Barack Obama on Faith Based Initiatives

(There are several updates below. Check them out!)

There are stories making the rounds about how Barack Obama is set to expand George W. Bush‘s faith-based programs — and allow groups to hire/fire based on religion:

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush’s program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support some ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Before you jump to any conclusions and lash out against Obama, MSNBC reports that this isn’t entirely accurate:

(Note: The Associated Press initially reported Obama supports “their (faith-based organizations’) ability to hire and fire based on faith.” NBC reports the campaign says Obama’s plan would prevent organizations from discriminating based on faith. The Associated Press changed its wording to say, “some ability to hire and fire based on faith.” The campaign says this second version is still inaccurate.)

In fact, Obama only “supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxpayer funded portions of their activities.”

Obama’s plan is one most non-religious people, I imagine, could get behind.

What is his campaign actually pushing for? Here’s what they are in favor of (PDF):

Obama’s initiative will be governed by a set of core principles for federal grant recipients. In order to receive federal funds to provide social services, faith-based organizations:

  • Cannot use federal funds to proselytize or provide religious sectarian instruction.
  • Cannot discriminate against nonmembers in providing services. They must remain open to all and cannot practice religious discrimination against the populations they serve.
  • Must comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Religious organizations that receive federal dollars cannot discriminate with respect to hiring for government-funded social service programs.
  • Can only use taxpayer dollars on secular programs and initiatives.
  • Must prove their efficacy and be judged based on program effectiveness. They will be expected to demonstrate proven program outcomes to continue to receive funding. Obama will fund programs that work and end funding for programs that do not — whether they are large or small, well-established or new, faith-based or otherwise.

I understand many of us would prefer him not giving money to “faith-based” groups at all, but with these conditions, they may as well be non-religious organizations.

So let him talk up his faith and get the religious votes.

It’s not like he’s doing them any special favors.

***UPDATE 1***: In addition, notice the words he used in the speech:

I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits. And I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up. What I’m saying is that we all have to work together – Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike – to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea — so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, 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. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.

***UPDATE 2***: Americans United is still against this “expansion” on principle:

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, criticized Obama’s proposed expansion of a program he said has undermined civil rights and civil liberties.

“I am disappointed that any presidential candidate would want to continue a failed policy of the Bush administration,” he said. “It ought to be shut down, not continued.”

Well, yes, it should be shut down altogether, I agree. But realistically, Obama can’t get rid of the faith-based program without pissing off large numbers of religious voters. So his alternative is to keep it and make it as secular as possible. Which seems to be where he’s going with it.

***UPDATE 3***: Americans United says a bit more in this press release. Note the headline and sub-headline at the top:

Obama Support For Expansion Of ‘Faith-Based’ Program Is Disappointing, Says Americans United

But Watchdog Group Says Candidate’s Opposition To Religious Discrimination In Hiring And Publicly Funded Proselytism Are Steps In Right Direction

“I am disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded.”

However, Lynn said he was pleased to hear Obama express support for church-state separation and say that he would bar government-funded proselytism and religious discrimination in hiring when tax dollars are involved.

“It is imperative that public funds not pay for proselytizing or subsidize discrimination in hiring,” said Lynn. “Obama has promised that he will not support publicly funded proselytism or discrimination in hiring, and that’s an important commitment.”

***UPDATE 4***: American Atheists apparently did not get the memo on anything written above. In an email, they write:

Frank Zindler, Acting President of American Atheists, said that Obama
was “horse trading the constitutional separation of government and
religion for votes.”

“This makes it official — the Democrats are trying to outdo their
Republican colleagues in using religion and the lure of more taxpayer
money to turn houses of worship into voting blocks,” said Zindler.
“Obama wants to continue the discriminatory policy of taxing millions of
Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and other Americans who profess no
religious beliefs, and give that money to organized religion. That’s
unfair, that’s discriminatory, and it endangers our First Amendment
freedom.”

Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that the Obama pledge to continue Bush’s programs is a risky economic and social experiment. “The faith-based initiative allows religious groups to use our money in programs that are poorly monitored, have little or no accountability, and drain resources for their more effective secular counterparts,” said Silverman. “This is pandering to religious groups, and offers the lure of free government cash in exchange for political support.”

***UPDATE 5***: The Council for Secular Humanism joins in on the attack parade in their own press release:

The Council for Secular Humanism regrets that Senator Barack Obama has seen fit to affirm a willingness to extend the unconstitutional faith-based diversion of tax dollars to religious institutions as begun by President Bush. “This is basically religious pandering,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism.

“We find it regrettable that the current climate in the United States requires candidates, who obviously should know better, to promise grave compromises of the wall of separation between religion and government in order to even stand a chance of being elected to high office,” continued Lindsay

The Council is disappointed that Obama’s plan appears to allow federal funds to flow directly to houses of worship. “Not only does this impermissibly entangle religion and government, Obama’s plan threatens the autonomy of religious bodies by allowing government intrusion directly into the activities of the house of worship,” said Lindsay. “The audits, compliance reviews, and reporting requirements that the government will have to perform to account for the funds will threaten the autonomy and integrity of the house of worship.”

***UPDATE 6***: The right wing Heritage Foundation is blasting Obama for his proposal! You know if they’re mad, he did something right:

… even worse, Obama’s plan says that when a faith-based organization takes federal dollars, it would lose its ability to preserve its faith-based character through maintaining hiring standards consistent with its mission. It could be forced to hire an atheist. In other words, it would strike at the heart of the faith-based initiative.

***UPDATE 7***: The Secular Coalition for America weighs in:

The Coalition calls for the next administration to end, not re-invent, the flawed and failed experiment called the faith-based initiative. Twisting our Constitution to fit a “new and improved” version can’t change the fact that funneling tax dollars to religious organizations is, at its core, unconstitutional.

Because the current program is rife with problems, the Secular Coalition for America thanks Senator Obama for recognizing the constitutional dangers of faith-based programs: using federal funds to proselytize, religious tests for aid recipients, and religious discrimination in hiring practices. Unfortunately, it appears that Obama still fails to understand that constitutional mandates quite simply prohibit “federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques.”

Direct federal funding of houses of worship, regardless of how the funds are used, is a violation of the separation of church and state.



[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    When I heard about this story, I was thinking that this could have been a dealbreaker for me, leaving me with no one to vote for. Serves me right for not going to the source, considering how the news media seemed to have mangled the story.

    It’s good to see that his proposal actually fixes a lot of the problems I had with faith-based initiatives. (I’d rather there be no faith-based initiatives and just treat them as any other non-profit organization, but I’ll take what I can.)

  • llewelly

    Par for the course for the misinformation industry.

  • Ron in Houston

    Thanks for your research. I was a little put off by the story in the news media, but I suspect it’s part of Obama trying to move to the middle.

    I don’t think the federal government should rule out helping faith based charities address needs in the community. I does need to have restrictions, but I’m not fundamentally opposed to it.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Any monies given to a church, whether technically used for religious or secular purposes, ultimately support that church and its message. If the church has a charitable mission, the funds coming from the government free up the equivalent amount that the church has collected through its normal extortion. That equivalent could then be used on stained-glass windows.

    So the whole thing is a rhetorical scam.

  • Bobby

    Maybe this isn’t the end of the world, but money will still end up going to the evangelizing, discriminating, and converting others. It doesn’t matter what you earmark the money for, the unearmarked portion will just go where the church wants it to.

    In other words, if you used to raise $100,000 and spent $20,000 on charitable programs, and the government now gives you $20,000 for your (non-discriminatory, non-evangelizing) charitable programs, and you still raise $100,000, it just means you’ll have more money to spend on new bibles, conversions, anti-choice rallies, creepy retreats, and other things atheists don’t really care for, and not have done any more good for the community. So continue being an Obama supporter, but seriously question the wisdom of this proposal.

    Reminds me of when governments say “The State Lottery raised $15M for education last year.” Uh huh, so why did you decrease education funding from the general revenue by the same amount?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do think one of the more redeeming things about Christianity is its capacity for raising charitable funds for great humanitarian purposes–I just don’t think the feds should be a donor.

    Anyway, Obama’s move to middle is up to him and his political campaign. But if I hadn’t been following his career for longer, he would have convinced me to stay at home by now. Hopefully after he’s elected he’ll come back around.

  • Bobby

    Right, what The Exterminator said.

  • Aj

    Obama’s plan is one most non-religious people, I imagine, could get behind.

    I don’t believe you would say that if it was Bush or McCain’s plan.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    A number of us atheists, representing both sides of the church charity issue, already had a rather heated discussion about Faith-Based Initiative. You can listen to it here.

  • Darryl

    It’s not ideal, in my view, but it’s a compromise that’s reasonable for someone trying to get elected. McCain is getting more of the Catholic vote than Obama. This should not be happening. Catholic charities are deeply embedded in some communities, and some public recognition of them will sooth some savage breasts. Also, every “secular” program that is administrated by a church brings them one step closer to moderation. Isn’t Obama’s scheme the one that used to prevail before the Christo-nuts took the reins?

  • TheOtherOne

    What Bobby said . . . .

    Plus, how much will it cost federal taxpayers to monitor compliance with these requirements? Sure, auditing would still be required even if the money were going to secular groups, but I’m talking about the additional oversight to ensure that churches aren’t breaking the rules – like not discriminating when hiring a new person to work the food pantry, or not being discriminatory about who gets that last box of food when the next 3 people in line are (in order) an atheist, a pagan, and a person who seems open to joining the church. . . .

  • http://bluelinchpin.wordpress.com Blue Linchpin

    THANK YOU for writing this! It’s great to see there are real journalists like you that don’t even get paid, pointing out where ‘professional’ journalists are wrong.

    Hope more atheists see this. I actually support Obama on this–religious organizations are here to stay for a long time unfortunately, he might as well simultaneously make them fair and get their support.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    If you follow the Exterminator’s link, you’ll see I strongly disagree with his characterization of how religious charities will use the funds. Essentially, his argument is they can’t be trusted because they’re religious, which is simple prejudice, pure and simple.

    Now I see no problem with them being rewarded with funds on merit. Let them compete with secular organizations on equal footing, not with an unfair advantage which this Office creates. Should they win funds, they naturally would have to be subject to Federal laws pertaining to hiring and firing practices, be completely transparent with their accounting and practices, and generally be subject to any and all laws and oversight that a secular organization would be subject to.

    I think what gets lost here is the funds are not given to support an organization, but rather a charitable enterprise, and it’s that organization which is being trusted to carry out the charitable enterprise on behalf of the government. With this in mind, ANY organization which shows the willingness and capability to carry out the charitable enterprise and can abide by the Federal rules and laws that pertain to the carrying out of that charitable enterprise should be considered for Federal funds to do so.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Philly said:
    I think what gets lost here is the funds are not given to support an organization, but rather a charitable enterprise, and it’s that organization which is being trusted to carry out the charitable enterprise on behalf of the government.

    There is, however, some organization’s name as the payee on the check that comes from the government.

    Let me ask you this. You probably recently received your economy-stimulating tax rebate check from the government. Did you actually spend it to stimulate the economy?

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Both analogies fail to make your point.

    First, as agents to carry out a charitable enterprise by the government, they need the funds, so of course their name is on the check. When someone gets a paycheck from work, is that an endorsement of their lifestyle? No, it’s compensation for performing tasks for the employer. Would it sit more comfortably with you if they got a Federal Credit Card with a set amount on it?

    As for the “stimulus check”, no American is under contractual obligations to use the funds to stimulate the economy.

  • Bobby

    Let them compete with secular organizations on equal footing, not with an unfair advantage which this Office creates.

    Alright Philly, you might have a point. In which case, make them set up a separate corporate entity to receive the funds so there’s no co-mingling. I don’t know that much about tax law as it applies to religious organizations, but non-profits do it all the time–establish one 501(c(3) non-profit tax exempt “educational” organization (e.g. that distributes literature to the public about global warming), and another 501(c(4) lobbying organization (that testifies on the Hill). Churches established in such a way can have the same board of directors, the same office space, the same payroll (all funded proportionately) but the only one the government can fund is the one that does the charity work (and doesn’t preach the word of God, distribute resources based on faith, or discriminate when hiring).

    Of course all of the fund raising will be done in the name of the religious (evangelical, God-spreading) organization, but at least the books are kept straight and when you put money in the collection plate you could specify whether it went to God or society. Granted, this might be a pain, but at least it makes the IRS’s job a little easier.

    But then, then why call it faith-based charity? It would just be “qualifying private tax-exempt organization” based charity. But at least I’d be fine with that–I’m guessing churches (and those courting their vote) wouldn’t.

  • Miko

    I understand many of us would prefer him not giving money to “faith-based” groups at all, but with these conditions, they may as well be non-religious organizations.

    That’d be great if it were true, but it isn’t. In fact, what you’re describing is exactly what we had before the faith-based initiative. All this is actually saying is that we’re still going to be giving the money to the organization which is religious rather than to the organization which is the best able to use it for the intended purpose (which may or may not be the religious one, by the way: I don’t care if a faith-based group gets it or not if they’re the best option). It’s pandering, pure and simple, and the people who depend on the services the money provide suffer for it.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    I’m with you Bobby. My other idea was for the amount of Federal funds to maybe match the organization’s fund raising efforts.

    One of the arguments is that if people know that a religious organization’s charitable effort will receive Federal funds, they may be less likely to contribute, which would be amplified by your idea where donations could be earmarked as going to the church or the charity. In this way, the Exterminator’s fears could be realized. To counter that, the Feds could say they’ll match an organization’s fundraising efforts. This would not only safeguard the possibility that Federal funds would indirectly be subsidizing religious efforts, but could possibly encourage church members to contribute more to the charity, and less to the religiously specific efforts.

  • http://del.icio.us/jcchurch James

    Please keep us up-to-date with the latest from the Obama camp. I want Obama to promote a government that governs separate from religion and my support hinges on this.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Philly:
    When someone gets a paycheck from work, is that an endorsement of their lifestyle? No, it’s compensation for performing tasks for the employer.
    Right. You don’t get that check if you spend your week advertising for your beliefs on TV; you’ve actually got to do the work to earn the check.

    So how about this for Charitable Funding?

    The religious charity does its work, say each year, unaided by government funds. It does, however, keep careful records, proving that:

    (1) The charitable work was actually done;
    (2) It was done in a purely secular way;
    (3) The specific kind of charity offered was neither more likely to apply to followers of that church than others, nor less likely to apply to non-followers of that church than others;
    (4) The charity showed neither bias nor preference in its disbursement of charity;
    (5) The church, itself, did not allow its charitable work, or even reference to its charitable work, to be used in any way as a propaganda tool for its religious message;
    (6) The religious organization could demonstrate that it was better equipped to perform the charitable work than a purely secular organization.

    The government reviews the records, and, if all provisions are followed
    reimburses the non-profit charitable organization (set up as as Billy suggested) in a matching funds kind of way.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    The problem I see with that idea Ex, is it would be easier to hide violations after the fact. In other words, with the possibility of being investigated at any time, they would be more inclined to behave properly, so paying up front rather than rewarding after the fact may actually be more of a guarantee that they stay honest.

    I could see though that having a track record like what you list would be a requirement that would have to be exhibited as a condition for competing for funds in the first place.

    One other thing which I neglected in Bobby’s comment is the idea that the religious would be against a plan that forced them to in effect create a secular organization in order to receive funding. First, I believe this is what was required in the past and what organizations like the Salvation Army did. Second, if the religious object to help in their charitable efforts because of the removal of religion, then they’ve just admitted they’re insincere about their charitable efforts.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    See, what I don’t get about your position Philly is: you’re willing to admit that the charity could cover up misuse of funds after the fact, but you’re perfectly willing to give them the funds before the fact. I don’t get why they’re any more trustworthy in your mind in the latter situation. Could you explain that to me?

  • Siamang

    These are kickback funds to the churches for turning out voters, nothing more, nothing less.

    Let’s face it, this puts churches in the pockets of politicians, and vice-versa.

    “Well, parishoners, I would say that the right thing to do would be to support candidate X, but the homeless folks in our Soup Kitchen won’t get anything to eat unless we re-elect Congressman Y who supports the current Faith-Based kickback…”

    Obama wants the kickbacks to favor the churches most likely to vote for him. McCain wants them to apply according to the wants of the churches of the voters he’s courting.

    No candidate will support moving away from “Faith Based” and moving to a religion-blind “Charity Based Initiative”. Nope. That doesn’t deliver parishoners on election day.

    And that’s why it’s a kickback.

  • Siamang

    Plus, how much will it cost federal taxpayers to monitor compliance with these requirements?

    In theory this is the responsibility of Congress to make sure all federal monies are spent properly. So Congress would have the authority to investigate these church groups.

    Like THAT would happen.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Exterminator, I’m willing to admit that ANY organization could act improperly, but I think it’s harder to do so under a watchful eye than to have time to cover it up.

  • http://www.churchofreality.org Rev. Real

    Has anyone debated the issue: What right does the Federal Government have to favor special groups at the expense of everyone?

    It’s called Socialism (aka Welfare State):

    And more importantly where does the money come from? The Federal government can do it directly via taxation or via gov’t programs (borrowing from the Federal Reserve which is a stealth tax called INFLATION)

    Siamang said,
    These are kickback funds to the churches for turning out voters, nothing more, nothing less.

    Let’s face it, this puts churches in the pockets of politicians, and vice-versa.

    Ron Paul has the right idea so I’ll just quote him on his essay:

    The primary issue both sides of this debate are avoiding is the constitutionality of the welfare state. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given the power to level excessive taxes on one group of citizens for the benefit of another group of citizens. Many of the founders would have been horrified to see modern politicians define compassion as giving away other people’s money stolen through confiscatory taxation. After all, the words of the famous essay by former Congressman Davy Crockett, that money is “Not Yours to Give.”

    Instead of expanding the unconstitutional welfare state, Congress should focus on returning control over welfare to the American people.

    [...]

    Federally-funded social welfare organizations are inevitably less effective than their counterparts because federal funding changes the incentives of participants in these organizations. Voluntary charities promote self-reliance, while government welfare programs foster dependency. In fact, it is in the self-interests of the bureaucrats and politicians who control the welfare state to encourage dependency. After all, when a private organization moves a person off welfare, the organization has fulfilled its mission and proved its worth to donors. In contrast, when people leave government welfare programs, they have deprived federal bureaucrats of power and of a justification for a larger amount of taxpayer funding.

    Accepting federal funds will corrupt religious institutions in a fundamental manner. Religious institutions provide charity services because they are commanded to by their faith. However, when religious organizations accept federal funding promoting the faith may take a back seat to fulfilling the secular goals of politicians and bureaucrats.
    Faith-Based Socialism – July 28, 2001

  • Gabriel

    I felt my stomach clench when I first heard that Obama wanted to expand the faith based initiative. I had hoped that this foolishness would leave with bush. What I read hear makes me feel a little better.

  • http://mygoddlessdrama.blogspot.com/ Stacy

    Oh my GORD! I sit down to check my Obama blog on his website and I hit yahoo and see THIS as a top story! I think my blood pressure just went up about 300 points! Someone get me a Xanax! Breathe Stacy Breathe! The comments on BarackObama.com are going crazy. People are saying they will no longer vote for him. Thats a little harsh don’t you think?

    I am going to collect myself and read Hemants post, and the comments here. I may no longer what to have Obama’s love child, but I’ll still vote for him.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Rev. Real, you aren’t offering Davy Crockett as a Founding Father, are you? Let’s see, during the Revolution he was uh…. not even born, that’s right. An actual Founder, Thomas Paine, argued for social welfare and social security.

    Be that as it may, the Founders could never have envisioned a nation where someone who was willing and able to work could not at all or could not do so and be compensated to a degree to provide for himself the necessities of life. In their day there was no shortage of opportunity. Calling upon opinions made based on a reality that no longer exists is foolish.

    Hey guess what? Ron Paul lost. Get over it.

  • Samuel Skinner

    The Republicans accused FDR’s new deal programs of being the first in line of government expansion to buy of voters, noting how the checks seemed to come quicker around election time.

    I hate it when they are right.

    Lets be blunt- religious organizations exist to spread their message. It would be like giving funds to the democratic or republican party to carry out social services… wait, that was the Guilded Age. And they did buy elections

    As for “its good enough” and “all we could hope for”, yeah, because political expediency is much more important than following the constitution or avoiding turning our country into a plutocracy.

    Government money should go to government agencies. Otherwise they are endorsing and strengthening the organization they fund. These is a bad idea as it leads the organization to be freed like little matters of actual support. See petrocracies for an example- when you have oil, you can simply buy dissidents off.

  • Leslie

    In other words, his policy is the same as Bush’s. Too bad this chump is the best we have at the moment.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Religious Right Blasts Obama’s Faith Based Plan

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    No Leslie, it’s not. Bush did away with all the oversight and regulations. Obama would restore them. Still, I don’t see the point in having an office to give one group a special advantage.

  • ubi dubius

    Well, I’m not happy with Senator Obama’s position. Even with the much clearer limitations and oversight, there is still tremendous potential for abuse. And, it’ll still be there when another right wingnut is elected. Then we’ll really see abuse. Again.

    So, what’s next? A Friday Evening Pasta Kitchen for the homeless? Let’s make sure we get federal funding for that!

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Ubi asks:
    So, what’s next?
    A cross on his flag lapel pin?

  • Pseudonym

    I’d like to second what PhillyChief said, and go one step further: It would grossly violate the principle of separation of church and state for the state to discriminate against an organisation just because it’s religious. As such, this proposal seems like the best option to me; even better than avoiding “faith-based initiatives” (oh how I detest that phrase) altogether.

    Exterminator:

    Any monies given to a church, whether technically used for religious or secular purposes, ultimately support that church and its message. If the church has a charitable mission, the funds coming from the government free up the equivalent amount that the church has collected through its normal extortion. That equivalent could then be used on stained-glass windows.

    This piece of illogic doesn’t even begin to pass the “does it make any sense whatsoever?” test.

    First off, charity is clearly not a zero-sum game. The one thing that every charitable organisation, religious or secular, wants to do more than anything else is: more. That’s what motivates people to get into charity in the first place. Every dollar that the government spends on welfare is an extra dollar spent on welfare, not an extra dollar spent on stained glass.

    Secondly, even if it that wasn’t true, so what? Yes, if everybody’s basic human needs were taken care of, people wouldn’t need to donate money to charity, and could spend it on something else that interests them, perhaps works of art (whether in stained glass form or otherwise). So therefore, the argument seems to go, peoples’ basic human needs shouldn’t be taken care of by those best equipped to do it, because we run the risk of people spending their own personal money on something I disapprove of.

    If you truly believe in separation of church and state, then you must agree that it goes both ways. Not only can the church not interfere in the state, but also that the state must not interfere in the church.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Sigh, now what? Bob Barr?

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Pseudonym:
    So, given the separation of church and state that clearly we all agree on –
    How can the state justify imposing rules on how a church may spend money given to it? And, further, how can the state justify digging into a church’s books to see if it’s following those rules?

    That’s about as far from separation as a merger.

  • Pseudonym

    How can the state justify imposing rules on how a church may spend money given to it?

    Because it’s not the church’s money to spend as it wishes. It’s the state’s money to be spent on the greater good. If it’s not being spent on the greater good, then there is a problem.

    And, further, how can the state justify digging into a church’s books to see if it’s following those rules?

    Would you agree that the state digging into a PAC’s books to see if it’s following the rules for a tax-exempt non-profit organisation is an unjustified restraint on freedom of political speech?

    No, me neither.

  • Tony

    This is a deal-breaker for me. I’ve wanted to support Obama, but he keeps coming up with new ways for me not to like his stances on issues. I agree with Leslie above, in that this program should be ended not amended. Come on Mr. Constitutional professor Obama, what would Thomas Jefferson say about this? He’d loathe it.

  • http://parabasis.typepad.com isaac

    Hemant,

    As you know I’m a recent reader and big fan of the blog, but I think your initial post betrays a lack of understanding of how nonprofits function w/r/t grant money.

    If the government gives money to a secular program at a religious charity, that simply frees up more money for them to expand their prosletizing efforts, because they no longer need to spend that money on the secular part of their business. Nonprofits play a fairly canny numbers game with grant giving organizations, including the government, and everyone knows it. You shuffle money around. The only way to keep the money from being spent in a way that could lead to prosletizing is to not give the money to organizations that engage in any religious activities whatsoever.

    This is a very disappointing move from obama.

  • Pseudonym

    isaac:

    As you know I’m a recent reader and big fan of the blog, but I think your initial post betrays a lack of understanding of how nonprofits function w/r/t grant money.

    I your post betrays a misunderstanding, too. I have no doubt that some charities misuse government grant money in this way, but this is a sweeping generalisation.

    If the government gives money to a secular program at a religious charity, that simply frees up more money for them to expand their prosletizing efforts, because they no longer need to spend that money on the secular part of their business.

    Nonsense. Generally speaking, if a charity gets more money, they do more.

    Nonprofits play a fairly canny numbers game with grant giving organizations, including the government, and everyone knows it. You shuffle money around.

    As you pointed out by conspicuous omission, if a charity really does misuse money, it’s almost completely independent of whether or not the charity in question is “religious”. I’m not American, but I understand that you have some promiment secular charities (United Way is one of them, correct?), where pretty much every dollar of private donation is spent on prosletising efforts.

    The only way to keep the money from being spent in a way that could lead to prosletizing is to not give the money to organizations that engage in any religious activities whatsoever.

    That’s also the best way to keep money from being spent on actual charity work. The best way to keep money being spent on charity work and only charity work is regulation and transparency, which is exactly what Obama is proposing.

  • Darryl

    Let’s face it, this puts churches in the pockets of politicians, and vice-versa.

    Indeed, and that’s good in the long run, isn’t it? It corrupts religion. Who cares about the politics–that’s already corrupt.

    Too bad this chump is the best we have at the moment.

    Show a little a respect, huh.

    This is a deal-breaker for me. I’ve wanted to support Obama, but he keeps coming up with new ways for me not to like his stances on issues. I agree with Leslie above, in that this program should be ended not amended. Come on Mr. Constitutional professor Obama, what would Thomas Jefferson say about this? He’d loathe it.

    Oh, please, you friggin’ wanker. Get real. If this is all it takes to turn you off, then who needs you? You’re going to vote for McCain? What are you waiting for, the Messiah? Jeezus, Obama is trying to win an election in a country of idiots; he’s doing what must be done. Don’t blame him. If you’re going to treat your precious principles like a virgin then why even vote? And don’t think you know what Jefferson would do. That man could be down and dirty when he needed to. Jeezus.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Yes let’s see, give money to religious charities or nominate more Justices like Alito, Roberts and Scalia. Hmmmmm, gosh, who’s worse? Which is the “deal breaker”?

  • Darryl

    Yes let’s see, give money to religious charities or nominate more Justices like Alito, Roberts and Scalia. Hmmmmm, gosh, who’s worse? Which is the “deal breaker”?

    Hear ye, hear ye, his Philly-ness!

  • Darryl

    Yes let’s see, give money to religious charities or nominate more Justices like Alito, Roberts and Scalia. Hmmmmm, gosh, who’s worse? Which is the “deal breaker”?

    Hear ye, hear ye, his Philly-ness!

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Philly & Darryl:
    Yes let’s see, give money to religious charities or nominate more Justices like Alito, Roberts and Scalia. Hmmmmm, gosh, who’s worse? Which is the “deal breaker”?

    Sounds like a faith statement to me. I’m pretty sure, given the evidence, that McCain would try to appoint unacceptable justices, but you never know for sure, do you? If he got in despite a huge evangelical fuck-you, he might decide to screw them. And there is that pesky Senate confirmation process to get through.

    In any case, I’m not convinced that Obama would be any more inclined to appoint civil libertarians — particularly if his strategy of wooing those beloved evangelical voters works. Then he’ll owe them more than just a couple of bucks towards charities.

  • Darryl

    I’m not convinced that Obama would be any more inclined to appoint civil libertarians

    Come on, man, that’s just ridiculous.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Well, Darryl, maybe a month ago — before Obama reneged on his public financing pledge, before he decided that he’d support FISA even if the telecoms were given immunity, before he decided to exclude Muslims from his photo ops because they didn’t look right, before he decided that maybe handguns weren’t so bad after all, before he supported expanding the death penalty, before he speechified about broadening Faith-Based Initiatives, before he used his allegedly little-guy supporters’ money to buy Hillary Clinton’s smile — maybe, as I said, a month ago, I would have agreed with you.

    Now, I don’t know what’s ridiculous. Do you?

  • sabrina

    Why is it in modern American politics people want to move as far away of the left as they can get? During the primaries, Obama was Mr. Cool, Mr. I dont’ care what the right wing says, I’m standing on principle. Now, he’s getting more hawkish towards Iran, promising to vote for a bill that offers telecom immunity, disagreeing with well-thought out court decisions that prevent our country from seeping into barbarity and killing everyone we don’t like, giving a speech on patriotism that throws his biggest supporters under the bus. Think what you will about MoveOn, but they raised a lot of money for Obama, and they didn’t deserve that. Plus, what’s his thing about “counter-culture sixties” and moving away from that? It was those “dirty hippies” that brought troops home from Vietnam, that marched for civil and women’s rights, that demanded we take care of our poor, and provide opportunities for everyone. And Obama has the gall the insult that culture! All the while he’s pandering to Christian theocrats who want to take away a woman’s right to choose, to make being homosexual illegal, and to perpetuate the division between the sainted and wonderful Chritians from us dirty atheists, Moslems, Pagans, and Buddhists.

    Why is it okay in politics to pander to the most racist, bigoted, and ignorant part of our society but standing up to the “radical” left that want to preserve the Constitution, provide healthcare, and bring our troops home alive is seen as a “good political move”. I thought Obama was different, but he’s just as craven and cowardly as any other democrat. Maybe the junior senator from Illinois should ask John Kerry how well spitting on his base worked for him.

  • Tony

    Exterminator has the right perspective here. We don’t need hero worship, we need a tough-nosed fighter who is going to clean up the mess BushCo has left. My principles matter to me very much, thanks, and if yours don’t, well, that’s on you. I want a President who will do what he says, not just say what the Rubes want to hear. Obama has been selling out the left for the past few weeks since Hillary went out, and I predict it will continue. I want to support him, but damn if he’s not making it easy with broken promises, FISA, death penalty, and now this crock of warmed-over-vomit called Faith Based Initiative.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    I find it amusing that the Exterminator would call basing a decision on a man’s years of Constitutional law experience and his record of commentary on and decisions about Justices here, here, here, and here “faith”, yet his confidence that Obama would go counter to all of that based on recent decisions would be called what exactly? Soothsaying? Can he read Obama’s recent positions the way some can read tea leaves?

    And as always, what’s the alternative? Ah, that’s the rub. The Exterminator is SO unhappy about this “deal breaker” that he’ll say whatever he can to dissuade people from voting for Obama, but he knows if nothing else, people will have to vote for Obama in light of the Justice nominations McCain has promised to deliver, so he’s going right to the heart of that argument. Of course if not Obama or McCain, then what? Oh enlighten us, Exterminator! Should we vote for you, or maybe you share Ellen Johnson’s thinking and would rather we all sit home on election day?

  • Darryl

    I have my principles, just like you. But–NEWS FLASH–politics is part principle and part BULLSHIT! Barack is not the Messiah, he’s just a smart, capable man who will do a better job at defending the Constitution and reason than McCain. He’s not perfect; he’s not going to satisfy my every need; and I understand that in a country as whacky as ours he is going to have to kiss some ass. I don’t like it; I wish it were otherwise; but, there it is. I can live with that–I’ve lived with George Bush for close to 8 years. If you’re looking for Mr. Clean then you’d better just blow off politics. Politics is why we cling to religion: after dirtying ourselves we need a bath.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    How does bathing in filth make the situation any better?

  • Darryl

    Bathing in filth does not make the situation better. My point was simply that politics is dirty, and if someone wants a sphere in which to hope and believe, and see their ideals realized, perhaps religion is more suitable.

    We don’t need hero worship, we need a tough-nosed fighter who is going to clean up the mess BushCo has left.

    This gets to another matter which has been overlooked so far: the entrenchment of corruption and the complexity of the Federal System. Cleaning up the mess left behind is more than one man is capable of, and if it’s even possible, it may be more than the whole government is capable of. Unless, or course, the next President declares marshal law and rules like a petty dictator, in which case, none of this matters anyway. Rather than blasting Obama, you’d better be hoping that the Congress sees the light, otherwise I can see deadlock from here on out.

    But, this is all wide of the mark. The real problem here is ourselves–our citizenry. We’re not going to change that soon, are we? We are why Obama and McCain are pandering. We are why we are occupying Iraq. We are why oil has skyrocketed. A poll taken this week indicates that if Americans must choose between more drilling or conservation, they choose more drilling. Have we learned anything by our history? It seems not. As disappointed as I am with the government we’ve been stuck with these last 8 years, I’m much more disappointed with my people. Politicians come and go; but we’re stuck with ourselves.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Darryl said:
    NEWS FLASH–politics is part principle and part BULLSHIT! .
    Yup. And the way to solve that problem is by giving our politicians a free pass to lie and cheat on their way to office — just because you happen to have faith that some of them really stand for what you’d like them to stand for?

    Listen, as long as you give Obama — or any candidate — implicit permission to lie during his campaign, you’re rubber-stamping the entire long history of deception that we’ve already been through in this country. You are part of the problem you’re complaining about.

    In championing, without serious criticism, one of the main liars, you’ve given him a reason to continue to lie. But, without your insights, how do I know that Obama is lying now instead of before. Maybe he’s finally saying exactly what he believes. For that matter, how do I know that McCain isn’t a closet liberal, also lying to fool his right-wing constituency?

    According to your analysis of electoral realpolitick, the American public expects its leaders to say anything that will get them elected. It sounds to me, Darryl, as if you’ve got a faith-based preference for the Democrats over the Republicans. But nothing you’ve said here is anything different than just spouting what you believe.

  • resh

    “Maybe the junior senator from Illinois should ask John Kerry how well spitting on his base worked for him.”

    Ah, you might want to review your political history before extolling the virtues of the “base.” Here’s some help: McGovern, Mondale, Hart, Dukakis, Brown, TKennedy, and….drumroll…your boy Kerry.

    Notable liberals, one and all. I can offer more if you like. Want me to tell you how they fared in the general election or, alternately, once their fringe support exhausted itself? You’ll need to rediscover JFK before pleading the liberalism-works-in-winning-national-elections case.

    As to Obama’s recent, and pathetic, fbi (no, not that one) support, one might stop to consider the power of churches, in general, and the power of their donations, in particular. We’re talking millions here, folks, not the 10 bucks you kicked in on Easter Sunday to placate your grandmom’s conscience. Exactly once in the history of SOCAS has a church had its 501c3 status revoked. That was in “Rossotti,” wherein the IRS caught the church red-handed for SOCAS violations-hell, they were blatantly asking for donations in an anti-Clinton political advertisement. Duh!

    The fact is, that it’s next to impossible to investigate or audit a church’s financial books-the “exercise” clause, coupled with free speech and politics makes them nearly untouchable.

    Obama might be exhibiting good intentions, or he might be engaging in what we once called ricochet pandering by endorsing this pragmatic religiosity; either way, he’s corrupted his core message of change.

    -resh

  • Siamang

    Here’s the deal in a nutshell:

    The Government takes my money.

    Hands it out to churches.

    Churches use it to feed poor people soup.

    Churches then preach about how good and moral they are for feeding poor people soup, and how they’re better than atheists.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Here’s the deal in a nutshell:

    The Government takes my money.

    Hands it out to churches.

    Churches use it to feed poor people soup.

    Churches then preach about how good and moral they are for feeding poor people soup, and how they’re better than atheists.

    Of course there’s no reason atheists can’t do the exact same thing.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Mike Clawson says:
    Of course there’s no reason atheists can’t do the exact same thing.
    Well, actually, there is a reason. Unless we’re willing to pass faithfreeism off as a religion — which most of us are not — we don’t qualify for Faith-Based funding.

    And that’s what this whole thread is about, isn’t it?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Well, actually, there is a reason. Unless we’re willing to pass faithfreeism off as a religion — which most of us are not — we don’t qualify for Faith-Based funding.

    Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiatives” did not create separate funding exclusively for religious groups. What it did was open up the current pool of government non-profit grants to faith-based groups. However, this pool of funds has always been available to non-faith based groups. All the Faith Based thing does is open up these funds to a larger pool of applicants. So if atheists wanted to open a soup kitchen and apply for a federal grant to help them do it, there is no reason they couldn’t.

  • Darryl

    According to your analysis of electoral realpolitick, the American public expects its leaders to say anything that will get them elected. It sounds to me, Darryl, as if you’ve got a faith-based preference for the Democrats over the Republicans. But nothing you’ve said here is anything different than just spouting what you believe.

    If pandering didn’t work, politicians wouldn’t do it. I’m sure your average politician hates the whole horse-race, perpetual-campaign culture of America, but they’re not going to cut their own throats by avoiding it. Ask any American if politicians lie; what do you think they’ll say? Our trouble is that we know that they lie; we expect them to lie; and yet we act as if they do not when we pull the lever for them, and expect they’ll change things. I hate liars, but that’s got nothing to do with who’ll be the next President.

    I have no faith in any group of politicians.

    Of course I’m “spouting what I believe;” what are you doing?

  • Darryl

    Obama might be exhibiting good intentions, or he might be engaging in what we once called ricochet pandering by endorsing this pragmatic religiosity; either way, he’s corrupted his core message of change.

    Consider the possibility that Obama, a man who has reflected upon the nexus of African-American culture, religion, civil rights, and our legal tradition, might just think that once more religion will have to come to the rescue of our self-punishing Nation. Politics at the highest levels has failed us–anybody want to argue that? Perhaps real reformers with a collar around their neck might be able to do some good as they did fifty years ago.

  • 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.

  • Darryl

    Americans expect their politicians to tell them what they want to hear–we call this campaigning. It’s how we decide who we’ll vote for. Once the God-talk and platitudes are over, and the work begins, then we’ll see what they really believe, and what what they’re really going to do.

    I know that this may be disappointing to some of you, but Barack may actually see some value in religions.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Darryl:
    Of course I’m “spouting what I believe;” what are you doing?
    Trying to keep you from spouting what you believe and passing it off as fact.

    Seriously, though, once we cut through the semantics, you and I are basically in complete agreement about the American public. You said it very well:
    Americans expect their politicians to tell them what they want to hear–we call this campaigning.
    But in calling it “campaigning,” we should also be scrupulous about pointing out that it may be “lying,” too. And I think that some of us ought to take the lead in holding our politicians to a higher standard — that is, to make sure they’re challenged loudly and strongly on every fucking lie they tell.

    If we don’t do this while they’re campaigning, we’ve abandoned our responsibility as citizens. And we’ve helped to create the atmosphere in which they’ll feel free to lie once they’re in office. You don’t want to contribute to that atmosphere, and neither do I. And — I suspect — neither does any commenter here.

    So, although Obama may well be the better choice in November, I think that here and now in July we should insist that he be truthful. If he is, his honesty may cost him the presidency. (I’m not convinced that it would, though.) But it would be a real change, and might ultimately lead to a new set of “rules” for public discourse, or, at very least, a discussion of those rules.

    So he should be saying things like: “I’m not going to lie to you. I support the separation of church and state because ….” Then he should say “The whole concept of Faith-Based Initiatives is not reconcilable with the spirit of the First Amendment or Article VI. So, since I’m a patriotic champion of our beautiful and wise Constitution, I oppose government funding for churches.”

    Period. End of story. He would have taken the offensive in characterizing supporters of Faith-Based Initiatives as unpatriotic and anti-Constitutional. Then they can try to lie their way out of it.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Sooo close. Try: “So, since I’m a patriotic supporter of our beautiful and wise Constitution, I oppose any initiative which gives preference to religious organizations”.

    The point of funding religious organizations’ charitable enterprises not being “funding for churches” was addressed a few dozen comments ago.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Philly:
    The point of funding religious organizations’ charitable enterprises not being “funding for churches” was addressed a few dozen comments ago.
    Yes, addressed, but not put to rest.

    Still, I’ll gladly accept your emendation to my comment because it effectively broadens what I said. So, since I’m a patriotic champion of our beautiful and wise Constitution, I oppose any initiative which gives preference to religious organizations.

    In fact, I’d change it even further:
    … I oppose giving government funds, under any circumstances, to religious organizations of any kind.

  • Darryl

    So he should be saying things like: “I’m not going to lie to you. I support the separation of church and state because ….” Then he should say “The whole concept of Faith-Based Initiatives is not reconcilable with the spirit of the First Amendment or Article VI. So, since I’m a patriotic champion of our beautiful and wise Constitution, I oppose government funding for churches.”

    I don’t know exactly what Barack means when he refers to “separation of church and state.” I know what I mean; and I think I take your meaning. But, we must resign ourselves to the facts: many Americans are religious; they act on their religion in the public sphere (witness the two elections of the “values” candidate Bush); any idea of separation of church and state will have to recognize these facts. For me, this precludes any idea of strict separation. It’s a hazy and moving line. I don’t like it, but I’m just one citizen.

    I say again, our fundamental problem is the quality of our citizens, not our politicians, and certainly not our principles.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Well of course you’d change it further Ex, right back to the mistaken position you’ve been at from the beginning because your prejudice has you stuck there and you can’t get past it.

    You simply can’t discriminate against a group who agrees to play by the rules simply because you don’t like them. That’s all your argument hinges on. Cloak it in the Establishment clause and your wrong on two counts. The first being the funding supports an enterprise, not the organization. Second, the Establishment clause has not, does not and will not prevent the Feds from investigating the books of religious organizations nor its practices.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    Philly:
    If you’ll read the Establishment Clause, you’ll find that my position is not mistaken. It’s pretty clear about what Congress may not do. (And, since Congress ultimately holds the power of the purse, it’s pretty clear about what may not be done with government funds.)

    The current method of funding may support an enterprise, and not the church directly, but it is an enterprise of the church’s, no matter how many secular intermediaries you place in the way. Otherwise, as someone pointed out earlier, why call it a Faith-Based Initiative at all?

    Also, don’t point to our flawed history as necessarily authoritative. Just because our government may have violated the Constitution before doesn’t make the practice right.

    But we’ve already made all these argument on our podcast and its accompanying blog. (That’s the last plug from me in this thread, Hemant. I promise). So we ought to invite anyone interested to listen in there and then comment on our exchanges.

  • Pingback: An Argument For Obama « Blue Linchpin

  • sabrina

    Thanks resh for your snide and condescending attitude. I don’t need your help as obviously I am better educated in politics than you are. You just listed a name of a bunch of Democrats, some who didn’t even win their primaries. One, McGovern, was running against a then-popular, incumbent president, Richard Nixon (this was before Watergate but after detente). Hart lost to Mondale in the primary because he had a lot less money, and no party establishment support. Mondale lost the 1980 and 1984 to Ronald Reagan, and he was following the Carter administration, which was an economic disaster for many Americans. Now, go google the Kerry campaign and see how, although in the beginning he had more support than Bush, he squandered that by flip flopping on national security, and moving to the right.

    The reason Obama did so well, and made so much money, is that he represented something different. Someone who wouldn’t use the constitution as toilet paper. Now, take a couple of flip flops and you’ll have uneducated voters (sort of like yourself) say to themselves, well, he doesn’t stand for a lot. McCain’s a POW, we know he’ll stand up for himself, and then he’ll lose, just like Kerry. Wow, I can be snarky and bitchy too :)

  • resh

    “Consider the possibility that Obama… might just think that once more religion will have to come to the rescue of our self-punishing Nation. Politics at the highest levels has failed…”

    You might consider taking a walk in the hood, bro’ Any hood-any ghetttttttoe-north or south, any urban area where blacks predominate. Take a guess what you’ll see on every street corner-just beyond the dope houses, slums and quiet desperation.

    You’ll see a church. You’ll see decent folks darting in and out, singing the praises of the gospel, raising their hands and hopes to the heavens, praying for an ounce of salvation.

    And then some peripatetic preacher with a rambling voice and an uncertain smile will command them, just as he’s done forever, for them, for their mama and for their mama’s mama. He’ll wave his bible and nearly shake the earth. Call it the spirit and cycle of black worship. And maybe if you look closely, real close, somewhere in the cleaner, calmer pews, there will sit Barack Obama. He’s sitting there, just blending in. But he’s listening.

    And then cause he’s there-or maybe cause he’s not-they’ll pass the magic plate. Time to donate. So the decent folks dig in and contribute what they can. It’s never much but it’s something. Salvation for a dollar. Sadly, before ya’ know it, the money mysteriously vanishes into the providential abyss. It vanishes like sin on any given Sunday. Funny thing is, the same damn thing happens with the white folk at their churches.

    Except Obama quietly knows one thing about his brothers and sisters that he knows doesn’t happened with the white folk. He knows that, in the hood, that church is all there’s ever going to be that’s decent. Church is hope on the street corner, just past the corner of prison and emptiness. So he remains quiet, listening, knowing that the cycle must continue.

    Now he’s the messiah, for a day.

  • Siamang

    Of course there’s no reason atheists can’t do the exact same thing.

    I’m all for feeding the poor. I contribute to that cause myself (and not just through taxes).

    But I think you missed the point of what I was saying… that it’s my money that’s feeding the poor at these faith-based places and by the same token it’s the faith based folks using my money to do good, at the same time they say I don’t do any good because I’m an atheist and I didn’t start “Siamang’s Atheist Soup Kitchen and Freethought Mission”.

    I give to charitable institutions, secular and faith-based alike, based on my understanding of the work they do… not based on my agreement or disagreement with their theories about life after death.

    But I am mindful of the “Charity is a loss leader for religion” assertion that Sean Prophet writes about. According to Sean, it’s something they do to curry favor, impress potential converts and get society to grant them some slack and sometimes get the district attorney to look the other way when some altar boys complain…

    I think it’s a given that charity work establishes some of the PR goals of religions. Every church is going to do some charity work. That’s a loss-leader. This just keeps the soup flowing when the Sanctuary needs a few more plasma-screens.

    So-called Catholic hospitals I read are mostly built and run on taxpayer and community funds. If that’s true, then it’s just plain ordinary people doing the good work, and the church getting the credit.

    So they get to do this, get to use my money to prop up their good name, and then damn me from the pulpit.

    Which is fine… it’s the golden rule, whoever has the gold makes the rules. It’s like it or lump it.

  • resh

    You forgot to tell us, Ms. Politics, which liberal candidate ACTUALLY won the presidency in the last 40 years, that ideological base being so meaningful ( says you) in national elections.

    Nevermind. We already know. Now run off to your poli-sci 101 class and study hard.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    resh answers sabrina:
    You forgot to tell us, Ms. Politics, which liberal candidate ACTUALLY won the presidency in the last 40 years, that ideological base being so meaningful ( says you) in national elections.

    So, resh, are you actually saying that liberals should abandon their values because those values don’t sell well? Hey, if everybody abandoned unpopular values, we could all be one big happy totalitarian family, singing “Kumbayah” and “Deutschland uber Alles” together. We could babble on and on, just for fun, about how bad things are (unjust wars, political power for sale to the highest bidders, institutionalized irrationality), but never actually do anything practical about the situation — because why bother? And as a sop, the populace could be given the illusion of empowerment by the government’s allowing people to vote for which one of a group of tone-deaf singers is least annoying. Then citizens could purge their quickly shrinking consciences by watching late-night TV ads for bowel-cleansing products.

    Whew. I’m glad I don’t live in an America like that.

  • resh

    “So, resh, are you actually saying that liberals should abandon their values…”

    No. I don’t recall saying that. Or implying it. What I said was that the liberal base-the ideology-is worthless for modern-era political leverage in national, especially presidential, elections. I’ll assume that you don’t need me to detail the queue of dead bodies that littered our political highways as they ran under the vanguard of liberalism.

    But I thought your musings were cute, wayward as they are.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    But I am mindful of the “Charity is a loss leader for religion” assertion that Sean Prophet writes about. According to Sean, it’s something they do to curry favor, impress potential converts and get society to grant them some slack and sometimes get the district attorney to look the other way when some altar boys complain…

    I think it’s a given that charity work establishes some of the PR goals of religions. Every church is going to do some charity work. That’s a loss-leader. This just keeps the soup flowing when the Sanctuary needs a few more plasma-screens.

    That’s a pretty cynical way to look at it, and the cynical side of me would like to agree with you. However, I also have to be honest, and the truth is that I personally know a hell of a lot of people who are involved in many different kinds of faith-based justice and charity work, many of whom are making significant personal sacrifices to do so, and I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever heard any of them express anything close to the sort of motivation you accuse them of. Nor have any of them seemed disingenuous in a way that would cause me to question whether these “PR” goals were their real motives.

    I’m sure there are some out there. I can imagine there are some who are only doing good for self-serving purposes; but when I try to think of examples, nothing comes to mind. The closest I can think of is when some churches do “servant evangelism”, i.e. serving someone’s physical needs as a way of opening the door to talk about the gospel. But that’s still not quite the same thing you’re talking about, since in the mind of a “servant evangelist”, sharing the gospel is still something they’re believe they are doing for the other person’s benefit, not their own. The servant part of servant evangelism is not usually thought of as mere PR, but rather as wholistic ministry – serving both physical and spiritual needs together.

    At any rate, I wonder if this “loss leader” theory of yours describes more of an unintended extra benefit that churches receive from their charity work, not their actual driving motivation.

  • Darryl

    If you’ll read the Establishment Clause, you’ll find that my position is not mistaken. It’s pretty clear about what Congress may not do.

    I like an evolving Constitution, just like a good liberal should, but I’m honest about the letter of the law, and faith-based initiatives, as much as I dislike it, is not “an establishment of religion.” We have no national church, no legally-favored denomination or faith.

    Don’t forget: Obama intends to unite the country. He can’t do it alone, and he may not be able to do it at all, but he has to enlist religious people and their institutions to help. Whether we like it or not, these folks and their organizations make up a lot of who we are. If he can hold them to the law, and appeal to the better angels of their nature, he might be able to do some good. He’s got to take his help where he can find it. He’d be stupid to do otherwise.

    Oh, and Resh, don’t be a asshole–that’s my job.

  • Pseudonym

    [...] don’t be a asshole–that’s my job.

    Well, you’re not doing a very good job at it, Darryl.

    I agree with everything you’ve said here. Giving money to the best groups to handle welfare programmes, with appropriate regulation to ensure that the money is not misused, is not establishment of religion.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    From the First Amendment:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …

    In case that’s not clear, maybe I should ask Darryl and Pseudonym to explain what it means. Or maybe, I ought to check with James Madison, here writing in 1785 (in “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”):
    Who does not see … that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

    So, to recap: On one hand we’ve got the powerful duo of Darryl and Pseudonym interpreting the concept of “Establishment” in one way, and on the other hand, we’ve got James Madison — who would shortly become “the Father of our Constitution” and a major force behind the adoption of the Bill of Rights — interpreting it in another way. Hmmmm. Tough decision.

  • Darryl

    Ex, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Madison was opposed to “A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion.” If you had included the sentences prior to your quote it would have been evident that what Madison was opposing is not what Obama is proposing.

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

    Madison is not arguing against the rendering of state-authorized services by churches, but the preference of one religion (and a particular sect) over others. The bill he opposed was one that would take taxpayer money to indoctrinate people into the Christian religion. This is not Obama’s plan. Obama is not proposing indoctrination and he is not exclusive: he’s opening up his initiative to all religions that meet his criteria for inclusion in the program.

  • sabrina

    Hey Resh..this might be hard but I want you to do some critical thinking. Okay….liberals start out better in polls, polls show that liberal positions on issues are more in tune with what the nation wants. So, why do liberals lose? Because they pander and run to the right..creating a narrative in brain dead voters (like yourself) that right is right and democrats are cowardly, wimpy, and believe in nothing. So, even though, a candidate has policies that people don’t really like, they’ll vote for him anyway because they perceive him as strong..i.e. he won’t back down. No one wants to go to war with Iran, and instead of having a leader who calls bullshit when he sees it and ridicules republicans, we get one who is increasingly becoming hawkish towards Iran, based on media portrayals of voters wanting a president willing to go to war. Now, if said candidate, took strong stands on issues, and didn’t back down, didn’t flip flop, he would have a better chance. A great example is Dukakis, who initially polled lots better than Bush, who the public perceived as weak due to a disasterous primary run against Reagan in the 80′s. Voila, you get a picture with Dukakis in an ill-fitting combat helmet looking uncomfortable in a tank, and him not standing up to Bush about the Horton issue, and he loses. You take Kerry, who started stronger than Bush, and then show him being weak to a hawkish right, and not defending himself against swift boating attacks, and he loses. So, liberals don’t lose because they’re liberal, they lose because they’re afraid to be liberal.

  • Darryl

    Sabrina, some of what you say may be true, but I would say that liberals lose because they’re not as unprincipled as conservatives, and voters are stupid.

  • Pseudonym

    One more thing. There is a hell of a lot of US case law on the religion-related bits of the constitution (Article VI, and the two clauses of Amendment I), and what is and isn’t legal is quite finely tuned.

    Bowen v. Kendrick is especially relevant here, because it explicitly deals with the situation of government money being given to nominally religious institutions to further secular purposes with regulations and oversight. Even the dissent in that case didn’t dispute that it was legal to do so, though they did dispute that it was legal in the case of the specific law being challenged.

  • sabrina

    Darryl…I agree. Any campaign that would turn a war hero into a coward and pass out purple heart band-aids at their convention is pretty unprincipled. And now with this election, the left is supposed to sit by and let McCain say he’s the only one who can lead the country because he was a POW; any question about his exalted military status is met with horror and disgust (even by decorated war veterans like Wes Clark). I wish some of that disgust had been there while the right ridiculed Sen. Kerry.

    Oh, and yeah, most voters are pretty stupid. And seemingly proud of it ( I think 11% of people still think Obama is a Muslim).

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    liberals start out better in polls, polls show that liberal positions on issues are more in tune with what the nation wants. So, why do liberals lose? Because they pander and run to the right..

    Obama is already on his way following this pattern. He has made statements that sound like he is moving to the middle on several issues, which upsets the left and lets the right call him a flip flopper. It’s going to get ugly when the right puts the full attack on, but they will wait a few more months. Polls in June/July mean nothing.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    No no no, we’re not supposed to call them stupid anymore. The term now is “low info” voters. ;)

  • resh

    Sabrina-

    You sound like a nice person. But as politics go, you really need to do your homework. Here are a few truths that you’ll need to accept concerning liberalism. I’m sorry if they disturb you.

    First, wetting your pants over comments like “liberals start out better in the polls” is an embarrassing assertion. Aside from it being an appeal to popularity, it means virtually nothing. Polls are hiccups, episodic imprints of what some select group affirms on a given moment. Case in point: would you like anyone on this board to remind you that every poll in the world had HRC as the democratic nominee? Spin it however you like.

    More to the point. History is a more revealing, reliable trend with which to make political assertions-about liberalism or otherwise. Of course, nothing is thoroughly dispositive. Still, the history of liberalism as a winning dynamic in the US manifests one disappointment after the next. Indeed, liberals have had nearly a dozen presidential opportunities since JFK to seize the presidency, and not once have they succeeded. Not once. And if youre really honest with yourself, you’d need to accept that even JFK, absent the reknown machinations of the Daly machine, would have lost to Nixon. Worse, most of the liberal presidential candidates have lost in landslides.

    The reasons are simple enough, and they keenly have to do with regional, unyielding preferences.

    To wit: folks in the west and folks in the south do not-repeat, do not-embrace liberalism. Not your kind, not Obama’s kind, no one’s kind. Now you are certanly free to delude yourself or others with handy bromides and half-baked theories as to why that happens, or you can even massage your fragile ego by calling those folks stupid or uneducated.

    None of that changes the political reality nor the landscape. Liberalism is an ideology that has a limited transcendent formula. I’m sorry if that isn’t covered in the classroom. It appeals to the young, to the displaced, to some minorities and to pockets of higher education. In short, to the lunatic fringe. It doesn’t translate so well, if at all, in the small, rural towns of America, aka, the red states. Thus, your blatherings about the imperative of leftists’ victory being a return to “the base,” like so many dizzy swallows heading to Capistrano, is simply a walk into Alice’s rabbit hole.

    The votes ain’t there, Ms.Liberal. Return all you like.

    Now if you’d like to discuss the merits of liberalism or, it seems, if history is our guide, the demerits of liberalism, I’ll be happy to do so. Suffice to say for now that liberalism is generally repudiated because it has become synonymous with a burden upon the status quo. It smells like Big Governement in perpetuity. (Key word, generally). Barack recognizes all of this, of course (much as you don’t want to), and hopes not to fall victim to a Kerry, Mondale, McGovern deja vue. He’s trying to avoid the “L” tag, that mainstream Scarlet letter. So he shapeshifts, accordingly.

    Finally, when you say the polls…blah, blah, blah…are saying this or that, all youre really witnessing is an instantiation of some extemists getting overheated and becoming impassioned. Deaniacs in one year, Obamanuts the next.. It’s the liberal beehive in search of its Queen.

    Or folks like you who just can’t accept the deathmarch of your cause.

  • Siamang

    Mike Clawson wrote:

    …and I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever heard any of them express anything close to the sort of motivation you accuse them of. Nor have any of them seemed disingenuous in a way that would cause me to question whether these “PR” goals were their real motives.

    The people themselves might have only the best motivation…. but the consequence is the same.

    Charity work greases the wheels in society. The 12th century Hospitallers had such popular support because of their work with the sick, that the Pope didn’t dare challenge them. Hamas is extremely popular in Gaza in a large part because they fund clinics, day care, schools, meal services, etc. It could be argued that they aren’t PRIMARILY a bomb-making organization. And within their worldview, I’m sure they are sincere, not disingenuous and aren’t providing the healthcare they do provide as a PR goal.

    Now you see I’ve drawn a false equivalency to crusaders and terrorists. And it is to my fault that I couldn’t think of an example that wasn’t as inflammatory and still illustrated my point. Which is that charity work is social grease, and that grease is being funded (if only partially) by the government.

    A better and concrete example is when you have Pat Robertson’s “Operation Blessing International” getting half a million dollars from the Faith-Based Initiatives, and the politically-connected right wing Washington-Times publishing Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s megachurch (megacult?) getting money from the government to teach abstinence education… I think you can probably more clearly see my point that these people, while no doubt sincere, do use this social grease to get, indirectly, more mindshare among the populace, more “respectability”, more footprint upon the religious landscape, and therefore more converts.

    It’s about further empowering the powerful. Indirectly, and not necessarily done with any self-awareness… but that is the outcome nevertheless.

    So when I ask, does Pat Robertson really need a half-a-million tax dollars? How many airplanes does that guy have, anyway? And you might start to see Sean Prophet (who used to run a cult, so he oughta know)’s point that Pat Robertson is going to spend X amount of his empire’s intake on charity work annually as a loss-leader. This just saves him half a mill, which might offset some of the higher fuel costs for his fleet of private airplanes.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    The safest bet may just be to simply eliminate government aid beyond a tax break to charities altogether. Citizens can then choose their charities to donate to, and if the Feds want to encourage charitable donations, they can grant an extra incentive come tax time beyond just the standard deduction.

  • http://nomorehornets.blogspot.com The Exterminator

    At last, Philly and I can agree. I’ll vote for his proposal. Let’s get government out of the charity business altogether. While we’re at it, let’s eliminate all those federal donations to the president’s cronies.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    I believe it was originally Evo’s.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    resh: FAIL.

    Wow, I can’t really argue with your format though. Folks, apparently this is all you have to do to discredit liberalism (in no particular order):

    Vague statement. General reference followed by another vague statement. Baseless assertion without specific examples. Generic critique. Projection.

    As history has shown, more baseless assertions without examples, more vague statements. Common rhetorically infantile remark about liberalism. Accusations of liberals doing something conservatives are actually guilty of. Use of Rush Limbaugh phrase “lunatic fringe,” a misnomer. More baseless statements.

    Claim of victory.

    Easy as pie!

  • Siamang

    resh: FAIL.

    Agreed. There are a number of very strong arguments one can make as to why American liberalism has had a rough go in the latter half of the 20th century.

    Resh’s argument seems to be that it’s unpopular because people don’t like it.

    Lol, duh.

  • Siamang

    To add more to what I wrote, Mike….

    Corporations use charitable giving as a form of grease as well. They spread big dollars around the community which helps them later when they’re asking the local zoning board to okay a brand new giant big box retailer that would require eminent domaining and bulldozing a dozen mom-and-pop stores.

    Corporations absolutely use giving as a form of grease. It would be bizarre to ask government to fund a private corporation’s philanthropic endeavors. (Not that it’s not done… it probably is. Corporations wield extraordinary power today. If anyone can tell me why oil companies get millions in tax breaks without the people rioting in the streets, I’d like to know.)

    Given that a primary claim of most religions is that they have a better idea of living than your average nonbeliever, I find it laughable that their single strongest evidence of that…good works… is underwritten by atheists like me in a form of a forced tithe.

    Render unto Caesar, indeed.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    Take a look at this article, especially the following comment:
    “For many faith-based organizations, the ability to select only staff committed to their faith is critical, just as senators, presidential campaigns, and environmental organizations must be free not to hire applicants who do not embrace their respective missions,” Carlson-Thies said. “It is deeply troubling that Senator Obama intends to curtail the religious staffing freedom when a faith-based organization receives federal funds.”

    I think this statement gives the whole thing away for the christians. Surely if the “mission” is to perform charity, than one’s religious affiliation should be irrelevant, just as it would be to carry out the missions of a senator, presidential campaign or an environmental organization. But if the mission isn’t to perform charity and is in fact to proselytize, well then, that would be a problem. Nice job there Mr. Carlson-Thies, director of social policy studies at the Center for Public Justice. Ooops! LOL!

  • Pseudonym

    PhillyChief: For the record, here in Australia, the Salvation Army does government-funded work, such as providing job seeking services. They hire atheists to work in these work units, because they have to. And they have not yet complained once about “religious staffing freedom”.

    This says more about Carlson-Thies and the particular sects paying him than about “the christians”.

  • Darryl

    Is anyone surprised that some Christians don’t really give a flying flip about separation of church and state, or compliance with rules for eligibility for funds. They want what they want, and they don’t much care how they get it. Let’s hope that the rules are scrupulously enforced and these types are weeded out. I don’t want to see any money going to groups like the friggin’ Family Research Council and dirtbags like Tony Perkins. No more abstinence education–what a waste of money. If the fundies want their kids to remain abstinent, let them see to that. I want condoms and sound medical advice funded by my tax dollars.

  • Pseudonym

    Darryl, here, I edited it for you:

    Is anyone surprised that some people don’t really give a flying flip about [...] compliance with rules for eligibility for funds. They want what they want, and they don’t much care how they get it. Let’s hope that the rules are scrupulously enforced and these types are weeded out.

    Nope, nobody is surprised at all.

  • Darryl

    Pseudo, it didn’t require editing. I was referring to Philly’s last post. Come on, you know the types I’m talking about. They have no principles. He was quoting this guy from the Center for Public Justice. Even the name is meant to deceive–they’re a Christian advocacy group, just like the FRC, and the even more deceptive Family Watch International.

  • Pseudonym

    Sure, I know what types you’re talking about. I’m just commenting that self-serving people are found everywhere.

    Philly’s comment reminded me of all those no-bid contracts. I can imagine someone from Blackwater or Haliburton saying the same thing.

  • http://youmademesayit.blogspot.com PhillyChief

    I find it amusing that on one hand those christians he represents may be bad yet what “self-serving” thing are they trying to advance? Isn’t it christianity? I would argue that although they may be principled, they subscribe to what they think are HIGHER principles, ones that supercede ones like Federal hiring practices or even a charity mission. You can’t tell me these are just “bad” christians falling victim to ends justify the means thinking. Ends justify the means is at the core of the belief, reflected in story after story.

    Since their goals are not just self-serving, that they are to advance the faith, no doubt the “good” christians will turn a blind eye to the behavior, or downplay the violations because they’d look at teh violators and think “their hearts were in the right place”.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Siamang, it sounds like you’re basically agreeing with what I suggest above, that:

    this “loss leader” theory of yours describes more of an unintended extra benefit that churches receive from their charity work, not their actual driving motivation.

    However, what you said here is significantly overstated:

    Given that a primary claim of most religions is that they have a better idea of living than your average nonbeliever, I find it laughable that their single strongest evidence of that…good works… is underwritten by atheists like me in a form of a forced tithe.

    According to Wikipedia “in 2005 more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations”. But surely this is a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount of charitable giving and work being done by religious people. According to this site, Americans gave over $260 billion to charity in that same year. Even if you subtract what was given to directly fund churches themselves (the site says $93 billion was given to religious organizations, though it doesn’t specify how much of that the organizations themselves used for other charitable work), and subtract the percentage of that $260 billion (let’s say 10%) which was given by non-religious people, that still leaves around $140 billion given by religious people to charity. Thus, in terms of pure numbers alone, to imply that the bulk of their good works are actually being underwritten by atheists in the form of government grants is rather overstating the case.

  • siamang

    You’re right, there aren’t that many atheists. I didn’t mean to imply that the bulk of giving was being done by taxes levyied upon atheists. Merely that the PR value of these good works can be lessened by the knowledge that its the greater public at large doing the work, and not the partiular sect pouringthe soup.

  • David Crespo

    If the Heritage Foundation is pissed, you must be doing something right.

  • Darryl

    Ol’ Barack is beating them at their own game, and they can’t stand it. You see, the demigod that Republicans love to invoke–Reagan–made an art of organizing the Christian “values” voters into a reliable voting block for the Party. The swing to the right has damaged the Party (see the real conservatives abandoning the Republican Party), nevertheless the Republicans need these voters to win, and Barack may be able to break up that block.

    This really is funny. The Heritage types can’t really press him too hard because they’ll risk tipping their hand and show how that they’ve been pandering and manipulating these idiots for years. Hypocrisy of hypocrisies, they’ll charge him with the very things of which they’re guilty. Hilarious.

    If anyone wonders why our country is so fucked-up now, just examine how we choose our Presidents. Pitiful.

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