Faith-based Inroads on Secularism

Faith-based Education Secretary?

At the swearing-in of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in the first week of February, White House faith czar” Jim Towey led a prayer. The audience of 300 included President Bush, Laura Bush, six Cabinet members, White House aides Karl Rove, Andrew H. Card Jr., and several members of Congress.

“Let us bow our heads as we acknowledge God’s holy presence,” said Towey, who prayed that a deity would “guide and inspire [Mrs. Spellings] in these important duties.”

Reporter John McCaslin for the Moonie-backed Washington Times (Feb. 3, 2005) noted that one of the guests told him: “This was no wimpy pro-forma prayer. It definitely said ‘take a hike’ to the ACLU, People for the American Way, atheist Michael Newhouse [sic] and all secular humanist activities [sic] who want to push religious faith totally out of any activities involving government and public education.”

Spellings Busts PBS’ “Buster”

New Education Secretary Margaret Spellings denounced PBS TV on Jan. 25 for producing an episode of “Postcards From Buster,” in which the animated bunny visits a maple-sugar farm in Vermont (home of civil unions), which happens to be run by a lesbian couple. In the show, Buster, carrying a digital video camera, explores different religions, activities, and people.

PBS immediately pulled the episode, “Sugartime!” Boston’s WBGH will air the show March 23 and make the episode available to other stations. The show gets federal money under the Ready-To-Learn program. Spellings may ask PBS to refund the money it spent on the episode.

Spellings did not volunteer her theological views on SpongeBob Squarepants.

House Dems’ Faith Agenda

U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has asked U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., to develop a faith agenda to attract religious voters in 2006, according to Roll Call. Clyburn will convene a group to review party policies and ideas, and reframe those issues in faith-based terms, so Democrats are not perceived as a “party of nonbelievers.”

His goal, he said, is to get Democrats comfortable talking about policies in “faith-based terms.”

Shiite Clerics Take Over Iraq?

Shiite adherents, backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, won nearly half the votes in Iraq’s national election, and will dominate the plurality coalition running the 275-member National Assembly. Shiite clerics seek to enshrine Islam in the new constitution to control family legal matters, such as marriage, divorce and women’s rights.

More conservative Shiite leaders want Sharia, or Islamic law, as the foundation of all Iraqi law. Interim law written by U.S. officials in early 2004–while the minority Sunni Arabs were still in power–designated Islam as “a source” of legislation. U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a onetime CIA protege and a secular Shiite, received 13.8% of the votes, and two Kurdish parties won 25.7%. Although Shiite politicians are promising not to install an Iran-style theocracy, they appear to answer to clerics in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

“We don’t want to see equality between men and women because according to Islamic law, men should have double of women. This is written in the Qur’an and according to God,” says Muhammad Kuraidy (The New York Times, Feb. 6, 2005). Clerics seek to keep women subservient and permit men to marry multiple wives.

Religious Discrimination Promoted by Bill

The Job Training Improvement Act (H.R. 27), which contains a provision allowing federal funds to be used by “faith-based” agencies that discriminate in hiring based on religion, has been introduced into the House of Representatives.

Freedom From Religion Foundation