Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


The Constitutional Right to Government Dough

posted by swaldman

One of the most controversial parts of Obama’s faith-based plan – and Bush’s – was the question of whether faith-based charities could hire or fire people on the basis of religion. I wroter earlier that there’s less here than meets the eye but there are some important principles at stake.
First, there are some points that people actually agree on. A religious group can hire and fire people based on their faith for pretty much whatever they want, if they’re not taking government federal money.
Also, a religious group can get government funds and still hire by faith for anything related to “ministerial functions” (i.e. worship, Sunday school etc).
The question is whether that group can discriminate by faith for other functions. A Catholic Church is surely allowed to only hire Catholics to teach the Sunday school – everyone agrees on that — but can they turn down a protestant who’s applied to work at the soup kitchen.
The reason this doesn’t come up that often is that most faith-based charities decided that they want to reach as many needy as possible and that for most activities, being of that faith doesn’t matter. If the YMCA is helping inner city youth get off the streets, it’s not important that the basketball coach be Christian.
But sometimes it is. There are some faith-based programs where religion is central to success. A prison ministry might teach inmates that they can turn around their lives because of Christ’s love. It’s hard to convey that message without mentioning religion or without having the volunteer be Christian.
“The reality is an Orthodox Jewish group ceases to be Orthodox if they have to hire atheists or Southern Baptists,” said Jim Towey, the former head of the program under Bush. “What Senator Obama is saying is groups will have to secularize if they play ball with government and receive federal funding, and that flies in the face of what many small groups want.”
I’m sympathetic to the conservative argument on this, up to a point. Some programs really will lose something special if they secularize their approach. Sometimes it’s not jsut about the soup; it’s also about the Spirit. And if Obama wants especially to help the small groups, aren’t these the ones most likely to have faith pretty intertwined with with they do (and least likely to want to hire a lawyer to help them navigate the rules?)
But here’s my question: if that’s the case, why take the money? Why “play ball” as Towey suggests? What’s wrong with having government money go to those that have a secular mission and private money go to those that don’t? Why the compulsion to force government into doing what it’s not good at and which may do harm?
Conservatives are acting as if it’s discriminatory for the government to say, “there are some thing the government shouldn’t spend money on.” Didn’t that used to be the conservative position? I remember that liberals used to argue that if abortion is legal then the federal government had an obligation to fund it through Medicaid. But that never made sense to me. Just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean it always makes sense to compel taxpayers to fund it.
Here’s an example for conservative Christians to ponder: what if a Muslim group had an effective prison ministry program emphasizing prayer and Qur’an study. In fact, they could double the number of prisoners they taught the Qur’an if only they had more money. How do you feel about your tax dollars going to help spread the Muhammad’s teachings?



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Paul

posted July 3, 2008 at 6:50 pm


You hit the nail on the head. If you don’t want the Government in your pulpit, don’t ask for it’s money. If you can’t keep the pulpit out of the community programs, don’t ask for the money. If you can’t work with other faiths to care for the needs of the people, don’t take the money.
There are many religious groups that are quite successful without government funding and there are many groups that look upon the community projects as outreach and not recruitment centers. They can hire people of other faiths in their efforts.
My wife and I needed validation to work for a Methodist program many years ago and we were sent to psychologists, my wife saw a Roman Catholic nun and I saw a American Baptist Minister and teacher. The church accepted their reports without reservations.
I think that Obama’s program will work and it is not much different from G W Bush’s plan. Only this time maybe the hard core Evangelicals will work with it, although I doubt it.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 3, 2008 at 10:59 pm


Jesus didn’t just give the people fish. He gave them Bread, too, the Bread of life.
Jesus, also, didn’t want people coming to Him just for earthly food, rather for His ministry of eternal life.
So, a secular person in the mission will not give the people the Bread of life, what they need for eternal life, which Jesus said, is more important than earthly concerns.
These missions should refrain from doing what people do to, say, bears: feeding them and making them, conditioning them to come for the food.
If you keep giving them only what nourishes the body, nothing will be there to nourish the spirit in the Way to Salvation.
After all, blessed are those who hunger and thirst after Righteousness, and seek ye first the Kingdom of God.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 3, 2008 at 11:09 pm


Secualarists shouldn’t expect us to stoop to worldly ways to accomplish the mission of only feeding hungry bodies with physical food.
Faith-based missions exist to give people spiritual food, too, and, as I told you what Jesus said, the Bread of life is more important than all.
Getting secularism involved with faith-based will mess it all up; will we do it the secular way, or the faith-based way? Who’s gonna have to give in? Not the godly, that’s for sure.



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hootie1fan

posted July 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm


Conservatives don’t mind spending the taxpayer $$$ as long as it is on something they approve of or will benefit from. Politically, they are no different from those they frown upon.



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Dunga

posted July 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm


Mr. Waldman sums up very well why the whole concept of government aid to religious groups is a bad idea.
I get why an idiot like President Duh would be big on it; Duh never had any aspirations to represent all of the people and his presidency has for the most part been a 21st century example of how the corrupt, mendacious bosses of Tammany Hall ran things.
But as to why Obama has picked up the bait and decided to continue this makes no sense to me. He will lose more votes (like mine) from the Democratic base and independents than he will gain from evangelicals, bigots and other elements of the Republican base.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 4, 2008 at 5:03 pm


==Conservatives don’t mind spending the taxpayer $$$ as long as it is on something they approve of or will benefit from.==
Libs would have to believe that in order to make themselves feel better about what they do cuz what they do can’t be justified.
In any case, conservatives are not interested in using the money to benefit themselves, individually, rather in furtherance of values that benefit the country, the culture and the society.
== Politically, they are no different from those they frown upon.==
Afraid to take the hit, they wanna destroy it all. In other words, just cuz Libs are wrong, it must be that ALL politictians are wrong, not just they.
Scorched Earth. Libs can’t justify their position, and, so, they seek to destroy all politics. They wanna take everybody down with them.



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Corey Nathan

posted July 5, 2008 at 11:09 am


“Libs can’t justify their position…”
- Quite a blanket statement there, Bob/Mr. I. Wonder if there was ever a Christian who happened to be Democrat. That would really screw up your theology. Your theology is so closely tied to your politics, you can’t even see the difference between your Gospels and your Rush Limbaugh-certified Republican voter’s registration.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 5, 2008 at 3:38 pm


==Wonder if there was ever a Christian who happened to be Democrat.==
If they are pro-choice=pro-abortion=wrong-choice and they support what is repulisvely called “gay Rights,” then, no.
== That would really screw up your theology.==
See answer above.
== Your theology is so closely tied to your politics…==
Actually, it is not, but you choose to see it that way. I can’t help that.
==…you can’t even see the difference between your Gospels and your Rush Limbaugh-certified Republican voter’s registration.==
Oh, gee. Whatever will I do.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 5, 2008 at 3:44 pm


==Your theology is so closely tied to your politics…==
Actually, God, through Jesus Christ — that is, the Word — is supposed to inform our politics. That it does, for me.
The Libs separates the two, treating the Word as a stand-by, rather than the motivating factor. The Libs gets mad when he cannot get us to do it, too; but, if we were to do it, the LORD would be mad at us. So, we gotta choice: Let Libs get mad at us, or make the LORD mad at us by conforming to the world. Guess which one we choose. Three guesses. The first two don’t count.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 5, 2008 at 5:12 pm


==Your theology is so closely tied to your politics…==
Our government is supposed to be godly. That means that the electorate must be godly. The disconnect is clear.



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VICTORIA JEAN

posted July 7, 2008 at 10:53 am


Mr. Waldman’s statement-
“How do you feel about your tax dollars going to help spread the Muhammad’s teachings?”
No better than i feel about my tax dollars going to support Graham’s evangelical and proselytizing efforts in Africa.(For which he has been ‘censured’- but that is all)
Faith based initiatives have also been abused as a sort of affirmative action for evangelicals-
the fact is- out of 1600 grants- 1545 have gone to christians- and 50 to jewish groups- and 5 to muslim groups (although statistically there is a slightly larger population of muslim than jewish people)



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 7, 2008 at 11:11 pm


==No better than i feel about my tax dollars going to support Graham’s evangelical and proselytizing efforts in Africa.==
Then, you must be real powerful upset that Jefferson gave taxpayer money so that Christians could evangelize and proselytize the Indians.



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Mr. Incredible

posted July 14, 2008 at 9:53 pm


==Mr. Waldman’s statement-
“How do you feel about your tax dollars going to help spread the Muhammad’s teachings?”
No better than i feel about my tax dollars going to support Graham’s evangelical and proselytizing efforts in Africa.(For which he has been ‘censured’- but that is all)==
We’ll wager that you have no prob with tax money going, by hundreds of millions of dollars, to Planned Parenthood each year.



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