“If the government can fund a program whose content and purpose is to promote religion, it means nothing short of a constitutional revolution.”
The above is a quote by Marc Stern, an attorney for the American Jewish Congress, a group that says it will sue to stop the use of tax money in programs which include religious teachings.
The front pages of newspapers in California have played out like a broken record for the past few weeks. Yes, we’re still in an electricity crisis and, of course, Bush is still fucking up America. We’re all a little sick of hearing about both topics, but my disdain with our new president has only risen over the past weeks and culminated on Monday when our new president created an office in the White House that would enable religious charity groups to receive federal funds. Quite a sneaky little proposal, Mr. Bush.
What is most unsettling about this proposal is the direction it leads to – the beginning of the blurring of a line and issue that has been one of the fundamental building blocks of our country and constitution. Bush is using a virtually unassailable action, charity, in order to further the merging of church and state. Supporters claim that this is not the Christian right’s attempt to integrate the two, arguing that the federal government will offer the same monetary benefits to “controversial” groups such as the Nation of Islam and the Church of Scientology. Call me paranoid, but I don’t buy it.
There is a major difference between charities that are simply run by religious groups – groups such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, who have received government money for years – and those which specifically push a religious message. The former groups have historically been restricted in how much religion they were allowed to include in their programs, when seeking federal financing – a reasonable compromise. Bush argues that this initiative is simply allowing other religious groups to “compete for funding in a manner that does not cause them to sacrifice their mission.” Or, he should add, in a manner that allows the federal government to FUND RELIGIOUS GROUPS.
As governor in Texas, as well as contributing to the thick layer of smog surrounding Houston, Bush “enthusiastically endorsed the prison fellowship program founded by former Nixon aid
“Inmates spend hours a day reading the Bible, singing and praying.”
Now who is the more beneficial member of society? One who is educated, or one who can pray well? I know this question sparks a healthy argument, with good points on both sides, including the logic that says that spirituality can be beneficial to rehabilitation. But the bottom line is that most prisoners will come out of jail in worse financial shape than when they went in, and statistically, a large majority of them were already poor. Is God going to help them put food on the table? Probably not. A former prisoner interested in putting his life back on track could, however, benefit from an increase in knowledge or skills.
As Americans, our tax dollars go to plenty of organizations and causes that we, as individuals, don’t necessarily endorse. But let’s take a look.
Last week it was cool for Bush to cut funding to overseas charity groups that educate about or perform abortions because hey, a lot of Americans (including the Christian right) don’t believe in abortion, including the president. This week, however, it’s cool to fund religious groups because, hey, a lot of Americans (including the Christian right) are religious. It all makes sense. Who, besides the oil companies that will soon be able to tap Alaska, funded and supported Bush’s campaign? You guessed it.
Bush’s new proposal is, very simply, a veiled attempt to push through legislation that could lead to a breakdown of the First Amendment which Thomas Jefferson said was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.”
Oh well, the founding fathers have been dead for a while anyway.
Marisa Lagos is a Daily Nexus assistant county editor. Her nomination as official George W. Bush hater is pending Senate confirmation.