Love and Other Faith-Based Initiatives

Al Gore (D-Baptist) called it a “carefully tailored partnership,” as if church and state should just wear matching uniforms. George … Continued

Al Gore (D-Baptist) called it a “carefully tailored partnership,” as if church and state should just wear matching uniforms. George W. Bush (R-Methodist) turned it into a “faith-based initiative.” Love and other faith-based initiatives, sponsored by the Department of Homeland Eternity. Now, Barack Obama (D-United Church of Christ) is referring to it as an “all-hands-on-deck approach.”

“What I’m saying is that we all have to work together — Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, believer and nonbeliever alike — to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Obama said this week when he announced his proposal to turn Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives into a bigger, better and more politically adept “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

I can’t decide who would be more amused, George Orwell or George Carlin?

Why is the government paying people to do God’s work? And why are people doing God’s work allowing their ministries to be turned into government-funded and government-regulated agencies?

Devoted church-state separatists know this concept is fraught with constitutional complications (read The God Vote by Jacques Berlinerblau) and political temptations (read “Tempting Faith” by ex-Bush staffer David Kuo).

But I would remind the devout that Uncle Sam doesn’t drop some cash into the collection plate and leave. Tax dollars are not donated; they are allocated, ruled and regulated.

What exactly is a faith-based organization? Please turn to page 12 in your “Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government” to the Book of Inherently Religious Activities, Chapter 2, Verses 1-14.

The United States Supreme Court has said that faith-based organizations may not use direct government support to support “inherently religious” activities. Don’t be put off by the term “inherently religious.”

Especially if you’re an inherently religious organization, like, you know, a church, a synagogue or a mosque.

Faith-based organizations that receive direct governmental funds should take steps to separate, in time or location, their inherently religious activities from the government-funded services that they offer.

If you’re here to practice your faith, please go to the sanctuary. If you’re here to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless or liberate the captives, please go to the government-funded social service room.

The “Guidance” goes on to explain when, where and how people who work for government-funded faith-based organizations may worship, pray, teach or talk about faith, what they can put on their walls or in their rooms, and who they can hire.

For example:

A faith-based social service provider may conduct its programs in the same room that it uses to conduct religious activities, so long as its government-funded services and its religious activities are held at different times. If you have any questions or doubts, you should check with the official who administers your Federal funds.

Unless, of course, you have any questions or doubts about God, in which case check with the non-government official who administers your non-Federal funds.

A faith-based group may gather volunteers and employees together to engage in religious activities, such as a prayer to renew their own religious mission and recommit themselves to helping those in need. An example might be a soup kitchen where volunteers say a prayer together before the meal is served. It is important for faith-based groups to make sure that a prayer in these circumstances is voluntary, and understood to be voluntary, for program participants.

Lord, bless this food, but only if you want to, and only if the person who’s going to eat it really wants you to.

The bottom line is this:

“Religious organizations can compete for government funding to provide public services without having to abandon their religious character. In fact, faith-based organizations have every right to hold, express and practice their deepest convictions, so long as any inherently religious and worship-centered activities are separate, voluntary, and privately funded.”

Here’s where I need some guidance.

If you’re part of an “inherently religious” organization, isn’t everything you do inherently religious? Aren’t you helping others because your religious convictions compel you to do so? Why should government pay you to do God’s work?

About

  • lepidopteryx

    The federal government should not be writing checks to religious organizations. Period. My tax money should not be paying your church’s expenses, regardless of their nature, and your tax money should not be paying my church’s expenses.Reminds me of an often-seen event in my town – kids standing in front of Wal-Mart, on boulevard medians near traffic lights, or walking up to me at the gas pump, wiht coffee cans in their hands asking if I’d like to make a donation to their church. Why would I do that? I make regular contributions to the religious organizations that I associate myself with. When I tell them that I only make donations to my church, some of them have been known to get miffed. If a church group is holding a fundraiser such a bake sale or a car wash and the finds are toward a specific end, I have no objection to buying an over-priced stale brownie or having my car washed, despite the fact that I will have to rewash it when I get home to remove the poorly rinsed soap – if I approve of the end toward which funds are being raised. If it’s to provide school supplies for indigent children, I’ll take out my wallet. If it’s to fund sending Bibles to famine victims, no dice. I don’t want my tax money being used to finance religious organizations that would like nothing better than to see me legally barred from practicing my faith, and who constantly fight to keep those I live from being able to marry those they love.

  • swanieaz

    The Obama FISA and White House-sponsored support of religious organizations (no matter what they are doing or how well they do it), are simply two indications that he is not really about “change” as he says. He has lost my vote – sad to say.If you don’t believe me, got to his official web site and there are literally thousands of comments about FISA and religion – almost all very negative.Sorry, Barack, but no more money from me and no vote either, and I am an Independent.

  • Jim Maher

    It is really quite simple, completely seperate Church and State.

  • Realist JM

    It is really quite simple, completely seperate Church and State.

  • Juan Cardenas

    At some point, this is going to end up at the Supreme Court. Obama, like Bush before him, is trying to buy votes with taxpayer dollars. Why would a catholic taxpayer want their tax dollars used in a baptist church? And how would Rev. Wright’s congregation ever come up with the money to give him a $5-million dollar retirement home without taxpayer funds that helped grow and expand their church? Obama knows first-hand that these funds grow these ministries … he has betrayed the very people who have given him the nomination … once again!

  • Farnaz

    This whole faith-based initiative nonsense needs to go to the Supreme Court, the sooner the better. In the meantime, I have written to my senator, Hilary Clinton, requesting her support on a grant I’m writing for Atheist/Agnostic social welfare initiatives.Awaiting her reply.

  • Anonymous

    Farnaz:Awaiting her reply.IMO, you’re going to have a long wait.

  • VICTORIA

    However, these gov’t sites dont begin to tell the story- the ACLU critiques the prgram for becoming an evangelical affimative action – espeically in regards to government jobs- a watchdog group called- National Committee for Responsive Pholanthrop cites 5.6 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to work on abstinence programs whose goal is to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. Krehely wrote that “Samaritan’s Purse is led by Franklin Graham, who provided the sermon at George W. Bush’s first inauguration and more recently was in the headlines for denouncing Islam as an ‘evil’ religion.” Graham has also crusaded against the use of condoms, and Krehely says the group was censured for proselytising while carrying out anti-AIDS work in Africa — paid for by another grant from USAID. Farnaz- it’s been to the supreme court- several times- pay partcular attention to Hein vs. Freedom From Religion Foundation-(2007) the crux of this overturning is this-

  • Anonymous

    Change we can believe in…

  • Paganplace

    Fair enough, CCat, I kind of feel the same way. But then again, if Obama wants to turn a Bush gambit meant to funnel national wealth to certain Christian causes who apparently just couldn’t bring themselves to stop advertising and actually feed the poor… while cutting twice as much from public programs in the first place… into ‘All hands on deck, I mean all,’ well, we might find there’s more hands than some would use the Bush version to lead people to believe. Practically-speaking, Bush dismantled food stamps so preachers could feel nice handing out scraps where and how they chose. He can’t just snatch away those scraps, either, without replacing them. Real people are involved.

  • jfoster

    “Faith-based organizations that receive direct governmental funds should take steps to separate, in time or location, their inherently religious activities from the government-funded services that they offer.”Allocations given by the government are fungible items. Money given to a religious organization for social services frees up an equivalent amount for evangelization, propaganda, building expansion, etc. In other words, the government can tell me that my tax dollars are going to feed the hungry when, in essence, they are being used to put bibles in hotel rooms.

  • Fate

    “If you’re part of an “inherently religious” organization, isn’t everything you do inherently religious? Aren’t you helping others because your religious convictions compel you to do so? Why should government pay you to do God’s work?”Not necessarily. Our church had a chili cookoff. Prayer was said beforehand, but that was the only religious part of it. Beer was served too. Mmmm, beer and chili beats wine and stale bread. But whether its a church group or a group like the CCNV, its the way it operates and the results that matter. As long as both leave religion out of it, and that is regulated, I see no problem.But what I am more interested in learning is who is receiving these funds. Are jewish groups getting them? Hindus? Muslims? Or are the main group receiving funds the evangelical Bush supporters? I haven’t a clue, but knowing this administration I have a suspiscion. If you could find out that would be a nice public service. I think, since Obama has now made this a campaign issue, Bush’s running of this needs to be examined. He hasn’t run anything right, so I expect there are problems/cronism/mismanagement/favoritism/etc in this program too, just like everything he touched.

  • TJ

    “If you’re part of an “inherently religious” organization, isn’t everything you do inherently religious?”Oh, despite their claims to the contrary, most Christians can find their non-religious side when a little money is involved.

  • TJ

    Fate writes: “Not necessarily. Our church had a chili cookoff. Prayer was said beforehand, but that was the only religious part of it.”If the saying of the prayer itself was the only religious part of it, then I’m interested in the content of that prayer.

  • Fate

    TJ,For example, my daughter is getting ready, through the church, to volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity site for a week. The church is rounding up the kids and providing the transportation, food, housing, etc. The kids provide the labor at the worksite. I consider it a character building week for my daughter. And certainly the church is doing this because of the charity involved, and I am allowing my daughter to go for the learning experience, and Habitat is accepting them for the needed help. All parties have different agendas that are complimentary. The only party that considers this a religious experience is the church, and maybe my daughter. Prayers will be held each morning before heading to the worksite, not at the worksite. So though it may not be required, the religion in this case is being kept separate. But as has been noted by critics, some churches are, with government funds, able to use other freed up church funds toward other work, like proselytizing. So while the government is not directly sponsoring it, they may be freeing up funds for it. I have a problem with that. I would like to see a regulation that the organization that receives government funds does not also proselytize, at all. This is easy enough to do for churches that do proselytize. They only need to set up a separate non-profit organization and then engourage their members to volunteer. But it would be separate from the church.

  • AJ

    As a memeber of the military I sometimes question the fact that at every function we have to say a prayer. Meetings, promotions, ceremonies etc…. I just stand quietly and do not have to participate, but can you imagine if I said something. I am just curious about how an organization that is purely funded by the government does prayer before everything and even “makes” you feel guilty if you are not participating! It is usually always mandatory attendance. Any thoughts?

  • TJ

    Gotcha Fate. If the chili day was a privately funded church activity then it’s nobody’s business but their own.Your idea of the separate non-profit is an interesting one but I’m not sure how separate it would really be. Technically separate? Sure. My idea for a solution is simpler, if a bit blunt: don’t give faith-based organizations federal money. Problem solved.The point that really interests me is this: Consider a food event of some sort that is put on with federal money where a prayer is said. The rules are followed and it is made clear that joining in the prayer is 100% voluntary. And then, during the prayer, the deity in question is asked to bless the food. This is a problem in my mind. Either we have to admit that the prayer actually has zero effect, or we have to accept that the non-believers are eating food that has been, at least in some magical, non-physical sense, somehow modified by the deity in question.

  • Taroya

    Don’t even. Don’t even consider using my tax dollars to support your faith-based charity acts. Use your donated dollars to support your faith-based charity.

  • Brambleton

    Initially, I didn’t see any real issues with the idea of faith based funds, especially when it came to abstination programs. (Which, I don’t think is the school’s responsibility to begin with, but is necessary now given that the schools have already decided they can do a better job of sex education than the parents.) But, after careful consideration, there seems to be too many inherent issues with the program. Perhaps the effort was there but the execution was not.Also, it seems were getting a little nit-picky when it comes to prayer. Was a prayer said before the meal? What was the content of the prayer? What is the impact of a person eating “blessed” food? Did the prayer use the term “God” or “Yahweh”? Did anyone feel as though they would be struck by lightning if they didn’t participate in the prayer?When the founding fathers were squabbling over the Declaration, and Ben Franklin stopped the discussions and offered a prayer so that they might come together in unity, do you think Jefferson, or Mason, or Hamilton asked Franklin what words he was going to use in the prayer? Do you think they asked that every religion be represented in the prayer? Did they wonder what the American people would think if they found out about the prayer?In some ways, I’m sure we have the ACLU to thank for this constant bickering.

  • farkdawg

    If you know anyone who works for a non-profit that competes for federal grants with religious non-profits, they will tell you that money is hard to come by if you are not a religious group. The Bush Administration has been steering funds to religious groups at the distinct loss of support to other, non-religious groups.For Obama to say that he wants this to continue or increase he is either pandering or misinformed.

  • God Father

    Can we say Obama is more of a backboneless panderer than a person with faith? After been tricked by Bush and Rove, can the religous group fall in this trap again? I doubt they would.

  • God Father

    Can we say Obama is more of a backboneless panderer than a person with faith? After been tricked by Bush and Rove, can the religous group fall in this trap again? I doubt they would.

  • TJ

    Brambleton writes: “Also, it seems were getting a little nit-picky when it comes to prayer. Was a prayer said before the meal? What was the content of the prayer? What is the impact of a person eating “blessed” food? Did the prayer use the term “God” or “Yahweh”? Did anyone feel as though they would be struck by lightning if they didn’t participate in the prayer?”Actually taking the efficacy of prayer seriously results in a pretty absurd state of affairs, doesn’t it?

  • Observer

    Victoria says:I saw no list, and second why you call them abuses? Is it because our government does not give grants to your mushrooming mosques? Saudi Arabia is building them and should support them. It has enough of our gas money to support all the faith and non faith groups as well as all and mosques of the world. Why not use some of that money to help the Muslim charities if there is any. The so-called Muslim charities in this country are financed by unwary ordinary Americans and are mere fronts to launder dollars to finance terrorism around the world. We are discovering more of that with each passing day. They are using our money to undermine our way of life and threaten our very existence.

  • Enemy Of The State

    I vote solidly Democratic/Progressive and I’m absolutely appalled that Obama has decided to continue the questionable practice of funneling tax dollars to religious groups.I don’t care how many strings you put on it, these groups routinely circumvent the rules. The most egregious of these practices is blatant discrimination in hiring. Gay and want a job helping the poor? Don’t even bother to apply to an Evangelical organization. Unbeliever? Thanks but no thanks. The government’s track record of oversight has been abysmal – from EPA to OSHA to civil rights enforcement. Is there any possible reason to think the record will be different with this program? Are we going to send out program evaluators, or rely on these organizations to self-report? We can and should help the poor. Let the churches raise their money the old fashioned way: Pass the plate. Leave my tax dollars out of it.

  • Observer

    Victoria says:The main purpose of Victoria’s diatribe is to discredit Reverend Graham. She should have further pointed out also that this same Graham is the one who convinced President George W. to help the people of Southern Sudan throw off the yoke of Muslim subjugation and domination; one of the very few shining moments in his presidency.

  • autonomous

    Others have said it – Obama is beating McCain at his own ‘change’ game. He does have the republicans scratching their heads over winning strategies and a workable offense….and at the same time, reviewing the game plan that didn’t work for Hillary. Obama and his people are more formidable and focused than other less adroit democrats in the recent past e.g. Kerry and Gore. Who he picks as VP will be pivotal, in my opinion. On the other hand, courting the evangelicals by continuing the faith-based initiatives scam is over the top, and a real disappointment. I will forever be disappointed that John Edwards didn’t make the cut – his campaign probably failed due to collateral damage from the ‘out with the old and in with the new’ movement among democrats. McCain, barely in the mix, is transparently part of the ‘old school’ – and a Bush clone at that. Even his own party is secretly doubtful that he has the requisite cognitive tool kit for the job. After Bush, you’d want a very smart republican coming to the fore – they sure ain’t got it with McCain. We’ll have to wait and see how much of the ‘new’ we actually get from Obama…..but he’s running away with the show at present.

  • A Secular Humanist

    Jim Maher (July 3, 2:11 p.m.) has it right. It’s just that simple. And I don’t know him from Adam.

  • A Secular Humanist

    Jim Maher (July 3, 2:11 p.m.) has it right. It’s just that simple. And I don’t know him from Adam.

  • Allen

    I can see I’m going to like you just fine.

  • blueball

    From a government’s point of view, religious groups are a tempting vehicle for providing essential services in that they are subsidized by the free labor of the congregants. For government to be able to avoid the costs and political implications of subsidizing the poor, government is willing to provide a much smaller subsidy to churches than it would have to provide for direct social services to the poor.The United States government in particular uses religious groups willfully (see Obama’s pandering as a recent exmple) because of the political power of religious institutions and the huge numbers of people who simply fail to distinguish the “good” of religion from the “good” of good government. It is a political reality that must be accepted to win.In a perfect world, government would step up to the plate and provide the safety net. In our wasp-based culture, that is not going too happen.We must choose between the panderers.

  • RAS

    Taxpayer dollars should be held to a simple standard: For this (insert cost) we get that (insert result).These faith-based initiatives have a cost but, in most cases, no quantifiable result.

  • pali2500

    Bush and certain Republicans refused to allow the expansion of S-CHIP (the federally-funded health-care program for children) on the grounds that it could dissuade some parents who could afford to buy health insurance for their children from doing so.Why does the same objection not apply to these so-called “faith-based initiatives”?Who is to say that every beneficiary of these programs is truly in need? The proselytizers running them? A bunch of uncaring bureaucrats in Washington? The answer is simple.The God squad has a powerful lobby for these faith-based initiatives.The insurance industry has a powerful lobby against S-CHIP.The value, need and fair application of these programs are far less relevant than who is lobbying for or against them.

  • SteveCO

    “do your own homework- the links are there-Do your own homework before opening your big mouth.The bulk of this illegal program’s first year’s funds went to Pat Robertson – an “evangelizing and proselytizing” piece of crap with no relevance, who accomplishes nothing, blames 9-11 on homosexuals, civil libertarians, lesbians, and similar christian targets…I’ve never seen such a hateful man receive such favor from the Bushies since…well, Jerry “Craphead” Falwell.

  • SteveCO

    “do your own homework- the links are there-Do your own homework before opening your big mouth.The bulk of this illegal program’s first year’s funds went to Pat Robertson – an “evangelizing and proselytizing” piece of crap with no relevance, who accomplishes nothing, blames 9-11 on homosexuals, civil libertarians, lesbians, and similar christian targets…I’ve never seen such a hateful man receive such favor from the Bushies since…well, Jerry “Craphead” Falwell.

  • VICTORIA

    yes steveco- that was actually my point-

  • VICTORIA

    i know im in the middle when extremsits from both sides get mad…

  • VICTORIA

    o, thank you for your gracious repsonse- yes, go look at the article linked on the 3rd @ 3:11pm

  • VICTORIA

    do your own homework- the links are there- evangelizing and proselytizing are activities that are not allowed with the funding- also the undercurrent of evangelical affirmative action which has resulted in government jobs for christians and only christians- so if bush rescued the sudanese- post one article- one link- because it has gone unnoticed by the entire planet-

  • You people are ridiculous

    Why do you folks have a problem with tax payer dollars going to religious groups. Just as many religious folks are paying taxes as non-religious folks. As a Christian, I don’t want my taxes going to a secular group helping the poor–I would rather see my tax dollars fund a religious program helping the poor. So who does the social programs—-secular groups or religious groups? Why can’t there be both? Until the government stops funding secular groups, they should openly fund religious groups. Anyone who knows anything about the federal funding, understands and knows that they do require groups sign assurances they won’t use it for religious activities. Sure there are some abuses, but why don’t you get a life and complain about the policians who use pork barrel spending to fund their pet projects before you go off on groups trying to help the poor. Let’s keep it real. As long as there are human beings in the world, there will be liars, people who cheat on their taxes and crooked politicians…wasting your time fighting those who are working for the King..is literally wasting your time… As far discrimination, seriously get a clue….companies have been discriminating since the beginning of time. Why would an openly gay individual WANT to work in a church anyway. That is like someone who prefers Fords going to work for Chevy. You have to BELIEVE In the product you are selling. It is ridiculous to think that a church cannot discriminate and hire who they want. After all, their employees represent WHO they are. Its no different than a company hiring who they want to hire, who they are most comfortable with representing them. I am sick of the secularists complaining and whining about religion. This country is as worldly as they come but when we have a tragedy like 9/11 everyone gets religion….You can fight it all you want but nothing can stand in the way of truth! Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life!!

  • Marshall

    These funds are inherently unconstitutional and nothing good will come from this program.

  • Church and State Are Separate!

    Yonkers, New YorkPoliticians intent on getting the religious vote, and churchpeople and religionists intent on getting government money, will go to great and ridiculous lengths to parse words and phrases in ways which make it possible to get what they want.But, at bottom, the U.S. Constitution clearly mandates that church and state should be and should forever be SEPARATE.Why?The Founding Fathers, the best, the brightest and the wisest of their time, explicitly and deliberately saw to it that the new Republic they were founding would certainly be free of the evils and the dangers experienced by European nations where church and state were one.Faith-based initiatives? These are projects or programs initiated by religious organizations–whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Mormon, or what have you–designed to provide assistance in any shape or form, but mainly and principally in funds, to their flock.Those behind these projects or programs–these “initiatives”–are quite free to go into these them, without fear of any opposition or objection from any quarter, if they use their own resources, meaning personnel and funds, and even if they PROSELYTIZE and DISCRIMINATE one way or the other.The problem arises when these projects or programs succeed in getting a politician or government bureaucrat to collude (okay, “cooperate”) with them one way or the other, overtly or covertly, and provide public (taxpayer) funds for them.It is the use of public funds which is the critical and decisive criterion on whether or not a “faith-based initiative” is unlawful or violative of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.Mariano Patalinjug

  • Chaotician

    You are under some delusion that our religious organizations care about anything but money and power? Anybody’s money is Good and no doubt Godly; and getting access to the Government treasury, like our venal politicians, combines the best of all worlds! Plus for a little grease to the politicians; they get protection, tax breakes, and the same largess we used to give to party bosses; oh, they are the party bosses!

  • Chaotician

    You are under some delusion that our religious organizations care about anything but money and power? Anybody’s money is Good and no doubt Godly; and getting access to the Government treasury, like our venal politicians, combines the best of all worlds! Plus for a little grease to the politicians; they get protection, tax breakes, and the same largess we used to give to party bosses; oh, they are the party bosses!

  • FunTravelAdventure

    I was going to vote for Obama until he stated he wants to establish a “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” as a critical part of his administration.Bob Barr now gets my vote. I do not want taxpayer funds going to ANY religious organization. In fact, they should be taxed like any other business.

  • dcp

    The bottom line is that Obama is a pandering hoax. He is setting himself up for a landslide in November. The religious right is not going to meander in his direction because of this. But if we wanted to please the majority of the population on this issue, one could simply say that religious organizations can only receive funds for the provision of food, shelter, clothing, and medical care to needy populations. But that is besides the point, which is that Obama is a fool.

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