Funding Faith-Based Organizations
April 11, 2001 1:18 PM   Subscribe

75% of Americans favor Government funding of faith-based organizations. However, when asked about specific faiths, that number drops dramatically to 38% for Buddhist Temples and 29% for the Nation of Islam. So what did they expect, their own religion should get funds, but no others?
posted by quirked (36 comments total)
yes, they do.
posted by jpoulos at 1:22 PM on April 11, 2001

The whole "my god can beat up your god" thing all over again.

Can open. Worms everywhere.
posted by terrapin at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2001

All this means is that the public is often stupid, or at least ill-informed. When presented with a copy of the First Amendment and asked if it's a good idea, a scary percentage of Americans say no. (No, they often don't recognize it.)
posted by aaron at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2001

Is anyone surprised? I mean come on, it's pretty obvious the majority support this only because they think the majority's faiths will be supported. The results on that graph are specifically why church and state should never do business together. Once the state starts doing anything having to do with religion with one faith, they have to open the doors up to them all, even the icky ones no one likes or understands.

I learned this in second grade, when I pulled out a piece of gum and was asked if I brought enough for the whole class. Didn't everyone else learn this lesson? Did anyone not gain anything from that lesson?
posted by mathowie at 1:27 PM on April 11, 2001

I expected a low percentage would support funding for Scientology. I guess I was surprised that many of the more "mainstream" religions would score so poorly. It's not like me to overestimate the American public.
posted by quirked at 1:57 PM on April 11, 2001

[post rescued from 404 hell]

Indeed, even the architect of compassionate conservatism, Marvin Olasky, has doubts. Just like some liberal groups, he worries that the strings placed on supported groups may distort their missions. Pat Robertson is worried too.

For some reason the touchstone in all of this is Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, though Scientology is often mentioned as well.

As far as I'm concerned, this is treading dangerously close to the Establishment clause -- and this controversy is exactly why it exists.
posted by dhartung at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2001

what is least surprising is the antagonism shown towards islamic participation, given the anti-muslim/anti-arab sentiment in most of mainstream amerika...if anything, this reveals perfectly the hypocrisy of amerika's judeo-christian cult of morality.
posted by mapalm at 2:06 PM on April 11, 2001

whoa, mapalm, no need to throw ... uh ... gasoline gel on the fire there.

Look at it another way: 2/3 of the people who support this funding at all also support it if Moslem mosques are included. That's actually a pretty high percentage, when you consider that the people it's drawing support from are generally more conservative and probably heavily evangelical Christians. Of all the lessons to be drawn from these figures, that's a pretty good silver lining.
posted by dhartung at 2:19 PM on April 11, 2001

Pretty high unfavorable ratings for atheists. Let's see how they do next year, if they put something good together for the sweeps.
posted by Joe Hutch at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2001

I pretty much despise the judeo-christian hegemony too, but I don't think "we won't give money to the nation of islam" really reflects that. Instead, it might (just possibly) reflect the fact that the nation of islam is based on a belief that white people and jews are the literal children of satan. At least Christianity makes an attempt to pretend to be open and accepting. The NOI makes no such pretense.
posted by louie at 2:30 PM on April 11, 2001

to be honest, my intention was to inflame (slightly)...nonetheless, louie, it is statements like yours that give christianity a bad name. children of satan? Come on.

Americans are anti-Arab (and anti-Muslim) because it's the new enemy that's been offered up to justify everything from 'star wars' to the imminent iraqi invasion (trust me). Go to any hollywood blow-out, and notice how the enemy is usually portrayed.
posted by mapalm at 2:39 PM on April 11, 2001

At least Christianity makes an attempt to pretend to be open and accepting. The NOI makes no such pretense.

Except for the small detail that if you aren't Christian, you're going to HELL!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:39 PM on April 11, 2001

At least Christianity makes an attempt to pretend to be open and accepting. The NOI makes no such pretense.

Except for the small detail that if you aren't Christian, you're going to HELL!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2001

That's a good point, Paris. OTOH, not all Christians believe that everyone else is bound for eternal damnation, and many of those who do still treat non-believers without discrimination or antipathy.

But what gets me is that it's the most fundamental Christians who have the most hatred for non-believers. You'd really think that knowing that someone is going to hell for disagreeing with you would be enough. Insisting on making their lives on earth miserable too is just piling on. Maybe the Christians are a little uncertain about getting their heavenly reward, so they're hedging their bets a little.
posted by anapestic at 2:48 PM on April 11, 2001

I'm an Old Testament guy, so, can't really comment.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:52 PM on April 11, 2001

what binds all religions throughout the ages is both the universal wisdom they impart and the unimaginable evil they perpetrate in the name of their god(s).
posted by mapalm at 2:56 PM on April 11, 2001

I feel left out. I am a moonie and found my wife through an arranged marriage with 1500 other people. We sell roses. We own lots of businesses. We own a major paper in America and a New Bureau we just bought. We gave Pres Bush lots of money to speak in our behalf a number of times. We now need some of your tax bucks too.
posted by Postroad at 3:03 PM on April 11, 2001

mapalm, whoa there. louie's just the messenger, don't shoot him. You do realize there's a difference between the traditional Moslem religion, and the Moslem-influenced but independent Nation of Islam? Its leader, Farrakhan, has indeed said such despicable and racist things.

I think part of the problem here is that Americans or even, yes, Metafiltrians have trouble distinguishing between the actions and views of a few and the actions and views of the many.

I would appreciate it, mapalm and anybody else, if we didn't have a religion-bashing or religion-vs.-religion thread here. At this point, you're looking seriously like a troll.
posted by dhartung at 3:22 PM on April 11, 2001

apologies if i overstepped...not sure of protocol here
posted by mapalm at 3:26 PM on April 11, 2001

Like quirked, I was very surprised with the low support for legitimate religions. Personally, as a Roman Catholic, I have no problem with the govt funding some legitimate programs of legitimate religions. But the bottom line is that anyone can form their own religion in this country. Cults like Scientology should definately not be funded.

So how do you exclude them then, without making this a subjective process?
posted by Witold at 3:48 PM on April 11, 2001

Arguably, a religious organization could set up a "subsidiary" devoid of religious content and provide social services. But most religious organizations have no interest in doing this, so the whole process is a First Amendment fiasco waiting to happen.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:54 PM on April 11, 2001

Oh, Paris: Heaven open to everyone, says Pope

Now that the Pope has spoken, we know the final answer, right? ;-)
posted by NortonDC at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2001

Why not give the funding to established non-religious charities and their ilk, thereby avoiding this whole 'my religion's more worthy than your religion' problem?
posted by MUD at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2001

Friends and I thought of creating "Satanists Against Hunger" and seeing how much the GWB and company would support that... :)
posted by owillis at 4:06 PM on April 11, 2001

this column claims that the entire question has been framed poorly: that the impetus for this movement was simply *not* to exclude those social organizations that are run by religious organizations.

it also proposes what I think is the most sensible answer to the whole problem: issue social service vouchers.
"The question has been whether the government can fund such groups without violating church-state separation.

Woodson says it's the wrong question. Instead of trying to figure out how to fund the programs, he'd fund the clients, empowering them to take their vouchers to any program of their choosing.

That's how it was with the GI Bill. Returning veterans could take their education 'vouchers' not just to the state universities but to Notre Dame or Southern Methodist or Yeshiva. And nobody worried about breaching the wall between church and state."

posted by rebeccablood at 4:08 PM on April 11, 2001

Sorry I didn't reply earlier. There is a huge difference between "real" Islam and the NOI. "True" Islam has it's irrational moments (as have Christianity and the like- for every intifadah there is a Crusade) but historically speaking Islam has been tolerant of other faiths and peoples. The NOI's mythology is vastly different from that of traditional Islam. According to the NOI, white people and Jews were created by an evil black scientist name Yakub. At the end of a 6,000 year period, black people must be prepared to rise up and destroy the children of Yakub. The term usually used by the NOI to officially describe whites is "blue eyed devil"; and the original doctrine of the church stated that "all Muslim will murder the devil." [i.e., whites.] Anyway... sorry if I oversimplified. But the NOI has been and remains an organization dominated by hate of other groups. A simple search on Nation of Islam at google will give you more detail than you care to know; among other things I strongly recommend the Anti-Defamation League's NOI section.
One closing note: I'm not saying this to defend Americans. I can't find the exact numbers, but extensive survey work shows that when you ask Americans about freedom of speech, more than 90% of Americans will respond that they "strongly support" it. Ask them about whether or not they think Communists should be able to speak freely and suddenly the number is more like 40%. This data on religion seems to me to be in the same vein- I mean, who is afraid of Buddhists? ;) But the giving of money to groups like the NOI and some of the more sectarian Christian groups is (IMHO) the largest problem in W's plan.
posted by louie at 5:29 PM on April 11, 2001

I don't live in America so i'm not worried, but being what you might call an atheist, i would be rather upset at my tax dollars being spent on helping the masses get their opiates.
posted by Zool at 5:45 PM on April 11, 2001

Thanks, Louie...In my haste I failed to notice you were talking about the Nation of Islam, and not Islam in general. I agree with what you wrote...Perhaps my hastiness was brought on by a growing impatience I have with how quick many Americans are to make the equation: Islam=Arab=Terrorist, ergo Islam is bad....Oh, and as for polls and polling: does the fact that x% of Americans believe in something make it OK? I prefer a system not based on the whims of a fickle and ignorant mass.

Peace...and apologies again for any mis-steps on my part.
posted by mapalm at 6:11 PM on April 11, 2001

I seem to recall a study that appeared on an Arab web site ( in which the vast majority of Muslims in America said that their non-muslim Americans were very tolerant and accepting of Muslims in America and made sure that their religious practices were allowd to be carried out in the workplace etc.
The Nation of Islam is of course a different story and as a number of those posting note, they need to be distinguished from Muslim. Ps: there are too many Arabs who are Christian and not Muslim.
posted by Postroad at 6:22 PM on April 11, 2001

I prefer a system not based on the whims of a fickle and ignorant mass.

As long as you have democracy, or something resembling it, that's what you have, pretty much by definition. The link text could say "75% of Americans are frickin' morons" and be no less accurate.
posted by kindall at 6:25 PM on April 11, 2001

Where does a non-denominational group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which is fundamentally "faith-based", fit into a scheme such as this?
posted by holgate at 7:40 PM on April 11, 2001

no religious affiliation; no problemo.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:30 PM on April 11, 2001

The Matt: Once the state starts doing anything having to do with religion with one faith, they have to open the doors up to them all, even the icky ones no one likes or understands.

You must mean the icky ones not many people like or understand.

A religion can't exist without at least one adherent.
posted by gleemax at 2:45 AM on April 12, 2001

My chosen faith doesn't ask for handouts from the gov't. In fact we pay our taxes and are damn proud of it. We're the world's first industrial church. "Bob" would never accept government funding in this way. Unless of course he could make the conspiracy-ridden US gov't look ludicrous in the process, then I'm sure he'd be all for it.

Oh, and the Xists are coming. Any day now. They're just running a little late, is all..
posted by ZachsMind at 3:40 AM on April 12, 2001

[louie] At least Christianity makes an attempt to pretend to be open and accepting

[ParisParamus] Except for the small detail that if you aren't Christian, you're going to HELL!

[anapestic] That's a good point, Paris. OTOH...

Well, I don't think it's a good point. Certain Christians may believe that if you aren't also a Christian you're going to hell, but that has nothing to do with being "open and accepting" or not. In theory, Christians should be open and accepting of everyone, while at the same time setting a Christ-like example to the extent possible, and telling others about the Gospel when the opportunity arises.

That's not to say that's how most Christians operate, but that's the theory.
posted by daveadams at 11:02 AM on April 12, 2001

ZM: Why the hell wouldn't a church dedicated to slack accept a government handout?
posted by NortonDC at 4:47 PM on April 12, 2001

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