Again With the Faith-Based Initiatives...
Posting over at Volokh Conspiracy about the topic reminded me that I hadn't mentioned here that I am really pissed off that Obama has decided to continue the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. I condemned the whole idea when Bush proposed and implemented it, and it's still bad policy under the Obama administration.
It's been a while, so just as an update, I oppose government support of faith-based initiatives because the whole idea inherently involves government choosing to support one religious group over another, thereby endorsing some religions over others. Does anyone doubt that Christian groups, and, to a lesser extent, Jewish groups, will get most (if not all) the grants? Does anyone doubt that, say, Wiccan groups will have much if any chance of getting any of these grants? What if a Satanist group applied? Of course, no matter how good the proposal, Satanists will never get any of these grants. Supplying money to religious groups cannot but end up in government endorsing some religions over others.
Further, without an enormous amount of meddlesome oversight, there is no way to ensure that religious groups don't use these funds for proselytizing, or to ensure they don't proselytize those who avail themselves of government-funded faith-based programs. And, in fact, since these programs started, investigations show that, indeed, this is exactly what happens.
Besides, it's a bizarre entanglement of government and religion for government to be trying to monitor whether religious groups are proselytizing or not anyway. Religious groups should be free to proselytize all they want, and only because of the lure of government money are they even in a position where they are expected not to do so. It's like the government is bribing religious organizations not to do what they exist to do in the first place.
Let me note here that I do not think that all faith-based programs, when privately funded, are bad. Catholic Charities, for instance, does excellent work, and if any religious group deserved government support, it does. In my work with them when I was with the American Red Cross, I not only found their programs well-run and filling an important need, I saw no evidence they used the charity to push a religious agenda and I never once saw or heard of them proselytizing clients (at least locally).
But it is still an impermissible entanglement of government and religion for the government to fund Catholic Charities, no matter what I think of their work. It's a violation of both the letter and spirit of the First Amendment, and should be done away with.
Obama should close the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. He is wrong not to do so.