Flak for Faith Funding (March 2001)

Trying to keep money given to religious organizations from being used for proselytizing is hopeless; money is fungible, a wonderful word meaning “interchangeable.” If you give money to a church for one purpose, that in turns helps fund the church’s other purposes since, obviously, it has more money. . . .

As that great orator, the late Texas state Rep. Billy Williamson of Tyler, once declared during a debate over state aid to Baptist-sponsored Baylor, “Yew CAAAAAAAN’T trade the cross for the cookie jar!”

–Molly Ivins, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram columnist 
“Bush’s World of Fuzzy PolicyThinking”, Feb. 1, 2001

I am for faith-based programs, after-school programs, senior citizens programs, transportation ministries. But I fear federally funded, faith-based initiatives. Don’t let them get into your books, because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Money is seductive; the church needs money, but it needs independence even more!

–Rev. Jesse L. Jackson sermon 
Ebenezer AME Church, Fort Washington 
Washington Post, Feb. 4, 2001

I believe that a democratic polity requires a secular state: one that does not fund or otherwise sponsor religious institutions and activities; that does not display religious symbols; that outlaws discrimination based on religious belief, whether by government or by private employers, landlords or proprietors–that does, in short guarantee freedom from as well as freedom of religion. Furthermore, a genuinely democratic society requires a secular ethos: one that does not equate morality with religion, stigmatize atheists, defer to religious interests and aims over others or make religious belief an informal qualification for public office. Of course, secularism in the latter sense is not mandated by the First Amendment. It’s a matter of sensibility, not law. Politicians have a right to brandish their faith and attack my secular outlook as hollow. That they have such a right, however, does not mean exercising it is a good idea. Politicians also have a right to argue that Christ’s teachings are essential to public morality, but few would dare devalue the citizenship of Jews in such a fashion. Why is it more acceptable to marginalize the irreligious with appeals to God and faith?

–Ellen Willis 
“Freedom From Religion,” The Nation, Feb. 19, 2001

This whole thing is a religious-liberty nightmare. You can’t have federal funds supporting sectarian proselytizing.

–Baptist Rev. C. Weldon Gaddy 
Executive Director, Interfaith Alliance Time, Jan. 30, 2001

And official promotion of religion even when it’s not specific can reach a point where it infringes on the rights of nonbelievers. President Bush has cut off family planning funds for international organizations that finance abortions on the grounds that money given for one thing frees up money for the other. But he does not apply the same logic to his plans to subsidize church-based education. If a birth-control grant to some agency amounts to taxpayers funding abortions, why isn’t a grant to a church school essentially forcing me to pay for candles and incense?

–Michael Kinsley, Editor of Slate 
New York Times, Jan. 26, 2001

Government neither should impose nor finance religion. Without the utmost scrutiny Bush’s initiative could result in the outright government subsidy of religion in the name of social services. . .

One must wonder if David Koresh would have come knocking on the door of the Office of Faith-based Initiatives to get in on some of the federal funds. And we wonder on what grounds the office would say that Koresh’s religion was any less legitimate than the mainstream faiths that most people see performing the work that Bush envisions.

Waco (TX) Tribune-Herald, New York Times, 1/31/01

. . . here and in the not-so-free countries of the world, the “freedoms from” were just as critical as the “freedoms to”–that is, the freedom from hunger, from oppression, from persecution and yes, from religion.

It is that wonderful wall of separation between church and state that guarantees these freedoms . . .

I feel my democratic freedom from religion is being violated by President Bush’s executive order establishing the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. . . .

The issue is whether our tax dollars should support sectarian efforts that violate our rights to freedom from religion.

–Julio Noboa 
“U.S. a democracy, not theocracy” San Antonio News-Express, Feb. 3, 2001

Americans may not be able to recite the [first] amendment, or perhaps even explain it, but they are instinctively uncomfortable when their government appears to promote one religion over another, or allows discrimination based on religion, or interferes in the freedom of a church or synagogue or mosque. If executed carelessly, Mr. Bush’s plan could spring all three of those traps.

–Laurie Goodstein 
New York Times, Feb. 4, 2001

. . . even the staunchest defenders of faith-based programs, like Professor Olasky, admit there is little statistical evidence to show treatment based on religious conversion is any more effective than secular, therapeutic programs.

. . . religious organizations are, by their very nature, evangelical. And for the government to fund them, or support them in any way at the expense of other social programs, could make society’s neediest vulnerable to religious coercion in exchange for basic services.

–Christian Science Monitor 
Daily Herald, Jan. 30, 2001

. . . Bush has already shown that he won’t fund groups that don’t adhere to his particular set of moral beliefs. In his first full workday as president, he announced he was yanking funds to overseas organizations that use their own money to provide abortions or abortion counseling. . .

The infusion of religion into government is at the very heart of the revolution that created America. The colonists rebelled not only against the Church of England but also against the Puritanism and Calvinism that forced the citizenry to conform to particular religious views or face the government’s wrath.

What Bush risks doing is establishing the legitimacy of one religion over all others, and this is just what our founding fathers didn’t want.

–Joan Ryan 
“With a Hand on the Bible” San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 30, 2001

The very first act of the new Bush administration was to have a Protestant Evangelist minister officially dedicate the inauguration to Jesus Christ, whom he declared to be “our savior.” . . .

The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that Bush’s America is a Christian nation, and that nonChristians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens. In effect, Bush is saying: “This is our home, and in our home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in our home, you must accept the way we pray.”

But the United States is neither a Christian nation nor the exclusive home of any particular religious group. NonChristians are not guests. We are as much hosts as any Mayflower-descendant Protestant. It is our home as well as theirs. And in a home with so many owners, there can be no official sectarian prayer. That is what the First Amendment is all about, and the first act by the new administration was in defiance of our Constitution.

–Alan M. Dershowitz 
Los Angeles Time

Bush says he will take international aid away from family planning clinics that in any way, shape, or whisper tell women where they can get an abortion. To Bush, this is a game of Ping-Pong, and now he has the paddle. . . . Bush reinstated the gag rule with the confidence that, aside from Planned Parenthood, Capitol Hill Democrats will not dwell long–or at all–counting the bodies of poverty stricken and sexually trapped women in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. . . .

According to the World Health Organization, complications from pregnancy and childbirth kill 600,000 women every year. . . .

Before Reagan, the United States was seen as a leader in helping nations provide access to family planning. Clinton had begun reasserting that leadership. Bush is taking us back to a blindness about the bodies. He is taking us back to a time when, as far as abortion goes, we were a developing nation.

–Derrick Z. Jackson 
“Bush’s Cruel Trip Backward”, Boston Globe, 1/26/01

. . . I envision a country where untold billions of taxpayers’ dollars flow through the government to those religious groups who backed winning candidates, just as parishioners’ contributions flow through their churches to the candidates on whom they wager.

. . . The First Amendment also guards against another serious danger. This is the temptation for the state to co-opt religious leaders, appropriate religious symbols, and play on religious sentiments, subverting them all to rally for leaders and policies that cannot be defended in rational debate.

–Prof. Bruce Lincoln 
University of Chicago, “Dubya, Defender of the Faith” TomPaine.com

Freedom From Religion Foundation