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Faith Based Discrimination?

posted by Paul Raushenbush

David Waters in his Under God blog asks these good questions about President Obama’s decision to defer a final decision on the non-discrimination hiring policy for groups getting federal money though the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships:

The goal of the new faith-based initiative, Obama said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, “will not be to favor one religious group over another — or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line our Founders wisely drew between church and state.”

But this line is blurry. How much blurrier (and more contentious) will it get when millions in federal funds start to flow?

Will the Southern Baptist Convention be allowed to take federal tax dollars to help hurricane victims if they tell them about Jesus while they’re giving them food and water?

Will World Vision be allowed to use federal tax dollars to care for orphans in Muslim or Hindu nations while refusing to hire non-Christians to do the caring?

Will the pastor of First Megachurch of Houston be given federal tax dollars to provide drug counseling for deadbeat dads while preaching and practicing discrimination against homosexuals or atheists or illegal aliens?

If so, many church-state separatists will cry foul. If not, many evangelicals will complain about sectarian discrimination.

There’s a simple and faithful way to solve this problem. If evangelical groups don’t want the federal government telling them what they can or cannot do with federal tax dollars, they shouldn’t take federal funds. (bold is mine)

“What does the LORD require of you?” it says in the Book of Micah. “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” No federal funds required.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” Jesus says in the Book of Matthew.

In neither case is government funding required.



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Phil

posted February 9, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Most people I know in ministry will not take the Federal dollars for all the reasons you outline here…to many strings attached. All of these organizations do tremendous good, without the interference of the government, yet you suggest that because these organization refuse to submit to the whim of the Feds that somehow they are bad. I take exception to several of your points because they are just plain stupid, and lack any grounding in common sense. The difference between you and me, though, is I recognize your right to these opinions, regardless of how bad they are. You, on the other hand, want them enshrined into law. So, until you start to recognize that the rights of the individual still hold sway with several segments of society, we will need to continue to agree to disagree.
Cheers….



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Brian Griffith

posted February 10, 2009 at 6:33 am


Sounds real tough, trying to fund caregivers, but not any caregivers with prejudices different from those of federal agencies. Couldn’t it be handled basically as an accounting problem? Like grants for food banks must be spent on kitchens, cooks, etc, and not printing religious study materials?



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Phil

posted February 10, 2009 at 9:24 am


Grants pointed at a specific task is a good, common sense solution. However, when your goal is not necessarilary rendering aid and comfort, but social engineering, you do tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater.



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James Gilmore

posted February 10, 2009 at 11:00 am


However, when your goal is not necessarilary rendering aid and comfort, but social engineering, you do tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I agree. That’s why the Faith-Based Initiatives still trouble me a little. When you’re giving money to evangelical churches who explicitly say that feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and clothing the naked is only a means to the end of proselytizing to those same needy people, it’s really hard to separate out the part government should fund (feeding, housing, clothing) and the part that’s unconstitutional for government to fund (the proselytization).
When these churches imply (or state outright… I’ve seen both happen) that helping folks who need help is only worth it if you save their souls in the process, we’re on really rough ground constitutionally. I’d only support giving them money if they could assure the American taxpayer that they would only render aid and comfort, and that there would be absolutely no effort (including decorations on the wall, music over the PA, etc.) to engage in social engineering by proselytizing to those they’re helping.



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Phil

posted February 10, 2009 at 11:49 am


Which again brings me to my first comment. Churches will not accept Federal funds because there are to many strings attached. The social engineers I refeered to are the ones who hold the position that 1. You do good work now, imaginge how much more you could do with Federal money, and 2. Oh, by the way, that food bank you run at your church needs to be stripped clean of all the reasons you do what you do to get the Federal funds. Churches exist because they place value on the soul of the individual. The mandates and teachings are to cloth the naked and feed the hungry. The wonderful thing about freedom of choice is that if that bothers you, then don’t go. The government recognizes that these private organizations are remarkably efficient at doing what they do, and they know they cannot duplicate that efficieny. So what do we end up doing? We punish the guy who says “God bless” at the food bank, but reward the guy who needs his “right” to view smut in the public libray defended. Frankly, we would be a lot better off if we got over this aversion to telling someone “God bless”…



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Husband

posted February 10, 2009 at 10:19 pm


I once had the unfortunate experience of having a Salvation Army officer sit next to me at a dinner. He was proud of the fact that he would preach to (aka condemn) a gay man with AIDS before giving him needed medicines or other care.
I wanted to puke. So UN-Godly, so UN-Christ-like. Yet he and his ‘service agency’ will most assuredly be granted federal funds to dole out their ‘message’ instead of or before doing good works.



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James Gilmore

posted February 11, 2009 at 9:56 am


The wonderful thing about freedom of choice is that if that bothers you, then don’t go.
I don’t go to churches that believe that proselytizing to people is more important than seeing to it that their needs are met. Such churches, in my opinion, are abusing the Gospel.
However, unless there are strong prohibitions in place, I will be asked to fund those churches and their extremely problematic worldview with my tax dollars. This is unacceptable.
2. Oh, by the way, that food bank you run at your church needs to be stripped clean of all the reasons you do what you do to get the Federal funds.
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I don’t want my tax dollars being spent to spread evangelicals’ religion. If the whole reason they’re feeding the poor and clothing the naked is so that they can preach to them, (a) they probably need to rethink their priorities, and (b) I don’t want them getting any money from a government in which religion is not established.
So what do we end up doing? We punish the guy who says “God bless” at the food bank, but reward the guy who needs his “right” to view smut in the public libray defended.
No, we tell the guy at the food bank that if he wants to say “God bless,” he’s perfectly free to do so. He just isn’t free to use our taxpayer money to tell people “God bless” – or, more insidiously, to continue to oppress LGBT individuals or women by discriminating against them in employment. If he wants to say “God bless” and engage in discrimination, that’s his right – but he can’t expect taxpayers to support him while he does it.



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