Monday, March 07, 2005

Again with the Faith-Based Initiatives

A friend of mine just sent me this article about the Justice Department's so-called "civil rights" division intervening on behalf of the "right" of the Salvation Army to discriminate against non-Christians administering public funds.

First off, the obvious: Bush lied to us when he told us that religious groups given public funds under his faith-based program wouldn't be allowed to use those funds to promote their religion. Telling employees they must "embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs" is not only at attempt to promote Christianity, but is, in fact, an attempt to use public funds to coerce nonbelievers into converting. That it is being done to the employees who administer public funds rather than those who are serviced by those public funds is irrelevant. Bush lied.

Let's consider the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Justice Department, in supporting the Salvation Army, is actually demonstrating why faith-based initiatives are inherently unconstitutional: For the Salvation Army to be able to freely exercise its religious rights, its must be able to discriminate against non-Christians. But for the employees to be able to freely exercise their religious rights, they must be allowed to believe whatever they want. Giving public funds to religious entities forces the government to either limit the exercise of religious freedom of the organization or to allow the organization to use public funds to limit the religious freedom of its employees.

In other words, it is logically impossible for Bush's faith-based initiative not to result in the Federal government either respecting an establishment of religion over the rights of the individual, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof by imposing economic penalties on employees who do so.

Bush has said he believes that, so long as they do not infuse their social
programs with religious messages, religious groups should not have to sacrifice
their religious character — by employing nonbelievers or followers of a
different faith — in order to qualify for federal funds.

Do you see the inherent contradiction here? In order to qualify for public funds, religious groups must not "infuse their social programs with religious messages." That is to say, they must not promote their religions, which is their whole point in existing. Right there, the government is violating the rights of religious organizations by employing coercion -- possible loss of funding -- if they exercise their religious right to proselytize.

Further, does anyone doubt that religious groups have, and will, continue to proselytize to those receiving aid from public funds through them? Of course not. In fact, religious groups have been doing exactly that, though it is not widely reported (I read an article on this a while back... I'll post a link if I can find it again). The Bush regime's defense, of course, is, "We told them not to do that, and they shouldn't do that."

But giving religious groups whose mission is to proselytize public funds with the admonition, "now don't use these funds to proselytize!" is no different than giving a bank robber a job in the vault of a bank and telling him, "now don't steal anything!" If you know someone is likely to do something and you furnish him or her the means to do it, you're responsible for what happens no matter if you told them not to do it. I doubt that the Bush Justice Department would be lenient if you left a child alone with a pedophile and your defense was, "I told him not to molest her!"

In 2003, according to a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen workers in its
Social Services for Children division, the Salvation Army began requiring
employees to divulge information about their faiths, including the churches they
attended and their ministers.

They were also called on to embrace a new mission statement — included
in job postings and job descriptions — that declared the top goal of the social
welfare operation is "to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human
needs in his name without discrimination." The previous mission statement was
"to empower each person who enters our doors to live with dignity and hope," and
contained no religious references.

Protections against discriminatory employment practices were excised
from the employee handbook, and an effort was made to compile a list of
homosexual employees, according to the suit.

This isn't just refusing to hire non-Christians with public funds, this is a witch-hunt to rid the organization of all non-Christians being paid through public funds. This is an active, aggressive act that shows that the Salvation Army cares nothing about the public trust they are given along with public funds to serve every American equally. Otherwise, why is it so important to the Salvation Army that only Christians be allowed to do good work and help others? The reason is obvious: Christians will promote Christianity to those they serve, and non-Christians won't. Further, non-Christians present a danger to the Salvation Army's proselytizing efforts, since they are much more likely to report violations of the "no proselytizing with public funds" rules, and thus make it much harder to proselytize on the public dime.

And, when reading the Salvation Army's new mission statement, did you see the trick they're trying to pull? Our goal is "to preach the gospel" but still to "meet human needs in his name without discrimination." By acting as if those things aren't mutually exclusive, they can claim to do both. But they are mutually exclusive. If I have to let someone "preach the gospel" to me in order to get publically-funded help, I am being discriminated against because I have to participate -- even listening is "participating" -- in a religious activity I may well not want to participate in or even object to. How can anyone seriously think that an organization whose first goal -- listed before the disingenuous "without discrimination" line -- is to promote a specific religious doctrine, namely the gospels?

The [Justice] department said the discrimination claims were "irrelevant."

Which is the most honest thing I have heard from the Bush regime in a long time. Let me translate: "Your civil rights, unless you are a straight, white, male evangelical Christian, are irrelevant. And, if you aren't all these things, you are irrelevant too."


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I have an update on the Salvation Army court case.


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