The Bush administration’s Faith-based Initiative (S.476) is misguided and will not achieve its stated goal to use private organizations and private charitable programs as a means to cut the federal budget and return “caring” to its proper place in the private sector.
It’s a noble idea and, if it had a chance of working, I would be the first to endorse the program with banner headlines. In fact, if the program had been designed to simply roll back federal regulations, making it easier for private charity groups to help the needy, the initiative would have been landmark legislation.
The problem is that the program is designed to give federal funds to private organizations. Such a provision would be used as a “Trojan Horse” to allow federal restrictions and guidelines on federal hiring practices and separation of church and state to literally separate faith-based groups from their very roots. For the almighty federal dollar, faith-based groups would necessarily become little more than public agencies.
And so it begins.
As Congress began to work on spending bills to fund the program, the Left showed its predictable dark side. Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas quickly crafted an amendment to the spending bill that would ensure none of the funds appropriated in the bill would go to any group that “discriminates” in job hiring based on religion. The measure was defeated, but it is a harbinger of what’s to come.
Consider what such hiring restrictions would mean to a faith-based group running a soup kitchen. A Catholic church would have to hire those outside the faith to run the operation which means it would no longer be a Catholic charity operation. It would become just another federally-run soup kitchen.
Rep. Edwards used a different, but more illuminating, example as he said allowing “religious hiring rights” as called for by the White House, where faiths could hire the faithful free of federal harassment, means Congress would “legalize racial discrimination in this country.” Edwards offered an example of a Jewish or Catholic organization refusing to hire a black Southern Baptist. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island warned that allowing faith-based groups to hire their own with federal funds would take the United States down “a slow road” to the theocracy of Iran.
It’s astounding that the White House and Congressional Republicans could even think that such an idea of mixing private groups with federal money would ever achieve its goals. The White House has access to the best legal minds in the nation. Did they not see that such legal attacks would render the program useless? Did they not believe that the liberal forces in this nation would do exactly what they have done for forty years, i.e. foist the cancer of federal control on private and religious organizations?
In case the Republicans still don’t get it, allow me to enlighten them as to the coming fate of the “Faith-based Initiative.”
First, leftist organizations will pile on for their share of the federal dollars. It’s what they do best. In fact, it’s already happened, as the Nature Conservancy moved quickly to add a section (Sections 106 and 107) to the original legislation to give it special tax status to perpetrate federal land grabs. Indeed, the legislation gives organizations like the Nature Conservancy at 25% capital gains tax advantage to purchase land denied to others. The House version does not. That one Green organization profited from land sales by more than $700 million last year alone. Other massive land trusts are lobbying hard for this tax break.
Second, any faith-based organization which participates in the program will be forced to comply with all federal guidelines, including restrictions on hiring; banning placement of religious objects, articles or tracts within the area where the public interacts with the charitable program. Special staff and lawyers will be required to keep up with federal reporting and compliance demands, thereby bloating the budget and decreasing time and resources that should be spent on the program.
Third, leftist organizations will target any faith-based organization with whom they disagree. The charity will be forced to endure endless lawsuits, audits and negative publicity until they are finally driven out of the program.
A word to the wise: if you are a faith-based charity performing a valuable service providing for those in need, stay away from federal funds. Your program will survive on willing private contributions. If you accept federal dollars to pay for your program then you deserve what you get.