$500 Million for federal "bigotry based" initiative ?
[ Esther Kaplan continues ] Paul Weyrich, the master coalition builder who had inspired Jerry Falwell to build a "moral majority" in America, wrote a Dear Friend letter that resounded with defeat. "I no longer believe that there is a moral majority," he wrote in February 1999. "I do not believe that a majority of Americans actually shares our values." He declared that the right had lost the culture war and that America was becoming "an ever-widening sewer."Well, that was 1999. Now it's 2006, and we're in the thick of a concerted, programmatic effort - on the part of the Christian right and their allies in the GOP - to defund federal and state social safety nets and shift some of that money to "faith based" programs that provide the same services, sort of, and less efficiently. What's the current scope of "faith based" funding ? How much money may be involved ? Even the federal government seems hazy on the figures, but see this overview of mine, from February 2005
What's this new "faith based" legislation really about ? What was the origin of the legislation ? Bob Johnson provides analysis [ with ensuing debate ] of the origins of the legislation in question. Regardless of the details, this overview from the ADL provides a helpful perspective on the nature of "faith based" initiatives:
The Faith-Based Initiative represents a dramatic shift in the way government funds social welfare services for our nation's most needy citizens. The design and implementation of the initiative raise serious and deeply troubling implications for the religious freedom of all Americans -- and the integrity of our nation's religious institutions.[ source: Anti Defamation League website ]
Whatever the current scope of "faith based" federal and state government funding [ two billion ? Ten billion ? Twenty ? ], the seismic nature of the shift in spending currently underway must be underscored. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the situation, from a May, 2005 Washington Post story:
Bush has pushed for increased funding for religion-based groups while proposing deep cuts for many traditional anti-poverty programs. The result is that many small church- and community-based social service programs are slowly assuming the lead role in the war on poverty once held by long-established community development organizations..... Bush's 2006 budget proposed slashing public housing subsidies, food stamps, energy assistance, community development, social services and community services block grants -- programs that for decades have constituted the federal anti-poverty fight....
There is a darker quality to this shift in federal funding - the move towards the federal funding of groups practicing religious discrimination* in hiring practices :
As Michael Hoover, in "The Stealth Presidency: George Bush and "Faith-Based" Government" relates, the legal basis for government funded discriminatory hiring practices - on the basis of religious belief - were recently laid:
Lost amidst the media clamor over George W. Bush's U.S. Supreme Court appointment in early October was a New York federal court decision giving constitutional legitimacy to the president's scheme of "faith-based" government. Ruling in the case of Lown v Salvation Army, District Judge Sidney Stein (a Bill Clinton appointee) held that religious institutions are exempt from a section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting religious discrimination in personnel matters by organizations receiving federal funds. While Stein let go forward a part of the suit filed by employees of the Salvation Army alleging that the charity had specifically used government money for religious purposes, among the claims he dismissed was a charge by the plaintiffs that they had been forced from their jobs after refusing to divulge their religious beliefs (and, in one instance, the sexual orientation of co-workers). Lead plaintiff Anne Lown, who had worked for the Salvation Army for 24 years at the time she tendered her resignation, was Associate Director of the organization's Social Services for Children (SSC) program in New York City, a program that, according to court records, is 95% dependent upon federal funds.
Moore's excellent article chronicles the recent history of how the explosion in "Faith Based" funding was propelled - quietly - by presidential decree:
Religious institutions have long been "contract" social-service providers in the United States. Few paid attention to a "Charitable Choice" section (Sec. 104) of the 1996 welfare bill signed into law by President Clinton easing grant-application restrictions for religious social service agencies. Upon inauguration in 2001, Bush took advantage of the opportunity this afforded to "fly below the radar" and promote partnerships between government and groups with religious aims and tactics. Using a strategy termed the "administrative presidency" by political scientist Richard Nathan, Bush employed an array of unilateral techniques. His initial executive orders (signed eight days after taking office) created a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI), required that Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, establish FBCI units (similar entities were later created at the Agency for International Development, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Veterans Affairs, and the Small Business Administration), and directed that plans be developed to circumvent legal barriers to "faith-based" funding. Staffed by strategically-placed political appointees selected to rewrite grant procedures, eligibility rules, and operating regulations, FBCI centers have aggressively pursued the goal of making public funds available to faith-based organizations (FBOs) providing a variety of services, including adoption, day care, HIV care, and housing.
Now, as Moore goes on to detail how examples - favored by George W. Bush and the Christian right - on the alleged success of "Faith Based" teen drug addiction and prison rehabilitation programs are - well - a bit "truth challenged" ( or upheld by "faith based" social science that plays rather fast and loose with the facts ), readers might rightly wonder on the rapid national slide into a "faith based" unreality where metrics on the performance of such programs indicate general failure.
But, as has often seemed to be the case during George Bush's presidency - the American mind, be it left, right, center, whatever, is elsewhere. So George W. Bush's recent ramping up of federal funds available for groups working to strengthen marriages ( but only for straight marriages ) gained astonishingly little public attention.
Perhaps Americans are simply becoming acclimated to the steady advance of "faith based" government ( "faith based" has become ubiquitious, it seems, extending even to kindegarten.
That may indeed be the case, because a quick Google search on what some - only a few years ago - may have considered a significant story reveals only 5 minor news sources covering the quintipled funds for the new anti-gay federal "faith based" marriage strengthening program. Two of those sources identify themselves as Christian news services, two are gay news source, and the remaining source is the Online Journal.
Mainstream eyes were - it seems - far, far away, and this fact was almost certainly noticed by many on the Christian right and the gay activist community. These dual messages seemed quite clear : One, that the Christian right was free, via its partisans in the White and the Congress, to advance its program of supplanting the secular federal social programs with "faith based" efforts that can be discriminatory and even bigoted. Two, that the gay community, in its battles against anti-gay forces on the Christian right, was more or less alone.
However, Americans opposed to Christian theocratic government might do well to consider the implications of this statement from a Buzzflash interview with author and Talk To Action contributor Esther Kaplan :
Bush's faith-based initiative also privileges Christianity above all other religions. After sifting through every grant announcement I could get my hands on from Bush's faith-based offices, I couldn't find a single grant issued to a religious charity that wasn't Christian -- no Jewish charities, no Muslim charities, nothing. And when I spoke with Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he confirmed that no direct federal grants from his program had gone to a non-Christian religious group. This kind of religious favoritism is exactly what the Constitution's establishment clause was put in place to prevent.
As I wrote last February, 2005, the pot of federal funds that in theory was open for applications from "faith based" agencies was in fact quite enormous - possibly up to $100 billion dollars - and puts Kaplan's confirmation from Jim Towey in a rather stark light : the actual scope of burgeoning "faith based" government is in all likelihood far outstripping the ability of reporters, writers, independent researchers, and the media overall to even get a general bearing on the situation.
To compound the situation, "faith based" programs seem to be accompanied by "faith based" accounting. Daniel Zwerdling, producer of two 2003 programs on the faith-based initiative, for Bill Moyers TV show, is quoted as saying :
"administration spokesmen say they can't break down how much money has gone so far to religious groups .. they claim they don't keep that information."
Faiths Based Myths Demolished [source] :
"Myth No. 1: Religious organizations [ prior to the "Faith Based Initiative" era which began with the inauguration of George W.Bush ] face substantial discrimination when competing for government grants and contracts." - NOT : "Before any changes were made by charitable-choice legislation or President Bush's faith-based initiatives, religious social service providers who wished to maintain a religious atmosphere or religious content in their programs -- and not all, perhaps not even most, wish to do this -- commonly did so openly and with no consequent problems with or interference from the government....
*For an in depth look at the issue of "Faith Based" discrimination practices by organizations receiving federal funds, see The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, from The Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York
$500 Million for federal "bigotry based" initiative ? | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)
$500 Million for federal "bigotry based" initiative ? | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden)