Thursday, July 03, 2008

Obama and Faith Based Initiatives - A Bad Idea

Democratic presidential nominee apparent, Barack Obama, has announced that he would expand on certain faith based initiatives commenced under the Chimperator. His full sppech can be found here. Admittedly, I am leery of religious organizations, especially those with ties to conservative evangelical Christian denominations which have an utter inability to grasp the simple concepts of (i) separation of church and state and (ii) that others besides themselves have religious freedom rights too. Yes, there are many religious organizations that do very good work and address many ills in society and assist the poor. The issue is whether they can do so without proselytizing to the people they help and do so (A) without discriminating against elements of those they seek to help and (B) without discriminating against the people they hire - on the basis of their religion. I think the conservative organizations that have been aligned with the Chimperator's regime have amply shown that they CANNOT do so. In fact, they often blatantly refuse to do so. Perhaps some of the progressive mainline denominations can do a better job on this front, but I personally believe that absent 100% complinace with non-proselytizing and non-discrimination requirements, no religious organization should receive a penny of taxpayer derived funds. Here are a few highlights from Obama's speech:
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.
I will empower the nonprofit religious and community groups that do understand how this process works to train the thousands of groups that don't. We'll "train the trainers" by giving larger faith-based partners like Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services and secular nonprofits like Public/Private Ventures the support they need to help other groups build and run effective programs. Every house of worship that wants to run an effective program and that's willing to abide by our constitution - from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques - can and will have access to the information and support they need to run that program.
Again, I understand the concept that Obama is trying to achieve. I just think he is entirely out of touch with reality if he believes most religious based organization would be able to truly meet the requirement of not proselytizing and not discriminating aginst those assisted and/or employees should they noy conform to the organization's religious dogma/agenda. A good explanation of why Obama's idea is wrong is here. If nothing else, policing the program to prevent what I believe would be widespread and often outrageuos abuses would be a mammoth under taking in and of itself.

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