs were already in the habit of worshiping Allah in Mecca, so when the new religion Islam retained that practice Arabs had no problem converting (maybe just a little bit).

  • Anonymous

    Islam is an imperalist political religion by virtue of how it was founded and how its founder lived and what he preached.

  • Roy

    Religious fanatics of any type alway use the faulty logic that if the government allows preference to their religion and someone complains, the government can also give preference to the religion of the complainer to fix it. The problem is, some legitimate complainers have no religion to simply fix it.When I was in college in Utah, the University radio station broadcast the Mormon Seminary sermon once a week. When I questioned the legality of this, the reply was, “What religion are you? We’ll play your program, too.” But that wasn’t the point, was it?The same logic is used by Catholics in talking about problems with the clergy and boys and young me. The defenders of the Church alwasy say, “Well, it happens in other churches and schools, too.” as if that makes their particular epidemic of the problem OK.Freedom of religion includes not paying taxes to support another religion or having it shoved down one’s throat if taxpayer money is combined to assist the homeless or hungry. Obama is pandering to the neochristians for votes. Shame on him. He knows better. Or, does he?

  • Roy

    H R Coursen:Obana is not just moving toward the center. He is moving through the center to the right. His decision to back immunity for telecom companies that knowingly broke the law is disgraceful. It means that no person or entity within this criminal administration will be held accountable for anything. Change? What change?Although I used to consider Obama the lesser of two evils (it always boils down to this in Presidential politics, doesn’t it?), I’m beginning to fear Coursen is right. Obama’s move to the far right on theocracy and the war is as much a betrayal of Democrats who nominated him as weak-sister Pelosi’s shameless sell-out to Cheney on torture, war funding and refusal to begin well justified impeachment proceedings.America could be doomed to more of the same regardless of who is elected and there’s not much we can do about it at this point.

  • dunnage

    I agree. Can’t fathom this initiative for the reasons you’ve stated – doesn’t he get it either? And after Rev. Wright, why doesn’t the man avoid religion. How about religion is private. But no, like the guy is making stuff up.

  • Beiruti

    I agree, the faith based initiative of the Bush II administration was another of the various policies of the Bush Administration that were taken in disregard of the US Constitution and the First Amendment proscription contained in the Establishment Clause.Bush had this “Faith Based” initiative dreamed up in order to grant political spoils to the Evangelicals who violated their 502(c)(3) non-profit status to elect Bush in the first place.Rather than sanction these Evangelicals for violating their charters, tax status and the law, Bush moved to reward them with grants of appropriated funds from the US treasury. Two wrongs just makes it more wrong.Obama, rather than pull back from this illegal position of using appriated funds for the benefit of religious organizations, seeks to expand it and to give it to his hoped for religious base. After 8 years of BushII, what we need in this country is the Bush antidote. That is, a president who is willing to pull back from the dangerous and illegal precedents set by BushII and to restore the US Presidency to its constitutional proportions, instead of the corporate model into which Bush has attempted to mold the office of the President and indeed, the entire government.Obama’s support for continued surveillance of the American people in the USAPatriot Act, the FISA bill, and so forth indicate no intent to deal with the Bush excesses as inerently wrong headed and illegal, but to view them as bad because the tactics were put to use for the “wrong” or right wing policies. In other words, Obama sees it okay to cross all of the lines of law and tradition established in the Presidency if the purpose and the ends are the benevolent purposes of the left wing agenda.The fact is that the ends never justify the means. Ever. Wrong process is wrong regardless of the end to which it is directed. This defines my problem with Obama. He is as committed to these wrong, illegal processes as Bush and is equally delusioned by concepts of exceptionalism.

  • jrh

    Churches already have a tax exemption. They don’t need more money from the government. The exemption is a perfect “hands off” way for the government to allow churches extra resources to do what they do.

  • americanspirit

    This is one example that Barack Obama is now completely detached from his core constituents. Howard Dean said that uniting the core Democratic constituents come first, bringing in the center voters is second. And Obama should bring the center voters in his term, not their term. Obama should focus on job, health care, education, and national security. Instead he is kowtowing to right-wing agenda.Even though Obama beat Hillary Clinton, several of his advisers were former Clinton advisers. Many of those who used to work for the Clintons are pretty detached from the core Democratic constituents and they are detaching Obama from his core constituents by surrounding him and giving him bad advice.Despite all his flaws, I believe Obama will win in November. And he is definitely a better choice than John McCain is. But Obama’s shift to the right will put Democrats in huge trouble later if he does not change his course.I am beginning to miss Al Gore.

  • Ernest C. Raskauskas, Sr.

    Berlinerblau’s piece was titled by him as

  • Maurie Beck

    Jacques Berlinerblau makes a scholarly case for not entangling government and religion. On a more pragmatic front, Obama may not know it, but he is risking a hemorrhage of his base and many independents on this issue. Initially I was leaning towards Hillary, but after the Clinton’s went Rovian on Obama, I said the hell with them. I am not part of the Democratic base except on social issues (i.e. keep government and religion out of personal lives). As his religious problem blew up (e.g. Reverend Wright), I figured any thoughts he might have on enlarging the ties between religion and government would diminish. I also figured he was pandering to the more liberal religious voters. However, his latest idea to not only to keep Bush’s office of Faith Based Initiatives going, but possibly expand it, instead of abolishing it outright, has set me and many of my friends and family in revolt. I won’t vote for McCain (even though he seems fairly trustworthy), but I might think about sitting out this next election. Obama is playing with fire and better watch out.

  • Randy Snyder

    The writer makes a cogent argument. As a public sector social worker, (and one who has worked for Religious social service organizations as well) I would have the same concerns. On the other hand, many religious “service” organizations play an extremely important role in providing outreach and support services to members and non-members alike. The government has strict grant funding requirements for many of the other funding sources it provides to non-profits, so perhaps some “reaonable stipulations” on how Religous Group monies can be spent is a way to avoid the church/state entanglement. For example, such things as food/clothing services, chemical dependency services, housing/homeless outreach support are easily provided without a “religous” bent. Whereas, “counseling services” or “family planning” services are ripe for proselytizing. Also, allowing those served by these organizations the right to file complaints IF they are brow beat with religion that dont want, would keep these groups honest.Also, being a Democrat who has strong (raised Catholic) values, I would like to see our side stop ceeding this ground to conservatives, since progressives are doing as much or more of this work in communities across the country.

  • Ernest C. Raskauskas, Sr.

    Berlinerblau’s piece was titled by him as

  • D. Smith

    Cadets have complained about proselytizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy. If Air Force officers don’t see the bright line separating church and state, why should we believe that volunteers in the myriad of religious organizations nationwide will be able to see that line. Furthermore, imagine the level of outrage in the U.S. Congress if the Nation of Islam, or the polygamy sect of the Latter Day Saints were to receive funding. The U.S. Government would then need to establish a list of approved religions, in violation of the Constitution.

  • Marcus Pryor

    As an early and ardent Obama supporter, I am profoundly disappointed by his speech. I was looking for him to be religiously neutral, as I am an atheist. I will vote for him, but no longer will I support him with my energy and money.

  • DofG

    The most interesting “tongue in cheek” statement in the bible:”Render those things unto Ceasar to Ceasar, and those things unto God, to God!” The reason is that from a pantheistic view point, ALL IS GOD! However, from a position of government, and religious ideology, it is absolutely necessary to keep these things separate; mainly to avoid those of special interest natural undo advantage within the body politic. Furthermore, due to the fact that religion has become an enterprise, this is not even necessary, for they have enough resources to execute their “Earthly charge”! Ultimately, this “dance” that Obama has engaged is a combination of politics (to erode the republican base) naivete, and a common ignorance of basic religious history.

  • t.paine

    The study of theology ,as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing.

  • M. Gobler

    I, too, was taken aback by Obama’s proposal. I can’t believe that he took this position! If he took it to woo the religious conservatives, he’s wasting his time. They won’t believe or trust him; their minds will not have been changed. As for the rest of us who were hoping that Obama really represented change in Washington, we are getting more and more disappointed and disillusioned with each new position paper!

  • Greg Neubeck

    You can either choose to be duped by all the discourse intended to obfuscate the true character of Obama’s religion, OR make an objective appraisal based on your own intelligence of the historical facts which are irrefutable. Obama is neither Christian nor Muslim. Unless he has had one of his frequent epiphanies in the last week or two, he is a disciple and practitioner of Black Liberation Theology whose tenants have been amply articulated by Jeremiah Wright and James Cone. For 20yrs. Obama, under the tutorial of the fanatical Reverend Wright, immersed himself and his family in Black Liberation Theology, a Marxist derivative which rejects Christianity; and, which professes that the White race is equivalent to the Devil. It’s amazing that anyone would be shocked at Obama’s perverted view of the Bible. Rev. Wright’s mentor, Black Liberation theologian, James Cone, in his book “For My People” states: “The Christian faith does not possess in its nature the means for analyzing the structure of capitalism. Marxism, as a tool of social analysis, can disclose the gap between appearance and reality, and thereby help Christians to see how things really are.” It is this logic, reinforced by his mother who was an avowed Marxist, which has schooled Obama to seek economic parity in America thru income redistribution; i.e. Marxist Socialism; and, is an overriding theme of his campaign. Further, noone should be surprised at Obama’s proclamation that American is NOT a Christian Nation. Although the Obama campaign has repeatedly attempted to obfuscate the past religious associations of their candidate, hopefully a Christian America will send Obama an unmistakable message in November. It’s what you get with an un-vetted candidate whose only skill is reciting a text from a teleprompter while he arrogantly looks down his nose at the audience. Greg Neubeck

  • Mike Brooks

    What a bunch of wretched jerks! The right wing posters cal into question Obama’s sincerity or even his Christianity and the left wing twits all post demeaning comments about Christians and religion in general. For the information of the nuts on the right, the blind fools that think that Dobson and his crowd worship anything but money, there are millions of people in this country and millions more throughout the world that think your twisted little take on Christianity is nothing more than a cult. Count me amoung them. As for the left, it was Christian’s, genuine Christian’s not these nut job Fundamentalists, who ended slavery, offer up money and time to man soup kitchens and homeless shelters, after school sport programs for at risk youth, marriage and family counseling and have made the world a better place. Government cannot provide these things for those in need simply because government is horribly inefficient. By the time you end up paying for salaries and benefits and administrative overhead, you are darned lucky is you get a nickel out of a dollar going towards the needy. Moreover, government programs come with strings that make any religious group sound downright enlightened.

  • orf

    Many of the arguments in favor of this idea basically resolve to this: since the government screws up everything it touches, it can’t handle feeding and carding for the homeless and other such people in the same caring and thoughtful way that religious organizations do.This is an entirely spurious argument at best, and it completely begs the question of whether or not the government should be in the religion business.It’s not just in the concept that this is evil, it is even more evil in the implementation, the devil in the details as it were.50 self-styled religious organizations are going to show up at the government’s feeding trough demanding their share. Many, perhaps even most will have the highest ideals in their hearts, but not all of them will.The government will have to decide – which of these organizations *is* a religious organization, and which is not?Now we’re down to 40. There’s a limited amount of cash, 12 of the organizations are catholic and 12 are southern baptist – large constituencies each. Some are luthern, some are pagan, some are jewish and some are muslim.Guess which ones he chooses?If you think it’s going to happen any other way then you are the fool that Obama and Bush have been courting. Each is counting on the mutual hatred their bases feel for each other, and thus taking them for granted.Well, screw both of these people.

  • Mike Brooks

    ORF – Okay, so it’s given that public service is bloated and inefficient. Likewise, amongst the religious charities, some are run by money grubbing swine. So, do we do noting? Do we let hundreds of thousands of men, women, children, families, go it alone? And, remember, due to the Bush-Cheney globalization Ponzi scheme those numbers are likely to increase by MILLIONS in the coming two years! Some organization needs to step forward. From my observation, both the left and the right in this country are self serving, isolated twits. The Fundamentalists hoot and holler about “responsibility”…right up until they get dumped into the toilet this economy ass become. The left pushed for more government money for social service programs, which is gobbled up by over paid government employees and the program is run by some twit who views it has his or her petty fiefdom. Likewise, the liberals NEVER provide social services. Their giving is to the arts and NPR, maybe good things, but they don’t feed people or heal families in crisis.I submit, the ONLY thing we have are those religious organizations. To be sure, there will be some thieves in the mix, but if even 20% of them are honest, we are money ahead because the government run programs have been shown repeatedly to deliver LESS THAN one nickel in actual aid for every dollar spent.

  • Dave the misanthrope

    Dear Jacques (you idealist) – In case you haven’t noticed over the past 2 elections in the last 8 years, there is a huge electorate in the US of well-meaning but easily-manipulated neo-morons who out of ignorance and “faith-based” politic marched like zombies to the polls and voted for George W. S#t-4-brains instead of the Democrat(ic) “flavor of the month.” Idealism-be-damned, logic aside / like it or not: NO ONE can win a general election in this country without their vote. All Barack is doing is trying to break the Republican stranglehold on this huge, undeniable block of deciding voters. You can rail against and drown in your personal naivete, but thank God Obama is smart enough and flexible enough to speak to these people in their own language. Bottom line: you want another 4 years of Republican neocon madness (McCain) or a change in direction for the better? I personally want the latter. America, like it or not, IS the “God Vote.”

  • BRUCEREALTOR

    SOMEBODY SUCKERED OBAMA INTO GOING AFTER THE JESUS VOTE IN THE COMMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND BY DOING SO, HE MAY ACTUALLY LOOSE MORE VOTES THAN HE MIGHT OTHERWISE GAIN.YOU DON’T SEE MCCAIN GOING AFTER THE JESUS VOTE, BUT THEN AGAIN, MCCAIN KNOWS BETTER.OR IN THE WORDS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, RENDER UNTO CEASER THAT WHICH IS CEASERS AND UNTO GOD THAT WHICH IS GODS.BUT BE CAREFUL NOT TO CONFUSE THE TWO.

  • John L Richardson

    The focus of Obama’s early career was faith-based community organizing in Chicago. He knows better than most that these groups are most effective at delivering aid of various kinds to the neediest in our society. Ways will be found to separate the aid process from the prosletising that may go on. Politically, a commitment in this area will strip off some of the support of these groups for the Republicans since McCain’s interest is weak.

  • William W. Wexler

    The “faith-based” initiative is unconstitutional. It’s not a question of trying to manage it, improve it, or whatever Obama says he wants to do with it.It’s just plain illegal. If the SC wasn’t stacked up with crooked right wing lunatics, there would have been a successful legal challenge some time in the last 8 years since Bush’s abomination was devised and it would have ended.As a former Obama supporter and Iowa precinct captain, this is the last straw for me. I am supporting Nader now and I will never vote for any politician EVER who makes a big deal out of their religion. It’s a private matter and any politician who talks about their faith is simply trying to rack up political points.It seems to me as if this should be painfully obvious, since the people who founded our nation were seeking refuge from state sponsored religion. More recently, we have gone to war in Afghanistan to remove a religious government. Why can’t people make the connection that religion and the affairs of the state are best when they are kept apart?-Wexler

  • zaney8

    Obama’s “faith-based” plans are a huge mistake.

  • CALIFORNIAMARTY

    OBAMA was for whatever the issue is before he was against it.Should the Nation of Islam and Obama’s church that preaches hate of America and racism get their fair share also? This entanglement of the Government with religious organizations is a bad idea. No it is a horrible idea. Various religious organizations that preach hate and discontent will then use the funding for what breeding more hate America and racist rants. Religions will compete for the funds. The government will then impose rules and regulations and create a commission to oversee these rules. Churches will not be bound by secular rules concerning who they can hire, fire and when the church would never hire someone who supports abortion or gay marriage under the rules they will be required to do so. They may think that hiring someone of a different faith to handle church business would be a bad idea. Too bad..they cannot discriminate. Soon the church is putting out fires of their own with strikes and strife and lawsuits to enforce secular laws.

  • NYMARTY

    OBAMA was for whatever the issue is before he was against it.Should the Nation of Islam and Obama’s church that preaches hate of America and racism get their fair share also? This entanglement of the Government with religious organizations is a bad idea. No it is a horrible idea. Various religious organizations that preach hate and discontent will then use the funding for what breeding more hate America and racist rants. Religions will compete for the funds. The government will then impose rules and regulations and create a commission to oversee these rules. Churches will not be bound by secular rules concerning who they can hire, fire and when the church would never hire someone who supports abortion or gay marriage under the rules they will be required to do so. They may think that hiring someone of a different faith to handle church business would be a bad idea. Too bad..they cannot discriminate. Soon the church is putting out fires of their own with strikes and strife and lawsuits to enforce secular laws.

  • Marc Trius

    This is something of a tough issue; on the one hand, I sometimes eat at churches, I buy things from church thrift stores, and I’m a Jew. I know what good work they’re doing.

  • janephil

    Obama will do or say anything to win votes.

  • Anonymous

    How is anyone going to stop radical Muslims and Scientologists using the funding to preach their hate/brainwashing agenda in ways that the government can’t catch them at it?

  • Anonymous

    Has everyone read the Quran to know what radical Islam is really like? Pious Muslims learn to recite the Quran from memory.Does anyone really understand the teachings of Scientology and why it is considered a serious threat to human dignity and freedom in countries outside the US?

  • Zenhead

    This is a mind field for Obama. I would contend that he has also already gotten into serious trouble with religion and the religionist ministers he has associated with over the last twenty years. And, his trip to Pakistan, in 1981, becomes more important for the press to look at. What WAS he doing in Pakistan in 1981? Many Pakistanis who understand that country in that year indicate that there were not many “Club Med” accoutrements to attract a young American of mixed race and mixed ethnicity and mixed religious (or agnostic) tendencies.

  • PJ

    Not to fret, Jacques – - if his track record is any indicator, the obamessiah will be flipping his position in mere moments, with caveats galore.

  • PJ

    Not to fret, Jacques – - if his track record is any indicator, the obamessiah will be flipping his position in mere moments, with caveats galore.

  • marymary

    Whether it comes from a recent indictee or a presumptive presidential nominee, public exploitation of anyone’s “journey to Jesus” just plain turns me off. Enough said.

  • LC

    At least Obama has a conversation about faith-based programs and religion.We don’t even know what John McCain believes. he has never spoken about his faith or about what church he attends.John McCain has actually avoided responding about his faith.What’s peculiar here is that a man of POW captivity and torture has nothing to say about a “higher power.” We can cite a variety of examples where hostages are freed (i.e. recent Columbian hostages) and one of the first things they say is: “Thank you for your prayers and thank God I’m alive.” I think that goes across the board. Even the families of these people ask for prayers. No one questions the validity of “entanglement.” I understand that law and the logic behind it. However, there’s a BIG elephant in the room that’s not getting what we all deserve – answers about what he (McCain) believes. Inquiring minds would like to know.I also feel confident that a Consititional Law professor (Obama) knows his limitations of church and state.

  • Juan S.

    You have to remember that the only result Obama wants is to be President and he will do and say anything to achieve that end. He is a Cicero Orator with all the practiced facial moves, head moves and hand moves that Cicero learned and Obamaa has copied. If you don’t watch out he will lead you over the cliff. It won’t matter who is elected President since the Legislature is surely to become overwhelmingly Democratic, and they are the ones to worry about!

  • Kristina Reaume

    As a secular, progressive liberal, I am appalled and dismayed by this development in Obama’s policy plans. Currently, the existing services that are faith-based have a much higher rate of corruption than government-run services. The clients of these services are the ones in danger of being abused and used as cash cows. Most of the abuse heaped on people by other humans has been in the name of religion and I do not believe there is a chance of religious zealots suddenly becoming fair and equitable to any but their own. This is a terrible idea. This is not a Christian country. It is a country where religious tolerance was intended to be the norm. All religions. Kristina

  • Kristina Reaume

    As a secular, progressive liberal, I am appalled and dismayed by this development in Obama’s policy plans. Currently, the existing services that are faith-based have a much higher rate of corruption than government-run services. The clients of these services are the ones in danger of being abused and used as cash cows. Most of the abuse heaped on people by other humans has been in the name of religion and I do not believe there is a chance of religious zealots suddenly becoming fair and equitable to any but their own. This is a terrible idea. This is not a Christian country. It is a country where religious tolerance was intended to be the norm. All religions. Kristina

  • Kristina Reaume

    As a secular, progressive liberal, I am appalled and dismayed by this development in Obama’s policy plans. Currently, the existing services that are faith-based have a much higher rate of corruption than government-run services. The clients of these services are the ones in danger of being abused and used as cash cows. Most of the abuse heaped on people by other humans has been in the name of religion and I do not believe there is a chance of religious zealots suddenly becoming fair and equitable to any but their own. This is a terrible idea. This is not a Christian country. It is a country where religious tolerance was intended to be the norm. All religions. Kristina

  • StraiThinker

    I am most upset at Obama’s announcement re: faith based groups and government grants. His statement should have been “In no way should government give money to faith based groups. No way.”

  • Monty Keeling

    I know of no information that suggests faith based help organizations suffer from a higher rate of corruption than secular ones. Certainly there are many dangers to a government-faith based public services mix, but that doesn’t mean the possibility shouldn’t be explored. A matching grant for faith based services, for instance, that have already proved to be successful and meet government standards could be very useful.Few people are probably aware how often government has come to faith organizations to see how they are operating help programs before beginning secular service programs. The Tucson Church of the Brethren was one such resource when the school system there had to start it’s first special needs children’s education program. The Church of the Brethren’s Volunteer Service Program was one model for the formation of the Peace Corps.Faith organizations should have the right to invite those they help to become part of that faith community. There is a big difference between trying to pry someone from their spiritual beliefs and offering someone exposure to a faith home. Jesus never attempted to strong arm or push anyone into following him. His followers should live by that example.

  • Mike Brooks

    Kristina Reaume – “…existing services that are faith-based have a much higher rate of corruption than government-run services…” That comment cracked us all up! But, I don’t think you meant it as a joke. By government’s lack of corruption I don’t think you mean what happened with the millions of dollars in Katrina relief that the state of Mississippi sold or used of rhteir prison programs. And, we’re eqaually certain you excluded all of that distorted intelligence that the Bushies in Washington used to get us into Iraq? Or the “new” intelligence releases, designed to gin up an excuse for a new war with Iran, concerning everything from their designs to build nuclear weapons to buying African monkey for biological warfare plans? Oh, and of course, you aren’t referring to the credit cards being used by every federal and state employee in the country to buy everything from new iPod’s to vacations. At a local level, the government employees that read our electric meters as a part of our PUD actually tie trout flies in the back of their van. I cannot even imagine an honest government employee, it’s nearly an oxymoron. So, going back, once again, we know that government delivers one nickel in actual social services, delivered to those in need, for every dollar spent. Private, for profit, companies are even worse, actually just about spending every dime they get on “overhead” without doing anything. (Think of K&R’s contract with the military in Iraq where they fed troops spoiled food, had wiring in housing so bad that people were actually killed taking a lousy shower. Think of your medical insurance company where the rule is to deny any claim, put you through a living hell, hoping you will die or just give up. So much for our much vaunted private health care system.) That pretty much leaves faith based organizations, which day in and out deliver around 80 cents on the dollar in actual services to those in need.We hear you, out here. You don’t like religion, you loathe Christian’s, and you are a bigot when it comes to someone calling themselves a Christian. But, someone has to provide for the millions of people in this country who are hungry, homeless, out of work, youth in danger, families wrecked by the economic mess “free trade” and other various corporate Ponzi Scheme’s have landed them in. Just who do you think can actaully do that work? In the past, it was organizations like the Salvation Army. That one group feeds more homeless people, provides shelters for more battered women and children, than all of the government programs in existance or even proposed! Multiply the Salvation Army by a hundred and maybe you will get the idea. MOST of the actual social services rovided to people in need right now, are provided by faith based organizations, churches! In the lousy economic climate we have right now, soon to get much much worse, along with sky rocketing inflation, those organizations simply don’t have the money to take care of the millions of new people whose lives have been wrecked by the Bush-McCain-Cheney-Wall Street new world order. Either we vet them somehow and give them to money to provide those services or a lot of people are going to DIE, simply becasue of your bigotry and fear of religion.

  • Carol Taylor Boyd

    I am getting more than a little tired of hearing a politian tell me, a member of the general public that I should be doing more to serve my country, like volunteering. Obama’s Faith-Based Initiaves strike me as rather arrogant. Somehow the churches and the members of their congregations are supposed to clean up the messes the federal, state and local governments made or made worse by their neglect or inattention to the problem.For instance: Katrina, the Federal Government is not leading the clean-up or the rebuilding of New Orleans or any of the other lesser known cities and towns destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The Red Cross and Rebuilding Together are among the nonprofits working to help those people rebuild.The war in Iraq from a moral and possibly legal standpoint is an unjust war. WE were not attacked by Iraq. There were no Iraqies among the 9-11 Highjackers. Who will provide for the longterm care of so many maimed and disabled veterans from this war?? Who will care for their families. I know of one charity in Denver that is building houses for disabled vets. The Federal Government has spent so much money on the war in Iraq that the deficit is at an all time high. There is no money for programs for the poor. Once again private charities are called on to fill the gaps in federal and state services. People are losing their homes to foreclosure, companies are laying people off, banks are failing, the stock market is going down and oil prices are at record highs. What faith-based initiative will some politian come up to fix any of these problems?Our government is not taking the lead on any of these problems. Many times the government is making things worse. It is time that we the people demanded better government, not more from churches.

  • Carol Taylor Boyd

    I am getting more than a little tired of hearing a politian tell me, a member of the general public that I should be doing more to serve my country, like volunteering. Obama’s Faith-Based Initiaves strike me as rather arrogant. Somehow the churches and the members of their congregations are supposed to clean up the messes the federal, state and local governments made or made worse by their neglect or inattention to the problem.For instance: Katrina, the Federal Government is not leading the clean-up or the rebuilding of New Orleans or any of the other lesser known cities and towns destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The Red Cross and Rebuilding Together are among the nonprofits working to help those people rebuild.The war in Iraq from a moral and possibly legal standpoint is an unjust war. WE were not attacked by Iraq. There were no Iraqies among the 9-11 Highjackers. Who will provide for the longterm care of so many maimed and disabled veterans from this war?? Who will care for their families. I know of one charity in Denver that is building houses for disabled vets. The Federal Government has spent so much money on the war in Iraq that the deficit is at an all time high. There is no money for programs for the poor. Once again private charities are called on to fill the gaps in federal and state services. People are losing their homes to foreclosure, companies are laying people off, banks are failing, the stock market is going down and oil prices are at record highs. What faith-based initiative will some politian come up to fix any of these problems?Our government is not taking the lead on any of these problems. Many times the government is making things worse. It is time that we the people demanded better government, not more from churches.

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.