August 16, 2006

More Hirable Than Thou

We've railed on this blog before about how faith-based initiatives funded by public money are a horrible idea. But there are people actually going through this with their own jobs.

By "going through this" I mean that there is religious discrimination going on. This all started when Bush started to blur the lines that faith-based organizations used to use to keep public money from funding programs that push religion.

Transforming social welfare into conversion therapy was Bush's design when he made faith-based initiatives the priority of his administration's domestic agenda.   And his success has been astounding.

Before Bush upended things, religious groups had always been enlisted by government as providers of social services. They just had to wholly separate their religious mission from their government-funded services. Under Bush, there has been substantial blurring of the line.

As to hiring, the law always allowed religious groups to discriminate on religious grounds - so that the Catholic Church could hire Catholic priests, for example - but that exemption did not extend to employees hired with public funds to provide social welfare. It was a simple, clear rule. If you took public money, you hired on the basis of merit, not piety.

But Bush wiped away this calibrated distinction by issuing a series of executive orders early in his presidency approving taxpayer financed religious discrimination.

In the above article, Robyn Blumner also writes about Anne Lown, hwo had worked for the Salvation Army for 24 years while the organization had well-defined lines separating evangelism from social services. But with Bush's new rules she describes being asked to complete a form...

asking for list of churches she attended over the last 10 years and the name of her present minister. Lown says she was told that indicating "not applicable" was not an option.
There's a rude awakening for you.

If this article is too much opinion for you, you can always refer to the General Accounting Office report.

GAO Finds the Bush Administration's Faith-Based Initiative Lacks Safeguards Against Religious Discrimination

"This report shows that the Bush administration has sent billions of taxpayer dollars to religious organizations without accountability for how that money is spent," said Stark [...]

The GAO report found that federal agencies administering the faith-based initiative are not informing religious organizations of their anti-discrimination responsibilities under the law. [...]

The GAO report also found that 70 percent of the agencies it reviewed did not provide information on permissible hiring practices to grantees. [...]

[F]ive years into the initiative, the GAO report finds that the government has not examined whether programs administered by religious organizations are improving participant outcomes. According to the study, agencies have not completed - or even begun - outcome-based evaluations of most of the faith-based programs they fund. [...]

Opening the door to discriminatory practices and at the same time ignoring the need for accountability. The people who run this administration talk a good game, but when it comes to accountability it's amazing how the buck doesn't just get passed. It plain gets lost in the shell game of government. Feel free to read the whole GAO report.

On the Flipside

If this worries you, if you're concerned about how this tax money is being spent, if you think that it may be going to spreading religion rather than helping people in some cases, and if you're worried that discriminatory practices are being funded by tax money, you're not alone.

In fact, I posted this story to Reddit on Tuesday morning and it rocketed to the top of the front page (from up-votes placed by people who thought it was an important story.) Reddit is a merit-based link aggregation site, and this was the first time I'd posted a link and had it even come close to being the #1 link. So "redditors" were interested. But they aren't the only ones.

You might be surprised to learn that Jerry Falwell is worried! You won't be when you read why, sadly.

It also concerns me that once the pork barrel is filled, suddenly the Church of Scientology, the Jehovah Witnesses, the various and many denominations and religious groups--and I don?t say those words in a pejorative way--begin applying for money--and I don?t see how any can be turned down because of their radical and unpopular views. I don?t know where that would take us.

Pardon my language, but no shit, Sherlock. If you can get by his religious discrimination, what he's saying makes some sense; but you have to apply it to all religious organizations. I'm concerned about all the evangelizing that may go on using money that could have been helping people. But Falwell doesn't see this until he looks up while taking a break from kissing the president's rump. News Flash, Jerry. Maybe the idea wasn't so good after all.

Thanks, Chuck, for forwarding this link. It's one I ought to have been aware of already, but sometimes I'm not very observant. I think Chuck probably saw the story here, so hat tip there as well.

(P.S. A detailed story on what has gone on in the so-called "Battle of 14th Street" Salvation Army case is available in this publication. It's worth it if just to get to read the phrase: The road to Hell is full of good people.  You go, religious guy!)
Posted by James at August 16, 2006 12:22 AM
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Well, you know, America *is* a Christian nation. Everyone celebrates Christmas. Therefore they *should* get the lion's share of the money. ::rolleyes::

Posted by: briwei at August 16, 2006 2:38 PM

Brian, at least you have a religion. What about people like me?

A couple years ago I was taking courses on ASL. Part of the "homework" was that I had to attend three signed events, and one of the only ones I could make was a signed service at a UU church.

I was surprised. We sang about peace and freedom, the sermon was about equality and justice, and it was really nice and non-God focused.

I came home and said to Bob, "If the government ever mandates that we must have a religion, I could live with the UUs."

He said the UU church would most definitely not be on the list, being the big ole bunch of Lefties that they are...

: )

Posted by: Patti M. at August 16, 2006 2:55 PM

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