Clerics have been guilty of literally thousands of felony rapes of minors within the past 30 years (a minor cannot give consent to sexual intercourse).
Reasons for voting for a Board of Clergy Examiners analogous to boards for physicians and other professionals in every state in the United States are as follows:
(1) Church leaders are neither trained nor equipped for criminal investigation.
(2) Clerics as well as their leaders and laymen boards have a vested interest in continuing the cover-up.
(3) In over 30 years in the practice of medicine in six states, I have yet to recall a physician being accused of felony rape of a minor. We doctors are subject to state boards under the aegis of the attorneys general of the various states which are responsible for controlling and preventing physician misconduct.
(4) The track record of the church hierarchy in controlling clerics as well as themselves has gone from disastrous to catastrophic. Yet church leaders are neither despondent nor contrite.
(5) Whoever believes that either clerics or (especially) their leaders will report sexual misconduct to the authorities will also be expecting to see Santa Claus at Christmas time and the Bunny at Easter, not to mention the Great Pumpkin in October.
The people must demand that state legislators pass laws establishing Boards of Clergy Examiners such as we doctors are subject to in the practice of medicine. The Clergy Boards would address only criminal violation of state law. Doctrine and dogma would not be covered.
This essay excerpts research currently under review for publication by the journal German Studies Review.
We often hear accusations that "Adolf Hitler was an atheist and look what he did!" The idea that Hitler believed in God, that he even claimed Christ as his own, is so shocking to people that they will go to any lengths to deny it. But the notion that Hitler was an atheist has already been soundly refuted.1 He was unmistakably a god-fearing Christian.
It is claimed that the quotations and evidence of Hitler's belief were a ruse, propaganda for the benefit of his Nazi followers. This is hardly plausible. After all, if Hitler had to pretend to be a god-fearing Christian to sway his Nazi supporters, that means Nazis had to have been god-fearing Christians. Certainly, Nazism in general was no kind of atheism. It was without doubt a Christian movement, even rabidly anti-atheist. Like the McCarthyites that came after them, the Nazis equated atheism with their arch-enemy Bolshevism. Atheism was among their many charges against the Jews. Even the SS wore Gott mit uns, "God is with us," on their belt buckles.2
This was the official position of the Nazi party. And it went to the very same extremes that we see among Christian Fundamentalists in America today. For instance, read this excerpt from the 24th principle of the Nazi party, from the infamous Twenty Five Points (1920):
We demand the freedom of religion in the Reich so long as they do not endanger the position of the state or adversely affect the moral standards of the German race. As such the Party represents a positively Christian position without binding itself to one particular faith.
Likewise, the 1933 Nazi Concordat with the Catholic Church, Article 21:
Catholic religious instruction in elementary, senior, secondary and vocational schools constitutes a regular portion of the curriculum, and is to be taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church. In religious instruction, special care will be taken to inculcate patriotic, civic and social consciousness and sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian Faith and the moral code, precisely as in the case of other subjects.
So there can be no doubt that the Nazis were thoroughly and devotedly Christian, eager to inculcate Christian theism for future generations.
This is especially important, since hundreds of thousands of Nazis carried out the Final Solution, not one man. If they disagreed with Hitler's orders, they could have ignored them or sandbagged the process. To the contrary, all survivor accounts agree: Nazis involved in carrying out Hitler's orders were eager, even zealous for the task. So what Hitler himself believed is almost irrelevant. Had he rejected certain elements of Nazism openly, he would likely have been deposed and replaced with a more suitably Christian villain to carry out the Final Solution.
"God with us," the Nazi motto on military belt buckles.
But we have no evidence that he was perpetuating a ruse. Even in unguarded moments, he asserted faith in God and Christ. His entire philosophy was thoroughly intertwined with and built upon the religious assumptions of Christian theism.
Even so, a more subtle argument has arisen about Hitler: that yes, he was a believer, but he was vehemently anti-Christian. Unlike the accusation that he was an atheist, which is based on no evidence whatsoever, this claim at least rests on supposed direct quotations of Hitler. Though Hitler did criticize priests and the church and certain Christian dogmas quite a bit, so do many god-fearing Christians. But clear attacks on the whole of Christian theism are also attributed to him. Here is a typical example from Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century (1999, pp. 355-6):
Hitler was passionately hostile to Christianity: "I shall never come to terms with the Christian lie . . . Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity. It will last another hundred years, two hundred years perhaps. My regret will have been that I couldn't, like whoever the prophet was, behold the promised land from afar." He accepted a broadly Nietzschean account of Christianity as a conspiracy of Jews for a slave revolt against their Roman conquerors: "Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilisation by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society."
All of these quotations (and others like them that you will probably see bandied about on the web) come from a single source: Hitler's Table Talk. This is purportedly a notebook based on the shorthand of two secretaries to Hitler, Heinrich Heim and Henry Picker, instructed by Hitler's right-hand-man Martin Bormann to record for posterity whatever Hitler said in his bunker in Berlin, usually at tea. They recorded official orders as well as things he said off the cuff, and logged entries by date and time of day. Bormann intended to edit the notes and publish them as a definitive party manifesto for the victorious Reich.
It is likely these notes were real. Six original pages from the notebook still exist in the Adolf Hitler Collection at the Library of Congress, which should be authentic.3 There are also two completely independent manuscripts that agree in such a way as to corroborate the existence of a genuine original, and historian Werner Jochmann, in his edition of one of these, cites several notes and letters confirming that the Table Talk was indeed being made and collated by Bormann during the war. And one of the note-takers, Henry Picker, kept his copy of the notes and published them soon after the war, swearing to their authenticity. He later procured sworn testimonials to this by fellow bunker officers, even arch-Nazi Engel himself.
There are two versions of the original German of Hitler's Table Talk. One version of the notebooks was edited and collated by Martin Bormann, called the Bormann Vermerke ("Bormann Notes"), which until recently existed only in the private collection of Franois Genoud. He bought it in 1948 from an Italian official, who in turn received it from Bormann's wife Gerda, who took the manuscript with her when she fled the Allied invasion in 1945, dying in an Italian detention camp in 1946. This text continues to 1944. The other version is that of Picker, who received his copy from Heim upon replacing him, then added his own entries until Heim's return. This text only reaches to mid-1942, because Picker was then reassigned and no longer had access to Heim's notes. The Bormann Vermerke also contains entries made by Bormann, and presumably Heim, during the period covered by Picker's text, which are inexplicably not found in his copy. There is also supposed to be a third copy, which Bormann forwarded to an office in MŸnich, but it was lost (most likely destroyed by Allied bombs).4
The two surviving manuscripts have spawned an endless number of printed editions in various languages. Apart from changes of title, publisher, and publication date, these are the major variants: First came the German of Henry Picker in 1951 (2nd ed. in 1963; 3rd in 1976) entitled Hitler's TischgesprŠche im FŸhrerhauptquartier, 1941-42 ("Hitler's Table Talk in the Central Headquarters"). In 1952 came a French translation of half the Bormann Vermerke, by Genoud himself, called Libres Propos sur la Guerre et la Paix: Recueillis sur l'Ordre de Martin Bormann ("Candid Remarks on the War and the Peace: Collected by Order of Martin Bormann"). A second volume was promised but never produced. Then in 1953 the entire Bormann Vermerke appeared in English, edited by H. R. Trevor-Roper (but translated by R. H. Stevens and Norman Cameron). This bore the titles Hitler's Table Talk, 1941-1944 and Hitler's Secret Conversations, 1941-1944. A new edition of this appeared in 1973, and a third in 2000.
However, the original German of the Bormann Vermerke did not appear until 1980, presented by Werner Jochmann in Monologe im FŸhrerhauptquartier 1941-1944: die Aufzeichnungen Heinrich Heims herausgegeben von Werner Jochmann (i.e., "Monologue in the Central Headquarters . . . the Notes of Heinrich Heim edited by Werner Jochmann"), which had appeared piecemeal in a German periodical some years earlier. But Jochmann's text lacks the entries made by Picker, due to a copyright dispute.
Picker's edition carries the strongest claim to authenticity. It has the actual German, was the first to be published, and has the support of eyewitness testimony. It also had scholarly backing, "Arranged on behalf of the German Institute for the History of National Socialism, initiated and published by Gerhard Ritter, professor of history at the University of Freiburg" (translated from the title page). Not only was Picker one of the actual stenographers (from 21 March to 2 August 1942), he also acquired Heim's notes directly, bypassing Bormann. Another historian, Walter Mediger, even checked Picker's first edition against these original notes, made corrections in the second edition, and testified to its accuracy.
Next in authority is the scholarly work of Werner Jochmann, who publishes the German of the Bormann manuscript employed by Genoud and Trevor-Roper's translators. Though it passed through many hands, including Bormann's, it agrees with Picker's text to such a detailed extent that we can be assured the two texts have a common ancestor, which must be the actual bunker notes themselves. The Jochmann text contains some entries lacking from Picker, but otherwise there are only trivial variations in wording here and there. Jochmann supports his text's authority by including photocopies of actual pages from the manuscript, handwritten notes by Heim and Bormann, and other items. He also demonstrates from letters and documents how the notes came to be made. Of course, even at best, Picker and Jochmann only present hasty notes made by a second party, not necessarily a true verbatim record of what Hitler said. Everyone underplays this fact, except Jochmann, who emphasizes it. And since everyone involved, including Hitler, saw this as the basis of a future published manifesto, it was not the entirely unguarded commentary that some claim.
Clever minds might consider the possibility that the Bormann Vermerke was actually fabricated by Genoud, by simply copying and expanding on Picker's German. But we can actually rule that out from an examination of Picker's first and second editions. Genoud correctly translates several words and sentences in 1952 that were accidentally omitted from Picker's 1951 release, but restored by Mediger in 1963. Thus, Genoud must have had access to a genuine manuscript, and that must be the one Jochmann finally released in 1980. This, in fact, corroborates the authenticity of both German originals, at least where they agree.
Such is the state of the source for Hitler's remarks. "I shall never come to terms with the Christian lie," Hitler supposedly said on 27 February 1942. "Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity." From this you would certainly conclude that Hitler believed all Christianity was a lie, a disease he wished gone. But the German does not say this! And there lies the scandal. The text of both Jochmann and (the corrected) Picker agree in every detail, yet say something completely different from the English everyone quotes. I will give you my own literal translations so you can see for yourself.
Let's take the "disease" remark first. Here is what Picker/Jochmann says (the preceding three sentences must be included now for context, though all but the first of these sentences are completely missing from Trevor-Roper and Genoud):
I have never found pleasure in maltreating others, even if I know it isn't possible to maintain oneself in the world without force. Life is granted only to those who fight the hardest. It is the law of life: Defend yourself!
The time in which we live has the appearance of the collapse of this idea. It can still take 100 or 200 years. I am sorry that, like Moses, I can only see the Promised Land from a distance.
At once you can see the English endorsed by Trevor-Roper and used by Glover (and everyone else: this is the only English translation in print) is a lie. There is no "disease of Christianity." Rather, in place of that phrase is a reference to what Hitler says in the preceding sentences, which Trevor-Roper's English doesn't even include: the idea of expediency, survival of the fittest, the "necessary evil" of using force to implement your will. That is what Hitler wishes will end (and he certainly believed it would, when the Third Reich finally became the utopian state of every Nazi's dreams).
The story doesn't end there. The Trevor-Roper-endorsed translation of this passage is not from any German manuscript at all. It is a verbatim translation of Genoud's French! Worse than that, it is an inept translation. Stevens and Cameron commit a common amateur's mistake, one that only makes sense if they were translating from the French, for no other language has the construction that they bungle here. They give the first sentence above as "I admit that one cannot impose one's will by force, but I have a horror of people who enjoy inflicting sufferings on others' bodies and tyranny upon others' souls." This fanciful translation perfectly matches Genoud's imaginative French rendering of Hitler's much more concise and sober German. But it also contains a mistake. Here, they have Hitler saying that you cannot impose your will by force, whereas the German (and Genoud's French) says that you cannot impose your will except by force (which makes much more sense given Hitler's following 'qualification'). As it happens, in French you would say this in a way that looks like you are saying the opposite: Genoud uses the infamous ne . . . que formation. Only a competent translator can spot the difference. Stevens and Cameron didn't (at least not here--examination of other passages shows that they knew enough to translate the same construction correctly elsewhere).
Numerous other evidence like this confirms the general conclusion: the published English is from the French, not the German. This means that Stevens and Cameron must have lied to or misled Trevor-Roper, claiming they had translated Genoud's German manuscript. Moreover, the ultimate source for the doctored quotations is Genoud. The immediate and most important conclusion is that the Trevor-Roper edition, the only English version in print, is worthless. No one who quotes this text is quoting what Hitler actually said.
Now let's look at the "Christian lie" quote. Picker and Jochmann actually say (again giving the preceding sentence for context): "To do something false against one's own knowledge, that is out of the question! One should never personally fall in line with such a lie" (Jochmann presents both sentences in first person).5 Though the context still happens to be a criticism of the Church--Hitler implying he followed the "true" Christianity that the Church somehow betrayed--he does not call Christianity a lie. And here it is even more clearly a distortion, since the sentence "I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie" does not seem to fit here, and is thus more evidently an interpolation, whereas its counterpart, "One should never personally fall in line with such a lie," fits perfectly, carrying over and completing the thought of the previous sentence, which is about hypocrisy in general.
There are many other suspect quotations. I checked over a dozen, in four separate entries. All of them ended with similar results. For example, one oft-repeated quote comes from 13 December 1941: "But Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery" (Stevens and Cameron's English, again matching Genoud's French verbatim). But the original German says, "Christianity teaches 'transubstantiation,' which is the maddest thing ever concocted by a human mind in its delusions, a mockery of all that is godly." The difference in meaning here is radical, and again shows how Genoud (hence the Trevor-Roper translation) has distorted Hitler's criticism of one form of Christianity (which implies he believed there was a true Christianity) into a thoroughly anti-Christian sentiment.
However, for one quotation I ran into a different problem. We already saw Glover quoting an entry for 19 October 1941 where Hitler is made to say that all Christianity was "a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilisation by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society." This is, in fact, an accurate translation of what appears in the Bormann Vermerke. But Picker has no entry for this date at all. In it, Hitler equates Christianity to syphilis as the two diseases that destroyed Rome. The context indicates he means early Catholicism, not "true" Christianity, but it is strange that Picker never received this entry from Heim. Jochmann indicates that the following entry (for 21 October) was made by Bormann personally, and the 19 October entry might have been his, too.
This mysterious entry is remarkably similar to that of 13 December, which appears in all editions. I translate the relevant part here:
Christ was an Aryan.6 But Paul used his teachings to mobilize the underworld and organize a proto-bolshevism. With its breakdown, the beautiful clarity of the ancient world was lost.
Here, Hitler's position is more subtle. First, Hitler does not deny Christ but claims Christ for himself (Jesus was an Aryan and therefore his noble predecessor). Second, he attacks not Christianity but the Catholic tradition, in effect the elements of church doctrine that are pro-communist and anti-fascist, and thus hostile to Hitler's authoritarian program. As it happens, in both entries Hitler refers to the "ancient world" as "beautiful," refers to its "breakdown," and talks about the "mobilization" of "Proto-Bolshevism." It seems possible, then, that the mysterious entry for 19 October is something Bormann reconstructed from a faulty memory of what was actually said three weeks later, which Picker and Heim produced correctly.
Stevens and Cameron are certainly guilty of some shameful incompetence, if not outright dishonesty. Nor does Trevor-Roper have much of an excuse. But the real culprit is Franois Genoud. David Irving tells how Genoud attempted to hoax him in the 1970s with a forgery of "Hitler's Last Testament."7 Genoud even confessed the forgery to Irving, declaring in his defense, "But it's just what Hitler would have said, isn't it?" He was evidently willing to perpetrate a hoax, thinking it permissible to fabricate the words of Hitler if it was what he believed Hitler "would have said." His motives for doctoring the Table Talk may be unfathomable. Genoud was a very strange man with a colorful history: a Swiss banker and Nazi spy who laundered money for the Third Reich, a self-professed neo-Nazi even up to his suicide in 1996 (though, stranger still, he never supported the holocaust), a voracious purchaser and profiteer of Nazi archives, and an admitted financer of terrorists.8
All this is not to say that Hitler does not criticize the Church and various Christian dogmas, even in Picker's and Jochmann's versions of the Table Talk. For instance, in an entry for the afternoon of 13 December 1941, Hitler rails against the idea of a physical resurrection and in favor of a spiritual one, and takes a very cynical view of Catholicism, voicing many of the same criticisms one might hear from a candid (and bigoted) Protestant. Of course, Hitler was raised Catholic and was never excommunicated, although he was apparently critical of many Catholic dogmas. Yet he makes it clear that he believes in God, Christ, the immortality of the soul, and divine providence. For instance, on 27 February 1942 Hitler is quoted as saying "The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator," a sentence curiously omitted from Genoud and Trevor-Roper.
Surveying Hitler's remarks on religion in the Table Talk, Jochmann remarks that "Hitler was by no means unreligious." It is the Genoud-Trevor-Roper text that distorts this picture far beyond that, painting Hitler as a quasi-atheistic anti-Christian. It is clear that Picker and Jochmann have the correct text and Trevor-Roper's is entirely untrustworthy. Hitler was no more anti-Christian than your run-of-the-mill Protestant bigot. His Christianity was odd, surely, but so is that of many die-hard believers today.
Richard Carrier is a member of the Internet Infidels with numerous writings on the Secular Web. He has an M.Phil in history and is writing his dissertation at Columbia University (New York) on the perception of scientists in the early Roman empire. He can be reached at
1 See: Anne Nicol Gaylor, "Hitler's Religion" (http://www.ffrf.org/fttoday/back/hitler.html); Atheism Web, "Common Arguments: Adolf Hitler was an atheist!" (http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/arguments.html#hitler); and a collection of quotes and links in Jim Walker, "The Christianity of Hitler revealed in his speeches and proclamations" (http://www.nobeliefs.com/speeches.htm) and Freethought Web, "Was Hitler an atheist as some Christians say he was?" (http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/quotes_hitler.html).
2 Steven Carr, "Nazis and Atheists" (http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/belt.htm).
3 Gerhard Weinberg. 1952. Guide to Captured German Documents. Maxwell Airforce Base, Alabama: Human Resources Research Institute. p. 55.
4 All of these details can be found in the prefaces and introductions to the various editions of the Table Talk, especially those of Jochmann and Picker. Also, see Gitta Sereny, "The Truth Is, I Loved Hitler," The Observer (28 April 1996): 7.
5 I.e., "To do something false against my own knowledge, that is out of the question! I should never personally fall in line with such a lie."
6 I.e., not a Jew. A footnote in Picker indicates the basis for this belief: Hitler, and other Nazis, believed Jesus was indeed fathered by a Roman legionary (a story that dates back at least to the 2nd century A.D.) and therefore he was a member of the master race.
7 David Irving, "The Faking of Hitler's 'Last Testament'" (www.fpp.co.uk/Hitler/docs/Testament/byGenoud.html); this is part of Irving's "International Campaign for Real History," Focal Point Publications (www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/FPhistory.html). Irving is infamous as a 'holocaust denier,' though in truth he does not deny the holocaust happened, only that Hitler knew of it. Regardless, his account of Genoud's involvement with him is first person and credible. Genoud had already published the forged testament, again with the endorsement of, you guessed it, H. R. Trevor-Roper. See Franois Genoud, ed. 1961. The Testament of Adolf Hitler: the Hitler-Bormann documents, February-April 1945 (originally in French as Le Testament Politique de Hitler 1959).
8 Gitta Sereny (cf. n. 4 above); also: page 7 of The Observer (28 April 1996); Ben MacIntyre, "Swiss Banker who Worshipped Hitler Commits Suicide," The Times (4 June 1996); David Lee Preston, "Switzerland is Urged to Open its Files on Nazi who Financed Terrorists," Philadelphia Inquirer (19 March 1997): A6:1. There are also three biographies of Genoud (all came out in 1996, the year of his death): Pierre PŽan, L'ExtrŽmiste: Franois Genoud, de Hitler ˆ Carlos; Karl Laske, Le Banquier Noir: Franois Genoud; Karl Laske & Maria Hoffmann-Dartevelle, Ein Leben zwischen Hitler und Carlos: Francois Genoud.
On June 25, 2002, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that the "one nation under God" phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government. The sole purpose of the 1954 act that inserted the words, as Judge Goodwin emphasized, was to advance religion. During the Act's signing ceremony, President Eisenhower stated that the act would lead school children to proclaim "the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty."
Over the last three decades, the Supreme Court has utilized three tests to analyze alleged violations of the Establishment Clause. The Ninth Circuit held that the 1954 Act failed all three. Under the Lemon test, the Act was shown to possess no secular purpose. The endorsement test revealed that the Act sends the message that nonadherents are "outsiders, not full members of the political community." The coercion test demonstrated that the Act does, in fact, place students in the dilemma of either participating in an exercise with religious content or protesting.
The last of these tests fleshes out one of the more basic objections to religion in public schools--that religious practices lead to coercion in the public school environment. This effect, as Judge Goodwin said, is "particularly pronounced . . . given the age and impressionability of schoolchildren, and their understanding that they are required to adhere to the norms set by their school, their teacher and their fellow students." Public school students who are not coerced into conformity frequently face harassment from their peers, who cannot be expected to respect a so-called "voluntary" decision in these matters.
Critics of the Ninth Circuit ruling should remember that public schools teach a captive audience of students. With the limited exception of home and private schooling, attendance is mandatory--enforced by truancy laws. No degree of religious intrusion is appropriate when a student's presence is in response to threats of government coercion.
In addition, religious practices run contrary to the message that the public school system ought to be sending to America's students. The word "learning" is not a euphemism for authority-based acceptance of the ideas of teachers, priests, popes, kings or gods. To learn, of course, is to question the very authority that religion deems unquestionable--to apply pure reason to that which is not understood. Individuals who believe in learning want our public schools to teach students how to think, not what to think.
There is a common misconception among proponents of religious practices in public schools. They contend that the requirement of religious neutrality has resulted in an unnecessary degree of government control in the classroom. They fail to realize the tremendous role the government would have to play in monitoring any religious practices that it allowed in public schools. Somehow, the government would have to resolve disputes over conflicting religious doctrines
I simply cannot conceive of a logical basis for picking one religious practice over another! The sheer impracticality of this task ensures that it will always be in the government's best interest to hold high the bar of religious neutrality.
Before condemning the Ninth Circuit ruling, critics should objectively apply the Lemon, endorsement, and coercion tests for themselves, and then consider the various arguments in favor of secular public schools. Should they still question the ruling, let it not be out of failure to appreciate the need for religious neutrality.
"In the relationship between man and religion, the state is firmly committed to a position of neutrality." Thus ruled Associate Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark in 1963. Yet today the American nation continues to struggle to eliminate religious propaganda from the public schools that constitute the very basis of our democracy. The Bill of Rights, that hallowed cornerstone of the Constitution, forbids the governmental creation of an established church in its First, oft-quoted, Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." For over 200 years, the Constitution itself, reinforced unequivocally by the interpretations of justices like Clark, has forbidden the connection of any instrument of government in the United States to an established church.
Yet inexplicably, religion has maintained a strong presence in the nation's public schools, the very institutions that are, ostensibly, the foundation of our democratic society. In Michigan, only a recent administrative decision has halted the distribution of Gideon Bibles to the students at a local elementary school; in Tennessee, the practice continues. Debates over school prayer and creationism rage nationwide, with the separation of church and state under fire on a regular basis. Only in 1987 did the Supreme Court overturn a Louisiana statute requiring that bible-based creation science be taught alongside evolution; less than five years earlier, the Court ruled in McLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education that Act 590, the "Balanced Treatment for Creation Science and Evolution Science Act," allotting equal time to lessons of creationism and evolution, was unconstitutional. Clashes of creationists with evolutionists, just one manifestation of efforts to incorporate religious views into school curricula, have prompted consideration of antievolution legislation in states from Washington to Georgia. Other attempts to mingle religion with public schooling are equally widespread. Students nationwide pledge allegiance to a nation "under God" every morning, and schools' attempts at establishing a prayer before football games or graduation ceremonies periodically make the news.
The public school is the common denominator of the many, the shared cultural background of a diverse nation that embraces Jews and Muslims, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, Baptists and Mormons. The United States is perhaps one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with its 80 million Protestants divided among some four dozen disparate churches and the rest of the population split among Roman Catholicism (28% of the population), Judaism (2%), a host of other faiths (4%) and agnosticism or undeclared religious affiliation (10%). In such an environment, how could anyone in good conscience prescribe a religious activity that would inevitably favor one creed above another, whether implicitly or explicitly, even if the Constitution did not rule out the legality of such an undertaking altogether?
Some proponents of school religion have argued that acceptance of a religious activity by a majority of students constitutes endorsement of its application to the school community. But who would argue the parallel thesis that a statement of, say, white supremacy is acceptable in a district whose majority is Caucasian? Majority rule does not include the dispensation to trample minority rights, as the ACLU has repeatedly pointed out. There is simply no excuse for the alienation of any member of the school community via the confusion of public education with spiritual inculcation.
For a growing number of atheist and agnostics in this free and modern society, any religious activity, nondenominational as it may attempt to be, contradicts their personal creed. To penalize an individual for his or her atheism would be just as flagrant an infringement of the First Amendment as any persecution for another's Catholicism or Hinduism. During the time of the Inquisition or in Puritan Salem, atheism would have been grounds for a gruesome execution; today's increasingly scientific and secular society recognizes atheism as a creed as valid as any other. Any public school engaging in religious activity is thereby infringing upon the rights of its atheist population to reject that very religion. Wrote Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson in 1952, "The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion, it will cease to be free for religion."
The most compelling reason, however, that religion does not belong in our public schools is not the discomfort that religious proselytism would pose for atheists, Shiites, or Mennonites, but the simple fact that the Constitution, along with a slew of Supreme Court cases, forbids it. The First Amendment explicitly bars the involvement of the state in religious affairs, notably in the establishment of an official church. Time and again in the 20th century, the Supreme Court has ruled manifestations of religion in public schools unconstitutional. In 1962, justices ruled in Engel v. Vitale that New York's daily class prayer violated the First Amendment. The following year, the Court ruled in Abington Township School District v. Schempp that Pennsylvania could not compel public school students to read passages from the bible as mandated by a 1949 law. Five years later, the Epperson v. Arkansas decision struck down a measure forbidding the teaching of evolution. In the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard case, Justice Brennan wrote explicitly:
"The Court has been particularly vigilant in monitoring compliance with the Establishment Clause in elementary and secondary schools. Families entrust public schools with the education of their children, but condition their trust on the understanding that the classroom will not purposely be used to advance religious views that may conflict with the private beliefs of the student and his or her family."
Clearly, then, a multitude of court cases and the words of the Constitution itself reinforce the necessity of keeping religion from permeating the mind-shaping environment of the public schools. Even without these legal barriers to the inclusion of religion in public school activities, the fact remains that such an ecclesiastical emphasis would contradict the very philosophy of a free society. Just as no student should face discrimination for his or her ethnicity or gender, none should suffer through the endorsement--implied or explicit--of any religion whatsoever, however nonsectarian or locally popular, in the very public schools that parents entrust with the education of their impressionable children.
Neither the Constitution nor conscience can accept the association of religion and public education. In a diverse nation that prides itself on religious and other freedoms, established religion has no place in the public schools. Thankfully, the First Amendment assures us that it never will.
"There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed," stated by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Weiss v. District Board, reveals the perilous potency of religion's impact when involved in public schools. The inauspicious results of permitting religion to be an accepted aspect of public education can be followed through 12 years of an education dictated by God.
I was in the first grade. "Santa" was visiting our school, handing out candy canes to the good little boys and girls. As I sat on his lap, he inquired what I desired for Christmas. A tear rolled down my cheek as I told him that I couldn't receive a Christmas gift, because I didn't celebrate Christmas. I was a mere Jew, a simple Chanukah-celebrator. Yet I was more than that. I was ignorant--I certainly did not have the intellect to comprehend why I was different because of my religion, or even why I believed the things I was told to believe.
I was in the second grade. My teacher was asking each student to share their holiday plans. When I said that I was celebrating Chanukah with my family, the boy next to me said, "Oh, you're a Jew. Where are your horns?"
I was bewildered. "What are you talking about?" I replied.
"Jews are the Devil's children, of course," he said. The teacher put him in time-out. For weeks I believed that I was evil, until my teacher explained to me that my peer had been misinformed by his father. Yet I still made a vow never to share my holiday plans with classmates, even if the teacher told me to do so.
I was in the sixth grade. A grandiose Christmas tree decorated the entrance of my school. I immediately went to the principal and asked why there were Christmas decorations and no other holiday decorations. He simply stated that most students celebrated Christmas, but there still was a Chanukah decoration--one plastic menorah sitting on the corner of an office desk. Once again, I felt a growing barrier of different religions, a barrier which had endured only because the public schools I attended disregarded the so-called division between church and state.
I was in the eighth grade. My history teacher attempted to fill the classroom with various holiday decorations during the winter holiday season. I finally felt that someone had acknowledged how unfair it was to belittle one religion by paying unequal attention to it. But then a student stood up, offended because he was an atheist.
I was in the tenth grade. I heard an announcement for a Christian club meeting. I went to the principal, and asked why there wasn't a club for every other religion. She said that if I wanted to start a Jewish club, I could, and that all that was required was a teacher to sponsor the club. It seemed like a fair response, until I realized that by attempting to create a Jewish club, I'd be isolating those students whose religion was not Christian or Jewish.
I was graduating from the 12th grade. At the graduation ceremony, the chorus sang songs with lyrics that included religious terms, even the name "Jesus." Exhausted from 12 years of disappointments in my school system's deviation from what I deemed a necessary separation of religion and school affairs, I did not object further than by telling my principal on my way out, "I didn't appreciate the songs that the chorus sang."
The lack of division between church and state creates a division between students based on religion. It classifies each student, and some classes will perennially be given more attention than the others. I had felt abnormal as a student only because I didn't receive Christmas gifts. No child should have to go through that feeling of utter isolation, no child should have to wonder why their religion isn't perceived as significant as another, no child should have to deal with religion in school.
Students often applied typical stereotypes of Jewish people to me. I have been called cheap for picking up a penny on the sidewalk for good luck. Had a student of any other faith picked up that penny, no accusations would have been made. I was assumed to have certain viewpoints just because I was Jewish, and all Jewish people have the same viewpoints. If religion was not dominant in schools--if holidays were not celebrated at school, if prayers were not said, if clubs based on religion were not active--I, just as many other students, would not have had to handle the emotional turmoil resulting from preconceived notions and from the undesired destiny of mental solitude.
America is an enduring melting pot, a country that advocates rights to everyone regardless of their religion. Involving religion in public schools bluntly contradicts what America stands for, because no public school--no matter how hard it tried--could possibly satisfy the religious needs and wants of every student. Atheists are typically not even considered. There is absolutely no way to appease every student, and therefore religion should never be entangled with public schools.
Faith in the public education system is being destroyed by a lack of equality. This cannot be rectified under the continuing religious bias. In a world being torn apart by beliefs, the future's only hope for unity is that American citizens will be educated as a nation instead of under God.
My first full-time associate pastor position was at an Assembly of God in La Puente, California. That church has since changed names, but in 1973 it was called Glengrove Assembly--or, as was once printed on an envelope we received there, "Glengrove Ass. of God."
The Assemblies of God are pentecostal--speaking in tongues, faith healing, and so on--and although the people were sincere and kind, I quickly found that church to be a bit noisy for my tastes. I worked there a year and a half before moving on.
But the day I was hired, I was excited to sit down with the senior pastor to discuss terms of employment, duties, and salary. It must have been the power of the Holy Spirit that kept me from grinning when Rev. Milton Barfoot pronounced his name.
When Barfoot told me the salary, I was ready to say "Praise the Lord," until he quickly added, "But we expect all of our staff to tithe."
It was church policy for the three pastors and the staff to give 10% of their salary back to the church. "How can we expect members to tithe if the ministers don't set a good example?" The bible says, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse" (Malachi 3:10), and Barfoot explained that the "storehouse" is where you regularly worship.
So I dutifully tithed for a while, chopping my salary to 90%. (Christians debate whether tithing should come off gross or net income, but Barfoot assured me it is gross, not take-home pay. I suppose God told him that personally.) Besides tithing, we were often asked to make contributions for other causes, and of course, the staff had to set a good example.
But I felt funny about tithing. This church hired me to do a job. Why should they decide how to manage my giving? After a few months, my tithing became less regular, and I'm sure they noticed.
I was unclear about the concept until about six months later, on a special Tithing Sunday, when we ministers were each called on to preach about the duty and joy of giving to God. While preparing my sermon, I was surprised to learn how thin is the biblical basis for Christian tithing. I delivered the sermon, not sharing what I had learned (which was very little, and therefore very important), talking around the issue about the importance of "giving to God" in many ways that are not limited to money. I'm sure Barfoot and the elders, knowing my tithing was decreasing, thought I was a hypocrite.
I grew less and less comfortable at Glengrove, for many reasons, and when I received a "call from God" to move to another church in central California, I was very happy. (It's amazing how God knew to call me to a church that was less controlling.)
After I left the ministry, I worked as a computer programmer. One of my co-workers, a devout Mormon, felt prompted by God (or his elders) to give an additional 10% to his church--a double tithe! He was often audited by the IRS, he said, because they couldn't believe someone with his income would be that generous.
"It was this shameless, revelatory church marquee, spotted in Escanaba, Mich., that inspired this article," said Dan.
In the Old Testament, tithing was a way for the Israelites to support their priestly tribe, the Levites, who did no work outside of sacred duties. The word "tithe" appears in the entire Old Testament only 27 times, mostly in passing. There are only five places where it is discussed in any detail, and they are conflicting.
In some cases tithing happened yearly (see Deut. 14:22), but elsewhere it was commanded every third year (see Deut. 26:12, 14:28 and Amos 4:4).
The Levites themselves gave a "tithe of tithes" to the high priest Aaron (Numbers 18). But tithing was not just for supporting the ministry; you could use tithes as general charity to help "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" (Deut. 26:12). The tithe was 10% of everything you earned or produced, including grain, fruit, and meat (presented as a "burnt offering").
You could borrow against your tithe, for a 20% fee (Lev. 27:30-34). You could sell your tithes for cash and indulge yourself, as long as you didn't forget the Levites (Deut. 14:26-27).
I was surprised to learn that tithes were meant to be consumed mainly by the tither! (It made sense to dispose of meat quickly in that part of the world.) The only restrictions were that tithes be eaten in certain holy places, that the blood be avoided, and that some remain for the Levites (Deut. 12:6-19, 14:22-28).
That was back when state and church were always united. In many countries, 10% was the state tax. Babylonians, for example, used the tithe as a secular tax for royal purposes. Although the Jews appeared to dedicate tithes mainly to sacral purposes, in II Chronicles 31 the king and the priests cooperated in the collection. Samuel told the people that the king would "take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants . . . and he will take the tenth of your sheep" (II Samuel 8:15-17).
In the Old Testatment, the tithe was the tax.
Writes Kristi Williams from South Carolina: "Well, here's a rather promising Sunday sermon. Guaranteed to focus us on a hefty dose of guilt, fear, threats and bribes. Amen, and pass the collection plate!"
There is nothing in the New Testament in favor of tithing. Neither Jesus nor Paul commanded believers to give 10% to their local church, or to go to church at all! Jesus mocked the scribes and Pharisees who tithed (Matthew 23:23), and denounced a self-righteous Pharisee who boasted about tithing (Luke 18:9-14). The writer of Hebrews, who observed that the old tithe was collected by the Levites, claimed that times are different now: "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Hebrews 7:5,12).
Right-wing Christians who want to cut taxes should stop tithing. Why would an omnipotent god need cash, anyway?
New Testament giving was generally freer, less legalistic than the Old Testament; although in one case, the exception that proves the non-rule, church members were struck dead for failing to give 100% (!) to the new communistic church (Acts 5:1-11).
No wonder I felt funny about tithing! I wish I had known enough to tell Rev. Barfoot that he was a bad Christian. I also wish I had saved that money for my retirement. How much would it be worth today?
A common retort from Christians in conversation with freethinkers about the merits of belief is: "Well, churches help people. What good do atheists do?"
Refer your next Christian conversationalist with that taunt to the Wisconsin-based Women's Medical Fund, Inc., which was atheist-conceived, is atheist-governed, atheist-operated by volunteers and receives most of of its donations from freethinkers, whether atheist or agnostic. I am its volunteer administrator. Its board of directors are nonbelievers.
Started in Madison, Wis., as a tiny charity back in the 1970s to help a few especially needy women pay for abortions, the Women's Medical Fund now has helped more than 12,000 Wisconsin women. It is believed to be the oldest continuously operating fund of its kind in the United States.
Only a handful of states allow public money to be used for abortions, and Wisconsin, with its heavy Catholic population, has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
So the fund meets a great need, assisting homeless women, women and children who are victims of rape, women who are ill (many seriously so), women who already have eight or nine children, battered women in hopeless marriages, and women who are mentally ill. Most women helped are on public assistance of some kind; a great majority have children. These are Wisconsin's neediest women, who have ranged in age from 12 to 48.
The fund is a "pure" charity, completely volunteer. There are no salaries or traditional overhead. Approximately 99.5% of donations are used for the intended purpose of helping needy women. Checks are written to physicians, clinics or hospitals, and, in accordance with Wisconsin law, there is an annual audit of the fund by a certified public accountant.
Contributions to the Women's Medical Fund are tax-deductible. The fund has had its 501(c)(3) charity exemption since 1976. Last year it paid $174,547 on behalf of 778 women.
The Women's Medical Fund wishes to extend a public thank you to Robert West, Kay Elwers, Nora Cusack, Liz Uhr, and Phyllis Rose, all volunteers and Foundation members.
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In the Freedom From Religion Foundation's two surveys of members, done ten years apart, we found that an overwhelming number of our members do good works. They are volunteers in the schools and volunteers for charities of all descriptions. They are concerned about our country and the world, and they demonstrate that concern through their work for environmental groups, government watchdog groups, birth control groups, shelters for battered women, animal rights groups, death-with-dignity organizations, world peace. Atheists are concerned activists.
Did you notice how quiet the media and public were over the chilling message left twice by the sniper terrorizing the Washington, D.C., suburban area?
The sniper left a Tarot card at the scene of his shooting of a 13-year-old schoolboy on Oct. 7 that ominously announced, "I am God." This was reported, but without comment.
A handwritten letter left at the scene of his Oct. 19 shooting at a restaurant in Ashland, Va., also contained the phrase, "I am God," dutifully reported, without comment. Doubtless the Oct. 24 arrest of the suspect will yield many more details about his religious mission.
Had a sniper who shot 13 people, killing ten, left a message saying, "There is no god," you can imagine the uproar. There would be no end to the denigration of atheism and "godless" immorality. But silence greets this religious connection with a mass murderer.
Believers and unbelievers alike were surely equally chilled by the sniper's avowal, so clearly revealing how dangerous this fanatic is. After all, has there been a greater mass murderer than "God," at least taking at face value the claims of the Old Testament? The Flood alone takes mass murdering to a new high.
As we are fond of pointing out at our offices at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it takes a whole chapter of Ruth Hurmence Green's Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible just to list the "Mass Killings Ordered, Committed, or Approved by God."
Consider a partial listing of the biblical god's cruel record: every inhabitant of Sodom and Gomorrah, those first-born Egyptians, victims of plagues, Canaanites, golden calf worshippers, 12,000 inhabitants of Ai, all the people of Gezer, Eglon and Hebron, riddle-solving Philistines, 50,000 people unfortunate enough to happen to glance into the Ark, 70 children of King Ahab, 200 Philistines killed for their foreskins, 42 kids eaten by bears, babies dashed against the stones, and tens upon tens of thousands of other holy victims. The righteous slaughter continues, so the bible claims, with unending torture in hell for vast numbers of unbelievers, sinners, the unbaptized, and those whose names are simply not writ in that narrow Book of Life.
The abstraction called "God" is even portrayed by his most devout believers as the ultimate death-dealer: arbitrary, incomprehensible, capricious.
As one of our Foundation members, when asked about her views on religion by a TV host, once said: "I wouldn't want God for a neighbor."
A religious icon linked a Utah state website to a Mormon document until complaints removed the religious link in early October. The Department of Public Safety Emergency Services and Homeland Security website included a religious icon (see reproduction pictured) which linked browsers to a voluminous Mormon "emergency preparedness manual."
"Your Family Disaster Plan" at the Utah website contained a 3-page guideline from the state and an advertised link to the 86-page Mormon manual, written at the time Ezra Taft Benson was head of the Mormon church. The manual's "leave no stone unturned" advice on natural disasters is presented in the context of Mormon scripture. "People prepared through obedience to the commandments of God need not fear," the introduction advises.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation immediately contacted the Utah state government after being alerted to the state/church violation by Utah resident Rich Andrews. The Foundation faxed a letter on Oct. 7 to Scott Behunin, Department director, pointing out the link shows "unlawful endorsement" of the Mormon denomination, in violation of Art. I, Sect. 4 of the Utah State Constitution, which forbids any public funds or property being "appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction."
"Tax-exempt churches are free to peddle their beliefs to their own membership or interested members of the public. The State of Utah is not free to help them proselytize."
After receiving complaints from the Foundation and others, the state of Utah removed the link. Chris Kramer of Utah's Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security phoned the office of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to verify the link was removed. Kramer indicated that the icon and link had been up for about three years, and had been incorporated into the new homeland security department.
If website visitors find any other religious links, Kramer added: "Let us know. Our goal is to be within the regulations." He can be reached at .
The last act of the U.S. Senate before adjourning its fall session was to pass by unanimous consent yet another resolution reaffirming that "under God" should remain in the Pledge of Allegiance, also reaffirming that "In God We Trust" is the national motto.
The U.S. House had overwhelmingly passed S. 2690 on Oct. 8 by a roll call vote of 401-5. All 212 Republicans voting supported the resolution. Five Democrats--Reps. Barney Frank, MA; Mike Honda, CA; Jim McDermott, WA, Bobby Scott, VA, and Pete Stark, CA--voted no, and 4 Democrats voted present. Twenty-one did not vote: 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Rep. Stark spoke in opposition to the resolution, noting he had earlier opposed a resolution prohibiting the removal of the words "under God" from the pledge.
"Just as we should not bar anyone from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, we should not force anyone to recite words they do not believe. The Court was clear in affirming that the term 'under God' was more than a casual colloquialism. The meaning of these words is only proven by Congress' religiously inspired crusade to chastise and even undo the Ninth Circuit's opinion," said Stark.
"Congress ought to heed the Ninth Circuit Court and our constitutional responsibility to respect the diversity of religious and personal belief in America. We should not legislate use of the term 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance, when many proud Americans do not share this belief.
"We ought to instead reaffirm the notion of a 'nation indivisible,' and a pledge that fully recognizes the shared beliefs and common aspirations of all Americans. I urge my colleagues to embrace this idea, honor a basic principle of our Constitution, and vote no on this bill."
The resolution, several pages long, is a laundry list of alleged actions and quotes supposedly showing the religious nature of the United States and its formation. It concludes: "The erroneous rationale of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Newdow would lead to the absurd result that the Constitution's use of the express religious reference 'Year of our Lord' in Article VII violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, and that, therefore, a school district's policy and practice of teacher-led voluntary recitations of the Constitution itself would be unconstitutional."
The House added language providing that anyone reciting the pledge should remove nonreligious headgear with the right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, with the hand resting over the heart.
The lawsuit prompting several months of Congressional hysteria, Newdow v. U.S. Congress, has been complicated by a county judge's recent order to remove from the lawsuit the only student involved. On Sept. 25, Family Court Judge James Moze, Sacramento, Calif., ruled in a child custody decision in favor of the child's mother, Sandra Banning, against the father and litigant, Michael Newdow. Moze said removal of the child from the lawsuit would protect her from harm. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals--which ruled in Newdow's favor in June that the addition of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional--will make a determination later this year on whether the case can be kept alive without the student plaintiff.
Newdow said the girl's identity was not made public until her mother attempted to intervene in the case. Banning, an avowed born-again Christian, had originally agreed to the lawsuit on her daughter's behalf.
Also on Oct. 16, the U.S. Senate, by unanimous consent, passed S. Res. 343, authorizing representation by the Senate Legal Counsel in Newdow v. Eagen, Newdow's challenge of congressional chaplaincies.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's annual scholarships for winning student essays have been awarded for 2002, with a total of $2,750 going to 13 currently enrolled college students, and $2,250 awarded to newly enrolled college students.
Kerrigan Valentine's essay, "Behind Frankincense," won her first place and the Phyllis Grams Memorial Award of $1,000. Kerrigan is enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College majoring in science.
Teddy Cox won second place ($500) for his essay about leaving the Mormon Church, "From Preacher to Apostate: How I Put God to the Test." Cox, majoring in Spanish and Latin American studies, is a junior at the University of California-Los Angeles. He plans to become a college professor.
Placing third was the essay "Spurting Out of Religious Servility: Decisions of a Disbeliever in the Bible Belt" by Jennifer Chadwick, a sophomore majoring in pre-pharmacy at the University of Mississippi-Oxford. Her cash prize was $250. These essays were published in the September 2002 issue of Freethought Today.
Honorable Mentions of $100 were awarded to: Dean Berry, Mass.; Susie Cosier, Mich.; Kristina da Fonseca, Mass.; Nate Hertweck, N.M.; Mike Jerue, Colo.; Cathy Lez, Colo.; T'ere Healoha Pagaduan, Hawaii; Jeanne Petty, Mich.; Richard Spencer, Ga., and Greg Foster, Fla. Their essays will be excerpted in future issues.
The top winning essays in the Foundation's annual essay competition for college-bound high school grads are in this issue.
This year's Blanche Fearn Memorial Award of $1,000 goes to Vered Blonstein for "Education under God." Vered just graduated from Western High School, in Davie, Fla., and will study journalism at Brandeis University, Mass.
Second place of $500 was awarded to Andrea Burbank for "Congress Shall Make No Law." Andrea graduated from State College Area High School in State College, Penn., and is a new student at Stanford University.
Third place honors were taken by Aron Talenfeld for "Learning 'Under God.' " Aron received $250. He graduated from Arcadia High School, Phoenix, and is enrolled at the University of Arizona.
Five high school grads received $100 Honorable Mention awards: Kathryn Poulios, Penn.; Sierra Smith, Ohio; Danilee Eichhorn, Penn.; Hope Butler; N.C., and Sean Carroll, Conn. Their essays will be excerpted in future issues of Freethought Today.
The 2003 essay competition guidelines will be announced in February 2003 and will be posted at the Foundation's website: http://ffrf.org/essay.html.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 3 announced $30 million in funding to "help level the playing field for faith- and community- based organizations."
While offering no proof, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson claimed that "Faith- and community-based organizations are often the most effective groups in carrying out the purposes of HHS programs, yet many do not have the staff or expertise to successfully apply for our funding."
The $30 million in HHS "Compassion Capital Funds" was not officially authorized by Congress, where President Bush's "faith-based initiative" legislation has been stalled.
But lawmakers last year gave HHS $30 million to implement Bush's plan to help small community groups expand and learn how to apply for larger grants. The federal funds are technically earmarked to assist at-risk children, the homeless, drug addicts, prison programs, and welfare-to-work programs.
The "Compassion Capital Funds" divides $24.8 million among 21 intermediary organizations, "to provide technical assistance" to help such groups "access funding sources, operate and manage their programs, develop and train staff, expand the reach of programs into the community and replicate promising programs."
The department promised, "Technical assistance will be free to interested organizations."
The intermediary groups awarded funding will in turn issue "sub-awards" for start-up costs, operations or expansion of religious or community groups.
In addition to the $24 million in grants, HHS awarded a $2.2 million contract to Dare Mighty Things in Vienna, Va., "to establish a national resource center and clearinghouse for information related to technical assistance and training resources for faith- and community-based organizations."
It also awarded a $1.35 million contract to Branch Associates of Philadelphia, to evaluate "promising approaches" by faith-based and community groups.
Four grants totaling $850,000 were given to support research on how such groups provide social services, including to the University of Pennsylvania.
President Bush issued an executive order during his first month as president directing the five Cabinet Secretaries to inaugurate programs to fund faith-based groups. Bush has requested $100 million in the fiscal year 2003 HHS budget to "improve and expand funding to faith- and community- based organizations."
HHS "demonstration grants" went to a variety of "intermediaries," secular and religious. Among the religious recipients were:
Christian Community Health Fellowship, Ill., $1,128,33
Mennonite Economic Development Associates, Penn., $1,000,000
Northside Ministerial Alliance, Mich., $1,000,000
Operation Blessing International, Va., $500,000
The public grant to Operation Blessing was the most controversial, since it is a Virginia Beach charity started by TV evangelist Pat Robertson. The Christian Coalition founder opposed Bush's "faith-based" initiative in March on the 700 Club, saying federal funds would be "like a narcotic" to religious charities. However, his Operation Blessing, which takes in $66 million in voluntary contributions a year, was one of more than 500 groups applying for the federal grant.
Operation Blessing officials announced the $500,000 in tax monies will help "coordinate hunger programs" around the country.
According to London Observer columnist Gregory Palast (May 23, 1999), Robertson raised several million dollars through his TV station for Operation Blessing use in Africa, purchasing planes to fly medical supplies to a refugee camp in Goma, Congo (then Zaire).
"But investigative reporter Bill Sizemore of the Virginian Pilot discovered that over a six-month period--except for one medical flight--the planes were used to haul equipment for something called African Development Corporation, a diamond mining operation a long way from Goma. African Development is owned by Pat Robertson," Palast wrote.
Operation Blessing solicits products from individuals and groups, in turn distributing them to churches and Christian missionary organizations. In 2001, products reportedly included such necessities as Splenda, a no-calorie sweetener, pantyhose and candy. Operation Blessing also reportedly gave more than $2 million in 2001 to Christian Broadcasting Network, whose purpose is "to glorify God and his Son Jesus Christ."
The Florida-based National Center for Faith-Based Initiative, given $700,000 in tax dollars, describes itself on its website as working to create wealth and then "empower our people to steward that wealth for the purposes of the king," working not for "the world, . . . but rather THE WORD!!!!"
The Christian Community Health Fellowship identifies itself as "living out the gospel."
Programs to fund religion are also being developed by the departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, "to remove barriers for participation" by faith-based and community organizations.
Since the "Compassion Capital Funds" program is unauthorized, there are no rules to oversee issues relating to the separation of church and state.
Faith Works Case Proves Point
What happened on a small scale in Wisconsin is now happening on a national scale.
A case in point is Faith Works of Milwaukee, which did not open its doors until it received most of its funding from federal tax dollars. Faith Works had no track record, and its purpose was pervasively Christian, said Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation staff member.
Tommy Thompson, as Wisconsin governor, directed hundreds of thousands of discretionary federal funds to Faith Works, a Christian treatment program then run by Bobby Polito. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the state of Wisconsin and Gov. Thompson to challenge this funding of religion. Thompson was appointed HHS Secretary prior to the Foundation's legal victory in January, in which a federal court declared direct funding of Faith Works to be unconstitutional.
In the meantime, Thompson hired Faith Works' director Bobby Polito to become the HHS "faith czar" and administer its "Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives."
Last summer, Polito announced that groups getting grants or subgrants could discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring and firing workers. Polito also announced federal funds may go to a program in which prayer is a central component, so long as tax dollars are paying for secular elements of the program.
This rationale, also invoked by Polito in the Faith Works lawsuit, was explicitly rejected by the federal court in January, which said the pervasively sectarian mission of Faith Works could not be separated from its treatment of addicts. Judge Barbara B. Crabb ruled that Faith Works engaged in federally funded "indoctrination" in violation of the First Amendment.
"The entire premise behind this funding needs to be challenged," said Gaylor. "There is no evidence that 'faith-based' groups are better at providing social services. And there is ample evidence of the problems caused when promoting religion, rather than helping needy people, is the real agenda."
Federal funds will be expended not just to religious groups, but to create religious agencies.
"Most of this federal funding will not directly benefit at-risk children, the homeless, etc. Much of it will simply fund groups to learn how to apply for further public funding," Gaylor added.
"Aside from First Amendment objections, the public needs to ask: Is this truly the most effective use federal of tax dollars to aid the needy? If a private group can't begin without federal funds, or isn't savvy enough to know how to apply for funding, why would we entrust it with public funds to help other people?"
Foundation staff member Dan Barker said:
"If I were running a faith-based charity, I would be embarrassed to admit that my god was failing to provide our needs to such a degree that we would have to beg the secular government for handouts."