Government money for social services to the
poor is now being distributed by government agencies. Bush’s
initiative would take that money and allow religious groups
to bid for such funds along with government agencies. In other
words, both government agencies and religious groups would
compete for limited federal funds.
Bush’s legislation has not gone unopposed. Democrats, liberals,
and moderates alike, as well as some conservatives, have questioned
whether such legislation would violate the constitutional separation
of church and state. Bush administration officials have contended
that government would not be directly funding religion, but instead
would be funding religious groups and charities that help the
homeless, the impoverished, the sick, and the addicted.
While this may be true, the administration fails to see a very
key point in the opposition argument. While these religious programs
may be helping those in need, such programs aren’t regulated,
and religion and community service are often times mixed. As
a matter of fact, the lines can sometimes be blurred between
the actual religious and social service aspects of these programs.
For example: a sex abuse treatment center that helps women and
other victims through preaching and bible study.
Bush also supports allowing access to federal funds to religious
groups that discriminate against people based on race, sexual
orientation, and people of opposition faith. Far beyond separation
of church and state arguments, such radical stances are a violation
of civil rights and equal opportunity legislation. Despite this
fact, President Bush pushes his faith-based agenda. Jim Towey,
director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community
Initiatives, said, “He [President Bush] thinks faith-based
organizations should be able to hire people who support their
vision and mission.” The unfortunate fact is that some
religious organization’s vision excludes homosexuals and
non-Christians. Government money and government-funded services
should not exclude groups, but according to this legislation,
it can and will.
Under President Bush’s legislation, our tax money not only
will be given to religious organizations in whose faith we may
not believe, but it will also be given to religious organizations
that openly discriminate against other faiths, homosexuals, and
people of color. Our tax money will either be used to fund discrimination
and proselytizing, or it will free the organization’s fund
for these discriminating activities. This is not the America
outlined in the Constitution.
The Bush administration has no evidence that religious programs
do a better job at helping those in need than secular government
agencies or non government secular organizations such as the
Red Cross or United Way. Nonetheless, Bush administration officials
readily states such claims. “There are so many people in
need that the federal government is not getting the job done,” said
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to reporters when Bush
first introduced the legislation.
While it may be true that government agencies cannot be everything
to everyone, we cannot allow the government agencies that are
trying to help those in need compete against religious groups
for a limited number of tax dollars. Government should fund government
and religion should fund religion. We should not take funding
away from government agencies and hand it over to religious organizations.
This is not only bad policy but also unconstitutional.
Bush’s legislation is also bad for religion. While Bush
may claim that the initiative will not support one religion over
another, critical examination pokes major holes in that argument.
If money is given to mainstream Judeo-Christian religions, government
automatically favors one religion over another. If government
cannot give equal amounts of money to the many religions that
do exist, it shouldn’t give money to any religion. Bush
isn’t saying he would give to the Taoist, Buddhist, Unitarians,
Wiccans, Catholics, or Hindus. Nor is he saying he wouldn’t.
He definitely says he plans to give to Protestant Christian churches.
This fact alone is a violation of the First Amendment: “Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” By giving money
to any religion, government takes the first step to establishing
a religion and makes one religion more powerful than another.
Taxpayer’s dollars should not be given to a religion they
may not believe in. Reverend Barry W. Lynn, executive director
of Americans United, said, “The president apparently believes
that every social problem can be solved by sending those in need
to a religious service—and he wants the American taxpayer
to pay for it. This is completely wrongheaded.”
We have all witnessed what governments that are faith-based
have accomplished. We need only to look to Afghanistan under
government to see how faith-based governments have oppressed
and demoralized a nation’s people. As Americans we cannot
and should not allow our constitutional rights to religious freedom
to be violated. Our founding fathers escaped a tyrannical government
that forced state-sponsored religion down their throats and now,
with Bush’s faith-based government, we face the same fate.