Thursday, February 05, 2009

Faith-Based Initiatives

I heard a representative of one of the major religious charitable organizations the other day - I forget which one - complaining about President Obama's campaign promises that government money couldn't be used by faith-based groups that discriminate in hiring. You know - that won't hire gays, or members of other religions. How can we be expected to fulfill our mission, said this man, if we have to do all this? We do a lot of good, he said; we need this money to do more good.

As a matter of fact, although I myself am not especially religious, I have a lot of respect for the religious charities. It's arguable that they are the truest Christians around, out there on the streets, feeding the hungry, succoring the homeless, and so on. I donate to a couple of them regularly.

But in this case, I'm on President Obama's side. There's a very simple answer to your dilemma, sir, whether you're with the Salvation Army or the Catholic Charities (two groups I'm fairly sure I've heard had issues with hiring gays).

Don't take the money. Stick with private fundraising from private donors who agree with you, and stay true to your principles.

Yes, the U.S. Government (at least for now) is a boundless source of money. You could do a lot of good with it. But the U.S. Government, like you and me, doesn't want its money used in ways it disapproves of. You, sir, wouldn't give money to a gay rights group. But gays pay taxes, just as you do; and they don't want their tax money given to groups that won't hire them. The U.S. Government represents all its citizens, even the ones you disapprove of.

Then there's the whole issue of the separation of church and state. If the government gives you money which you use to forward your religious mission, isn't that "creating an establishment of religion"? The only way to get around that would be for the state to give money to all religious groups, and allow them all to use it for their sectarian goals - and I mean all religions, including the Wiccans and the pagans.

Actually, as I was writing this, I saw an article on Obama's new Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives. The complaining gentleman will be able to get funds from the office; but his bookkeeping had better be good, because he can hire and fire based on religious tenets, only for projects which don't get government funding. On the other hand, this office will also work with secular non-profits.

I didn't see any mention of Wiccans and pagans.

1 comment:

  1. Hedera, like you I was luke-warm to the notion of faith-based government support. Raised as a Presbyterian, but technically agnostic, I was perfectly willing to accept the notion that churches can perform charitable functions in communities with no discernible bad affects.

    But our constitution doesn't permit religious endorsements, and every penny given to a church is a concession. Bush wanted to do it, and I was momentarily open to the notion.

    But, no, we can't be doing this, as much as it might make "social" sense.