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Administration Announces Additional Actions To Spur More Public Financing Of Religious Groups
September 22,2003, Americans United -- The Bush administration announced plans to implement its constitutionally troubling “faith-based” initiative that could funnel large sums of public funds to religious-run social services, said Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Today the administration announced $30. 5 million in Department of Health and Human Services grants to 81 organizations, including religious ones and new regulations that will give close to $20 billion to religious groups proclaiming to operate substance and mental health service programs. Administration officials also announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development finalized regulations allowing religious groups to compete for $8 billion in housing grants.
A senior administration official told the Associated Press that the “president feels very strongly that we need to tear down the wall that separates the poor from effective programs.”
Americans United, which has led opposition to Bush’s “faith-based” initiative, said the administration was bent on eroding the First Amendment, not on helping the nation’s less fortunate.
“The only thing this administration wants to tear down is the wall separating church and state,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The president has failed to convince Congress that his initiative is sound policy so he is creating policy through executive fiat.”
President George W. Bush has encountered significant resistance from Congress to his “faith-based” initiative. Bills containing the initiative remain mired in Congress despite heavy and consistent pressure from the White House to pass the initiative. Last December the administration ordered a slew of federal agencies to start creating procedures that would make it easier for religious groups to receive public funds to operate social service programs.
Lynn blasted the administration for funneling public funds to religious groups with little or no experience in providing government services. He also noted that the White House regulations include no conditions that bar those groups from spending the tax dollars on their religious missions and from allowing them to hire and fire based on religious preferences.
“The White House is putting larges sums of public funds behind the belief that preaching and evangelism are superior to programs that operate within medical and scientific parameters,” Lynn said. “This administration is not only ignoring constitutional strictures but common sense as well.”
Besides announcing the new federal grants, the administration also noted that six new regulatory or policy changes were underway at the Justice, Education, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments to make it easier for religious groups to receive federal grants from those departments.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
"In the name of God, I kill you!"
October 2, 2002, Raff Ellis, YellowTimes.org Columnist -- How many times have you heard the phrase, "God willing," in connection with a battle, contest or sporting event? The name of the deity is easily invoked to give dignity to the act about to be performed. Surely, if God is on my side, my cause is just.
Like the boxer who makes the sign of the cross before stalking across the ring to pummel his opponent senseless, the juxtaposition of religion and combat has survived centuries of sociological evolution. Lurking in the background of human nature is the atavistic impulse to kill, for whatever reason, and it is disappointing how easily this urge is summoned to action.
Throughout the ages, in the name of God, countless wars have been fought and countless innocents have been slaughtered. Such acts predate recorded history from the Bible onward (unfortunately, not upward), to the present day, and these conflicts continue all over the globe.
Just as popes blessed the Crusades, bishops sanctioned the Inquisition, and imams issue Fatwas, theocratic regimes continue to conduct, promote or condone "holy wars." I'd be willing to bet that the hijackers of the 9/11 planes shouted, "Allah Akhbar!" just before impact. I have no idea what the Jewish settler shouted as he gunned down 30 Muslims at prayer in a Hebron mosque. It doesn't matter, the insanity is the same, and done in God'’s name.
The separation of church and state is a principle based on wisdom gleaned from the experience of theocratic persecution. Governments have all they can do to provide for the common good, if indeed that is their mission, without the encumbrance of a particular theology. That theocracies even exist today gives testimony to the failure of the intellectual development of man. One cannot damn Islamic states without also damning Catholic, Protestant, Hindu or Jewish states. The principle is the same; government by religion is inimical to the freedom and development of the general population. Mixing civil and religious law guarantees conflict and discrimination, the very evils that good government and religion are supposed to eliminate.
In America, from pre-revolutionary times to the present, religion has played a large role in politics. Today, however, after over 200 years of social advancement, we are faced not with moral imperatives, such as abolition of slavery or voting rights that properly drove governmental policy, but self-styled moralists dispensing hypocritical declarations that apply only to perceived enemies. The head of our Justice Department is an ordained minister who wants to deprive people of their basic constitutional rights. Many politicians curry favor with right-wing religious zealots who make no secret of their biases against women and minorities. Televangelical clergymen take to the airways supporting the bombing of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, neglecting the very commandment against killing which they promised to uphold. The President may be a "born again Christian," but displays a quite unchristian lust for confrontation and revenge.
At home as elsewhere, it seems nationalism and religions have merged into an amalgam of unassailable principles. Slogans using the name of God are foolproof because only fools make them. "God willing, we will prevail!" they say. If such people understood the concept of free will, a theological notion, they would also understand that God doesn't interfere in the actions of man. The principle is the same for people who are willing to forfeit basic civil rights in the name of "freedom" - they will not be free for long.
Oxymoronic labels such as "Christian Right," "Islamic fundamentalist" or "Jewish militant" disturb me. All the major religions embody several basic, non-contradictory principles such as love of fellow man, charity for the unfortunate and the sanctity of life. Yet, radical branches of various religions think nothing of killing other people in the name of their God. Such perverted creeds are best addressed on the psychiatric couch.
The Catholic Church displayed uncommon wisdom, intended or not, in banning their clergy from holding public office, thereby affirming the separation of church and state. If only other clerical denominations would opt out of public office, and politicians out of using their religion as a launching pad for war and the depravation of other human beings, moral imperatives might make a comeback. Then, perhaps, we would get away from killing in the name of God, and start down the road to real civilization. God willing, that is.
Raff Ellis lives in the United States and is a retired former strategic planner and computer industry executive. He has had an abiding and active interest in the Middle East since early adulthood and has traveled to the region many times over the last 30 years. Raff Ellis encourages your comments: rellis@YellowTimes.org