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Do You Have Faith in Faith-Based Initiatives?

July 3rd, 2008 | by Omnipotent Poobah |

Separation of Church and State

Evangelicals seem to be odd man out this political season. Their much-vaunted voting block isn’t concrete-solid this time around. McCain courts them with little success, even after gratuitously changing his official religion from those darn liberal Episcopalians to the more palatable and conservative Baptists. Obama’s working the liberal evangelicals with daily mentions of his faith and a new evangelical plank - faith-based initiatives.

La Bama isn’t talking the moribund photo-op that God’s Main ManTM kicked off to lefty howls and Congressional reticence. No, he’ll give it a shiny new name - the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships - and elevate it to the moral center of his administration. I’m not clear where the moral center of his administration is and whether jamming “neighborhood” into the title makes it taste any better to the opposition. We’ll see.

It was lead balloon time when Obama raised the flag. The liberal rank and file did not salute. Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State summed it up, “I am disappointed that any presidential candidate would want to continue a failed policy of the Bush administration. It ought to be shut down, not continued.”

He’s right about Bush policies being daft and there are legitimate concerns about the integrity of the firewall between church and state. However, Obama argues there’s a great humanitarian need out there and the nation needs all the help it can get to fill it.

The Great Genuflector
The Great Genuflector’s program was clearly window-dressing. He debuted it as a diamond in the compassionate conservative rough and the fundamentalists lapped it up with the rest of his spoilt-milk policies. Once his throne was assured, he piddled with it until Congress told him to step off and his hand-picked minion quit with charges that the Emperor had no clothes - not even from the church thrift shop apparently. But George’s usual ineptitude and the valid separation questions aside, it may be too early to toss this idea.

Government already partners with religious institutions in a host of ways. The Salvation Army and individual churches participate with government entities in times of disaster. Church-supported universities get research funds from taxpayers. And, churches often work closely with humanitarian State Dept. initiatives overseas. There are models for this sort of arrangement, but we have to follow the money.

Obama wants government money to go straight to helping people, no proselytizing, just hot soup for the homeless. He also wants to make sure jobs are open to anyone. Hiring people of Christ is OK, but if an atheist, Muslim, or drag queen can help, churches must welcome them into the program. These are sensible ideas that garner the help we need while ensuring the money isn’t skimmed for religious enterprises or impartially parcelled out, leaving the sinners behind. But these are also the sticky parts.

God’s Financial Records…WTF?
Clearly, accounting is required and some churches will gladly comply because they put their hearts before their politics. But, there are always the Kenneth Copelands of the world who say their financial records are, “God’s, and you’re not going to get (them).” I’d expect gays - especially those heathens wanting to marry - would find a cold shoulder at his church door. I’d also guess many churches would squeal because they didn’t get their swipe at the bankroll because they were unwilling to bend.

At their core, we know faith-based initiatives are powerful because they already do much good. We know reasonable safeguards are available to keep the programs on the up and up. What we don’t know is how much the safeguards will weaken during congressional compromises and how honest and impartial the churches will be in sticking with the program. As with many things in our deeply-divided country, the question is how much trust the two sides can scrape together.

I’m not sure of the answer, but I am willing to listen - even if I am an atheist.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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  1. 3 Responses to “Do You Have Faith in Faith-Based Initiatives?”

  2. By Craig R. Harmon on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    Really funny cartoon. I’ve always liked Calvin and Hobbes (and I don’t mean John and Thomas).

  3. By Chris Radulich on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    I have no problem with faith-based initiatives assuming they follow the law as everyone else have to. If this contradicts with their morals then they have a choice. They can conform to the law, not accept government money, or leave to field.

    One has to wonder why their faith is so insecure that they are unwilling to hire people outside their faith.

  4. By Liberal Jarhead on Jul 4, 2008 | Reply

    I’m with Chris here. Any organization providing community services should be equally eligible for taxpayer funding as long they don’t discriminate or proselytize, but if they want to do those things, I don’t want to have to pay their way. To use my income tax to pay for religious activity I don’t support is wrong. Nothing wrong with buying social services from a group that happens to have a religious orientation, as long as that doesn’t mean my money is going into the collection plate for their faith that I don’t share, and as long as they aren’t discriminating against me or anyone else who doesn’t share their faith in either hiring or providing services.

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