Separation of church and state?
August 21, 2006 2:20 PM   Subscribe

White House · International aid · USDA · Department of Commerce · Department of Education · Department of Health and Human Services · Department of Homeland Security · Department of Housing and Urban Development · Department of Justice · Department of Labor · Small Business Administration · Veterans Affairs and even Grant Opportunities for those religious folks who would like to get financially connected to the government.
posted by Kickstart70 (46 comments total)

 

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:22 PM on August 21, 2006


Which one of those links establishes a federal religion? I can't seem to find it. Also, I can't tell which one prevents people from worshipping what they choose. Can you show me?
posted by dios at 2:25 PM on August 21, 2006


Faith-based and community organizations can play an important role in helping the [Small Business Administration] identify, train and finance the entrepreneurs whose businesses will bring jobs and hope to economically distressed communities all across our Nation.
Ok, I'm suspending my disbelief; maybe some Christian can explain how Jesus can help Caesar teach me to become a money changer in one of their temples.

And how this doesn't undermine your real work as Christians, which as I understood it was proclaiming the Gospel and saving souls, not generating profits in this world.

What am I missing here?
posted by orthogonality at 2:26 PM on August 21, 2006


dios: It's probably worth investigating how many Muslim groups have received funding from any of these sources.

No prejudging...I'd like to see the real answer to that. Maybe the Wiccans and Unitarian Universalists too.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:30 PM on August 21, 2006


Wiccans don't get funding. They can't even get their symbol on their headstones.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:34 PM on August 21, 2006


Maybe Muslims groups don't like pork.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:37 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


*gets in line to kick the Christians*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2006


dios: It's probably worth investigating how many Muslim groups have received funding from any of these sources.

No prejudging...I'd like to see the real answer to that. Maybe the Wiccans and Unitarian Universalists too.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:30 PM CST on August 21

Ahhh, so you want to argue that effects should be outcome-determinitive on the issue of constitutionality? Let me ask you this, do you know that Muslim groups have applied for these funds and been denied because they weren't Christian?

Or you are going to attempt the facile argument that unless an equal number of Christian groups and Muslim groups receive funding in equal amounts then it a religion is unconstitutionally established?

If you read the executive order authorizing these things, 99.9% of the gripes about these policies are alleviated.

From the link above:

(c) No organization should be discriminated against on the basis of religion or religious belief in the administration or distribution of Federal financial assistance under social service programs

(d) All organizations that receive Federal financial assistance under social services programs should be prohibited from discriminating against beneficiaries or potential bene-ficiaries of the social services programs on the basis of religion or religious belief. Accordingly, organizations, in providing services supported in whole or in part with Federal financial assistance, and in their outreach activities related to such services, should not be allowed to discriminate against current or prospective program beneficiaries on the basis of religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to actively participate in a religious practice;

e) The Federal Government must implement Federal programs in accordance with the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, organizations that engage in inherently religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, and proselytization, must offer those services separately in time or location from any programs or services supported with direct Federal financial assistance, and participation in any such inherently religious activities must be voluntary for the beneficiaries of the social service program supported with such Federal financial assistance; and

(f) Consistent with the Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause of the Constitution, faith-based organizations should be eligible to compete for Federal financial assistance used to support social service programs and to participate fully in the social service programs supported with Federal financial assistance without impairing their independence, autonomy, expression, or religious character. Accordingly, a faith-based organization that applies for or participates in a social service program supported with Federal financial assistance may retain its independence and may continue to carry out its mission, including the definition, development, practice, and expression of its religious beliefs, provided that it does not use direct Federal financial assistance to support any inherently religious activities, such as worship, religious instruction, or proselyti-zation. Among other things, faith-based organizations that receive Federal financial assistance may use their facilities to provide social services supported with Federal financial assistance, without removing or altering religious art, icons, scriptures, or other symbols from these facilities. In addition, a faith-based organization that applies for or participates in a social service program supported with Federal financial assistance may retain religious terms in its organization's name, select its board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in its organization's mission statements and other chartering or governing documents.


See, those limitations eliminate all of the gripes anyone would have about the constitutional validity of these actions.

You might not like it, but that doesn't make it unconstitutional.
posted by dios at 2:50 PM on August 21, 2006


So where's the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives section of MeFi, God damn it?
posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2006


Once again, someone brings up the written rules, pretending that they are followed explicitly to the letter.

What Dios posted is all well and good, but it still doesn't answer the question.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:53 PM on August 21, 2006


Once again, someone brings up the written rules, pretending that they are followed explicitly to the letter.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:53 PM CST on August 21


Yeah, fuck it. Why bother to read the instructions when we can wildly speculate and talk out of our asses about conspiracies.
posted by dios at 2:55 PM on August 21, 2006


Once again, someone brings up the written rules, pretending that they are followed explicitly to the letter.

What question? Oh, you mean your implicit assumption that the agencies to which you linked in the post are improperly funneling funds to explicitly Christian evangelical groups? The assumption not raised by any of your links?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:56 PM on August 21, 2006


You read an awful fucking lot into my words, and make assumptions that really aren't true.

When I said "no prejudging", I meant it. I want to know what those numbers are. I am curious. My curiosity is not a bad thing, is it?

In any case, I knew that no matter what I posted on this topic, I'd get attacked. That's prejudging, in case you were wondering.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2006


So, if you don't have those numbers, what makes a bunch of links to government agencies a decent post? Or is this an AskMe in disguise?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:03 PM on August 21, 2006


What exactly was the point of your post, then?

- Did you post this to merely inform us that such organizations exist?
- The title of your post seems to suggest your point is about whether these violate the First Amendment. Do you have anything to contribute to that question with regards to constitutional analysis?
- Did you intend to inform us that these policies were being discriminatory? If so, do you have any evidence whatsoever that you could have linked to?
- Or did you just want to present the existence of these things---which are known to anyone who would care---and look forward to an argument about them?
posted by dios at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2006


One viewpoint from someone with a genuinely spiritual perspective is highly critical of faith-based initiatives, for several reasons:

Myth No. 1: Religious organizations face substantial discrimination when competing for government grants and contracts.

Myth No. 2: Religious congregations — churches, synagogues, mosques — are intensively involved in social service activity.

Myth No. 3: Religious organizations are better than secular organizations at delivering social services.

Myth No. 4: Religious organizations deliver services in a more holistic, personal way, focusing on deep transformation rather than short-term solutions.

Myth No. 5: Much faith-based social service activity is isolated from the world of secular and government-funded social service and needs to be better integrated into larger community social service systems.

Myth No. 6: The new faith-based initiative is likely to involve new kinds of religious organizations in publicly funded social services.


As this individual points out, the administration seems to feel it can work around the Constitution (here and elsewhere) on matters best left to the legislative branch. This is a genuine and troubling matter where separation of powers have been usurped for political gains.

What the activist Bush administration ultimately aims to do with faith-based intiatives is reinvent the Constitution:

I suggest you read Philip Hamburger's new book on church and state - he makes the case very clearly that the secularist's view of the first amendment is at odds with what our founding fathers intended.

In the end, it should be said that these pork barrel projects mainly benefit business-like churches with corporate structures, which are mainly — if not all — Christian. These entities are well organized and can easily motivate followers to a particular political view beneficial to the ones making the funds available.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on August 21, 2006


Whatever the assumptions of my motivations, Blazecock Pileon's post makes and excellent addition to it. Can anyone refute with equal clarity and references?
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:14 PM on August 21, 2006


Dios, I was genuinely (and not positively) surprised at the existence of these, and the widespread nature of them. I think that I'm very likely not alone, even among this community. So I brought them forward to see how people reacted and what else they brought to the discussion.

Just before I posted this (and not while I was writing it), I realized there was going to be some people who reacted badly and even insulting and offensively. But I posted anyway, since I don't believe that just posting about Care Bears and unicorns makes this in any way an interesting place.

Do I think this is a specific violation of the Constitution? Nope. Do I think that it violates the spirit of the Constitution? I'm not sure, but I have a feeling it does.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:18 PM on August 21, 2006


Can anyone refute with equal clarity and references?
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:14 PM CST on August 21


Refute what? All Alex did was link to a fucking opinion article that itself contains no sources or facts. It's just one person's opinion. You want countering views? Try a simple google search. The rest of his post is his view.

Again, what is your point? How about you just make it. Because all you seem to be looking for is an argument about this consisting of people saying your are 'rite.' I posted to a primary source document and you discarded it.

This is the problem when people post with an agenda: the post tends to be shit because it exists as nothing more than a pretext to start soapboxing.
posted by dios at 3:21 PM on August 21, 2006


Kickstart70 writes "Do I think this is a specific violation of the Constitution? Nope. Do I think that it violates the spirit of the Constitution? I'm not sure, but I have a feeling it does."


It may or may not violate the Constitution. The real problem is, it's a massive pork program, designed to funnel money to organizations that support Bush's political party.
posted by orthogonality at 3:22 PM on August 21, 2006


And what of atheists (don't start with the anti-theist stuff... this is a straight-on question) -- are we not eligible? Are secular humanists not eligible? What of FSMism?

In what must eligible applicants have faith?
posted by bloomicy at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2006


oh god.
posted by carsonb at 3:25 PM on August 21, 2006


Dios, I threw it out because it was a crap response. Of course these organizations will have that language in their rules, to think otherwise is stupid.

The written rules mean absolutely squat in real-life terms, and you know it. I asked what the real numbers were for who got this funding and you did not respond with those numbers. You responded with "I don't care about your question, but here's what they claim to follow", which does not answer the point you were responding to. If you cannot see that, then there really is no point in arguing.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:26 PM on August 21, 2006


Look, I'm not a fan of Bush's FBCI program, which he originally established via two executive orders in 2001. There are complex constitutional questions about the mere existence of the programs, and even more problematic issues surrounding the selection of private organizations receiving these funds. As both BP and ortho note, many suspect that the programs essentially exist to funnel funds to religious organizations that support the religious right. But you didn't post about that. You also didn't post about Bush's recent executive order establishing a FBCI office at DHS, or even the Frontline episode from 2004 that claimed that no funds had been given to non-Christian groups and Jim Towey's response. Instead, you just linked to a bunch of agencies that have FBCI offices. So what? What's the point?

So I brought them forward to see how people reacted and what else they brought to the discussion.

So this is a poll?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:32 PM on August 21, 2006


And what of atheists (don't start with the anti-theist stuff... this is a straight-on question) -- are we not eligible? Are secular humanists not eligible? What of FSMism?

In what must eligible applicants have faith?


That is certainly an interesting question. Is "lack of faith" considered to be a faith by this/these program(s)? If not, then it's violating it's own rules by discriminating against those with different beliefs. If it is, then how is this different from any other social program? Why does it need a new name?

Not being an American, I had not heard of this program before, but it certainly reeks of obvious bullshit.
posted by patr1ck at 3:36 PM on August 21, 2006


monju_bosatsu writes "So what? What's the point?"

It is interesting seeing how the various agencies have responded to the mandate to incorporate this boondoggle, as I noted in my initial comment in this thread. Really, what does Faith-based anything have to do with the mission of the Small Business Administration?
posted by orthogonality at 3:37 PM on August 21, 2006


Really, what does Faith-based anything have to do with the mission of the Small Business Administration?
posted by orthogonality at 5:37 PM CST on August 21


On that link, they have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that actually addresses your very question.

Here is what that FAQ says:

How does SBA fit into the overall Faith-Based and Community Initiative?

The SBA is the leading government agency established to help small business. It does this through loan guarantees, technical assistance and counseling. It also provides disaster loans and federal contracting assistance.

In recent years, faith-based and community organizations have increasingly emphasized economic and community development. SBA and its resource partners offer a wide range of financial and technical assistance programs that may help faith-based and community organizations better serve their communities.
These programs can help accomplish two goals:

• Give faith-based and community organizations the knowledge base they need to help people in their communities start or expand their own small businesses—businesses that will open new opportunities for them and for everyone in their communities; and

• Help these organizations instruct people in their communities on how to obtain credit with which to launch or expand their own enterprises.


Apparently these funds going to these groups exist to help communities instead of promoting religion. Go figure.
posted by dios at 3:44 PM on August 21, 2006


Anything that gives money to the Moonies is a bad thing.
posted by PsychoKick at 3:51 PM on August 21, 2006


dios writes "Apparently these funds going to these groups exist to help communities instead of promoting religion. Go figure."


Ok, so rather than the SBA -- supposedly an organization with expertise in helping small businesses -- giving advice to small businesses, "faith-based" groups should learn from the SBA to do what the SBA is supposed to be doing. And meanwhile, the faith-based organizations are distracted from their main goal and real expertise, which is spreading the Gospel.

That's like asking dios to stop practicing the law, and me to stop programming, so that I can do my own half-assed legal work with hints from dios. How does that make any sense? Didn't David Ricardo explain, two hundred years ago, why this is a bad idea?
posted by orthogonality at 3:57 PM on August 21, 2006


Only filthy Christian Bashers could object to this.

Nothing wrong with giving our dwindling public largess away to private TAX except religions to do with essentially what they please. Like use it to lobby against Gay Rights legislation and elect right wing nut bags, etc.

Nope. A-ok with us Christians.
posted by tkchrist at 4:02 PM on August 21, 2006


It seems that for this to be constitutional, the judge must pretend that money is infungible.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:13 PM on August 21, 2006


Kwantsar: surely, per an earlier thread today, if some -- but not any or every -- hundred thousand dollars can face a civil suit, then we're past that point.
posted by little miss manners at 4:16 PM on August 21, 2006


Ever noticed how you can usually substitute the words "faith" or "spiritual" with words like "imagination" and "fantasy" and have the description hold about the same level of demonstrable meaning?

So, here's an idea: I'd like to see a Klingon group apply for a grant to administer social services to the local community. Seems to me their participation in a fantasy world is just as valid as most "faith's" participation in supernatural rituals involving funny hats and bad music.

The other day, someone said "The problem with The Davinci Code is that it makes us try to believe in a fantastical, 2000 year old conspiracy, when the obvious truth is that Jesus, the son of God, did miracles and died for our sins, rose from the grave 3 days later, and ascended into heaven."

Have whatever supernatural beliefs you like. Just keep them out of social discourse, where they are inherently anti-egalitarian.
posted by re6smith at 4:26 PM on August 21, 2006


Seems to me, dios, and apparently the rest of us, that these organizations are giving out grants to organizations precisely because they are Christian and nothing else. "Faith-based" is used relentlessly by the Bush administration to mean "Christian" everywhere -- they refer to themselves as the first "faith-based" administration constantly.

Now, I'd welcome actual documentation to refute this. As someone above pointed out, if we were to see significant sums of money flowing to Muslims, atheists, Wiccans and the like, then this might be somewhat more acceptable (but still -- separation of Church and State should mean that the state should not give preferential treatment to Chuches under any circumstances...)

But my guess is 90% of the tax dollars given out here go to Christian groups and of those 80% are fundamentalists. But I'd loved to be proven wrong!

I personally wasn't able to find *any* non-Christian groups getting money under this program. Searching for Faith Based Community Initiative Muslim got me many Christian groups who "minister to Muslims" using our tax dollars but not a single Muslim group so far. (Five minutes later -- I still can't find one dollar given to a Muslim group -- but I've found long long lists of money given to what appears to be predominantly fundamentalist groups.)

Here's a Q&A with the director of the program, who is clearly a very devout Christian. He implies that Muslims don't get grants because their programs do not work; he flat out states that Pagan groups are not interested in helping the poor ("Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.")

So it's not yet clear that even one dollar of these millions is being given to any non-Christians -- though I'll bet you that a little searching would find quite a few Jewish groups getting money.

I welcome more information from you on this matter, dios. Without some proof that the money is being distributed equitably amongst different groups, your arguments are without substance.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:34 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh, and dios? Let me add that your first post is a complete derail, and I flagged it as such: "Which one of those links establishes a federal religion? I can't seem to find it. Also, I can't tell which one prevents people from worshipping what they choose. Can you show me?"

The initial posting makes none of those straw-man claims. It doesn't really make any claims at all except to imply, "Look how much of our tax money is being given to religious groups."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:42 PM on August 21, 2006 [3 favorites]


Old: Baby Jesus weeps for the unsaved.
New: Baby Jesus needs a new pair of Choos.
posted by rob511 at 5:56 PM on August 21, 2006


It doesn't really make any claims at all except to imply, "Look how much of our tax money is being given to religious groups."

Actually, it doesn't make that claim either. it would have been a better post if it made some sort of claim and took it easy on the tabula rasa/read-my-mind approach.
posted by GuyZero at 6:06 PM on August 21, 2006


Yes, I do agree that the post was rather lacking in details. I did say "imply"...

But it certainly led me to discover that, apparently, this "faith-based initiative" is mostly a ploy to pass money to Christian fundamentalist groups.

For example, here's their complete list of "intermediary groups", groups that fund money to other organizations. As near as I can see, every single one of those organizations is getting money as Christians.

Looking at the full list is even more disheartening. In over 250 entries, I found not a single Muslim one, four Jewish organizations getting bottom dollar, and a half dozen equally empoverished cultural organizations from small countries (and they were pretty dodgy, eg Somali Family Service which doesn't seem to be doing anything with the $50,000 they got last year).

It's really hard not to look at the government's own breakdown and not have it appear as if they have taken $2 billion from the taxpayers' pockets and given nearly all of it to Christian groups. If anyone (dios) has another interpretation of this data then I'm certainly open to discussion.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:12 PM on August 21, 2006


though I'll bet you that a little searching would find quite a few Jewish groups getting money

No, those Jews are sneaky, even with a long search you won't turn up much because they're so powerful and they're good at controlling everything secretly.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:56 PM on August 21, 2006


To me this program seem to be designed to delegitimize government institutions and activities. FBCI head Jim Towey links the effectiveness of government agencies to their ability to 'love' - how could any agency meet that strange test?
From here it seems the only government agency allowed any legitimacy by that administration is the military. They are dividing the proper work of civil government between the military and religion.
posted by leftoverboy at 8:04 PM on August 21, 2006


FBCI head Jim Towey links the effectiveness of government agencies to their ability to 'love'

Perhaps we need a Ministry of Love, or a Department of Homeland Love.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:57 PM on August 21, 2006


Kickstart70 : "You read an awful fucking lot into my words"

To be fair, you kinda asked them to do it. You said "it still doesn't answer the question", when there was no question, unless you count "Separation of church and state?", which isn't a full and therefore answerable question in the first place, and only becomes a full question if you read into it, such as, for example, "(Do these links indicate that there is a) separation of church and state?", or "(Should there be a) separation of church and state?" or "(What is the definition of) separation of church and state?". You've later stated some proper and good questions (and, just so you don't take me wrong on this, I'm basically on your side with regards to the actual issue of faith-based etc.), but at the time you basically asked people to answer a question, which required them reading stuff into your words, and then you berated them for reading the wrong stuff in. Why didn't you just put the words you wanted said out there in the first place, obviating the need for folks to guess them?
posted by Bugbread at 8:58 PM on August 21, 2006


Towey: [T]he secularist's view of the first amendment is at odds with what our founding fathers intended.

The older I get, the less I care about what (some guy says) the Founders intended. I care only that I live in a society that places the highest value on individual liberty. Government itself is an impediment to this goal, so it should be small, nimble, and prepared to get the fuck out of the way. The FBCI is something I would oppose regardless of the constitutional issues, but c'mon -- it's obviously a scam to funnel money into churches.

Most significant in Towey’s life, however, was his work and friendship with Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Ah, so that's where the con man learned his craft.
posted by oncogenesis at 11:10 PM on August 21, 2006


bugbread: I admit I could have been clearer in this post, but that particular point was about finding out whether any Muslim group received any money from these programs, not regarding the title. Again, I could have worded a lot better.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:13 PM on August 21, 2006


As Frontline alleged, and Towey confirmed, they do not keep records of who they give money to, or what denominations they are.

It's clear to me that if 100% (or close to it) is given to organizations of one religion, then that is respecting an establishment of religion, and therefore unconstitutional. But since they don't keep records, the government may or may not be violating the constitution; there's no way for us to find out.

Some will call this a 'grey area' and say it's ok to keep doing it. I call bullshit; if the government might be doing something unconstitutional, and refuse to keep records proving they're not, then they should stop. I don't remember where in the Bill of Rights it says "unless they can get away with it".
posted by jlub at 12:36 AM on August 22, 2006


All organizations that receive Federal financial assistance under social services programs should be prohibited from discriminating against beneficiaries or potential bene-ficiaries

You'll note that the program says nothing about discrimination in the hiring practices of the institution delivering the service. I mean after all, you're not going to make some Baptist church hire Muslims right? How about a predominately white church refusing to hire a black person?
posted by Andrew Brinton at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2006


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