Establishment Clause Assaults Escalate

HHS To Give $31 Million to Religion

The Department of Health and Human Services announced on April 29 it is making $31,900,000 available from the Compassion Capital Fund” to help “faith-based and community groups build capacity, serve those in need.”

Up to $16.9 million from the CCF Demonstration Program is available for up to 17 intermediary organizations to provide “technical assistance” and grant “sub awards.”

Another $15 million, from CCF Targeted Capacity Building Program, will be made available to 300 faith-based (and community) organizations for “capacity building, to address the needs of at-risk youth, and the homeless, to provide voluntary marriage education and preparation services, and to offer social services to those living in rural communities,” according to the HHS press release.

Dr. Wade F. Horn, a religious ideologue who is HHS assistant secretary for children and families, praised the initiative.

Bush’s African “Faith Initiative” Pushed

The Bush administration, in late May, launched a campaign for a “faith-based initiative” in Africa. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior White House officials at the State Department met privately with two dozen leading African-American religious figures. The purpose: to discuss expanding the faith-based initiative to combat the spread of AIDS and help tens of millions of orphaned children.

An office of faith-based initiatives for the State Department is being promoted, to direct federal funds for overseas aid to church and community groups. In return, the Administration asked for support from black pastors for legislation to permit U.S. “faith-based” charities receiving federal funds to discriminate in hiring.

Some pastors, according to the Los Angeles Times (May 29, 2005), called the initiative a matter of national security, saying orphans are susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists unless exposed to churches like their own.

Jim Towey, the White House “faith czar,” piously opined, when asking pastors to sign a letter endorsing the legislation, that “Compassion has a way of cutting across partisan lines.”

Members of the all-Democratic Congressional Black Caucus considered the meeting an attempt to upstage their own long-scheduled outreach program for black pastors.

House Passes Decalog Bill

An amendment to a funding bill–to prevent federal funds from being used to remove a Ten Commandments monument from an Indiana courthouse lawn–passed the U.S. House on June 15.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., passed by a vote of 242-182. A district court in January ordered a Ten Commandments monument removed from the lawn of the Gibson County Courthouse, Ind. The order was stayed by the same judge in March, pending an appeal.

Mystified Gibson County officials in June distanced themselves from Hostettler, concerned that if they were to defy the federal court order it could result in U.S. marshals descending on the city.

“We’re law-abiding people,” said attorney Jerry Stilwell, who argued the lawsuit for the county.

Bad Decalog Decision

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has twice ordered removal of Ten Commandments markers from Indiana public buildings, ruled in late March that a copy of the Ten Commandments could be displayed among “other historical documents,” such as the Mayflower Compact and Magna Carta. The case involves a display in the main hall of the Elkhart County administration building.

The decision was written by newly appointed, ultra-reactionary Justice Diane Sykes. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union, which is taking the case, has asked for an en banc review. In March 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Miller Jr ordered the display removed, but the city appealed.

Court: “God” Stays in Court

The inscription “In God We Trust” on the face of a government building in North Carolina was approved by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 13.

The panel upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the case, brought by attorney George Daly on behalf of a Methodist minister. The slogan was placed on the Davidson County Government Center in Lexington, N.C., in 2002, and paid for by donations from churches and individuals.

Marylland Decalog Sale OK’ed

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr ruled on June 22 that a “privately owned” monument of the Ten Commandments may remain on display in a city park in Frederick, Md.

The judge ruled lawful the city’s sale of the monument and underlying land to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which had originally donated the marker to the city. The ACLU originally sued, but dropped its lawsuit following the sale. Plaintiffs Roy. R. Chambers and Americans United for Separation of Church and State then challenged the transaction as a sham.

Mississippi Approves Ten Commandments

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour signed a bill on April 21 allowing the Ten Commandments and other religious texts to be put in public buildings.

The law would permit the motto, “In God We Trust,” the Ten Commandments, and excerpts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to be posted in all public buildings.

Barbour displays a Ten Commandments marker in his Capitol office. The measure passed by 97-15 in the House and 40-4 in the Senate.

Bush Busy Attending Prayer Breakfasts

President Bush recently has made appearances at a series of prayer meetings, including National Prayer Breakfast, National Day of Prayer, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, and, mostly recently, the “Hispanic prayer breakfast.”

At that June 16 gathering, Bush thanked lawmakers for “setting aside politics to come and honor the Almighty through prayer.” He also urged: “take time to pray. It really is the strength of America, isn’t it?”

Bush spoke live via satellite to the Southern Baptist Convention in late June, thanking Baptists for their prayers, for supporting the Iraq war, and for opposing gay marriage, abortion and cloning. He also touted public money to “faith-based institutions.”

Mt. Soledad Voted On, Again!

The San Diego City Council, rescinding an earlier decision, ordered another referendum on the Mount Soledad cross to go before voters, this time on the July 26 mayoral ballot. After the vote, cross supporters broke into a round of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” This marks the city’s third attempt to sell a parcel of the park in order to “save” the cross.

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative preventing the city from donating the cross and surrounding land to the federal government. Two local members of Congress led the fight to designate the site a “national war memorial” in a bill signed by Bush in December, but the city must still donate the land.

A lawsuit to block inflammatory statements on the July 26 ballot initiative was lost on June 9. The ACLU suit, on behalf of longtime plaintiff and atheist Philip Paulson, had named five San Diego personalities, who were behind the wording of the ballot initiative, including radio hosts, a member of Congress, and a baseball announcer.

Attorney James McElroy charged that many of the ballot statements were “false and misleading,” such as one saying “an intolerant few will launch frivolous lawsuits that waste our tax dollars.” Another misstatement says legislation necessitates a land transfer. The judge agreed to remove only four words and revised one out of the 300 words in the question.

Smithsonian Hosts Creationism

Following the revelation that the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was hosting an “intelligent design” documentary postulating a divine intelligence, the federal museum in early June withdrew its co-sponsorship. It also (inexplicably) announced it would waive the screening fee of $16,000.

“We have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institute’s scientific research,” said a museum statement. Museum policy permits rental of its theaters unless content is religious or political.

Freedom From Religion Foundation