Friday, January 19, 2007

Why the Faith-Based & Community Initiatives is wrong

I'll begin by taking Dubya's quote from their website:

"The paramount goal is compassionate results, and private and charitable groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field, so long as they achieve valid public purposes, like curbing crime, conquering addiction, strengthening families, and overcoming poverty."
- President George W. Bush

Many are going to take a Secular versus Religious outlook on this but I won't. In fact I'll begin by eliminating that factor from my point of view with my own statement:

I do not believe that giving Federal Money to a Mormon organization to help someone get off a meth addiction is the same thing as an establishment of religion.

That said I don't think anyone should be 'competing' for Federal dollars. I've seen first hand what this does to schools and I can tell you that it doesn't improve anything, but rather makes it worse. I know you think this is the Libertarian in me speaking but it's not. It is the common sense part of me talking. (not to say that being a libertarian isn't common many ways it is but I digress)

Too many times when Federal money is sought after there are rules that must go along with it. Not just the rules but also the infrastructure necessary to qualify for the Federal funds to begin with. Trust me on this one. I won't disclose what I do for a living but I can tell you that I see state agency budgets everyday. Even though I am not a public employee, I know what it is to work in the real world and then see a snapshot of what substitutes for logic once an agency is spending public funds.

Government money is taken by force. Behind this force is a bureau of administrators. By contrast behind almost every Faith-Based organization are people who give their time, resources and talents to help people knowing that the task is greater than themselves.

Another distinction is worthy of note: A faith-based organization is free to exercise their faith and their own polity. That's a fancy way of saying that if they want to give a ten minute sermon before they serve soup and sandwiches then they may. I'm here to tell you that is in jeopardy once Federal funds enter the mix. You will be told that it will not, but logically it must.

Good charities don't need more money, generally they need more volunteers. I have several charities and Organizations that I routinely give money and time to. It is my freedom to do so. I'm not motivated by a fear of the afterlife but instead a grace that enables me to do it purely in love. There is no force involved and because of that I believe it makes a difference.

I think all Faith-Based organizations should just take the Hillsdale College approach and say "Thanks, but no thanks" to Federal Money.


Anonymous said...

Why should any religious organization get any government money at all? That seems to me to be unconstitusional

Tracy said...

I would agree with you in principle but the implication goes much further. Say you qualify for a federally subsidized loan for college and decide to go to Notre Dame, Wake Forest, or Baylor. Is that not federal money being designated for your use at a Faith-Based organization?

It gets much stickier than say a Gospel Mission downtown that has to employ two more full time people to handle the accounting for their federal grant money and fill out the proper reporting to the proper agency to prove that the money they spent was spent in a way that the government intended rather than the main mission of the agency. The cost of administration would not be worth the money which is the standard model for all federal grants.

Esther said...

*claps* You mentioned my alma mater! Yay, Hillsdale College.

I completely agree with the whole point on federal funds to faith based charity. I would add something, however. Most faith based organizations make moral judgements on people and their lifestyles. Federal money cannot take sides like that. The faith based organizations are going to lose out if they accept federal dollars for this reason. I guess that actually extends on part of your argument.

Don't get me wrong on this next bit, I'm against federal funding of just about anything not enumerated in the Constitution. It seems to me that the government set aside money to help people get over addictions in the 1960s. JFK created Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs). Nixon vetoed the money out of the budget and many CMHCs have had to close. I really doubt this faith based grant funding will last much longer than the CMHC money and it's not for funding anything very different. Getting dependent on government money will only hurt faith based organizations when another administration takes the money away.

There are so many reasons this was a crappy idea.

Anonymous said...

My professor actually agreed with me that it is unconstitusional

Tracy said...

Hey Anon,

On what grounds does he find it unconstitutional? I'm just curious. Maybe if your professor isn't too busy grading papers he could put down his crayons and explain it to us.

Anonymous said...

It's not constitusional because government is not supposed to be involved with religion, that's what the constitusion says doesn't it? First amendment?

Tracy said...

Actually to be more correct the Bill of Rights are rights of the people and the limitations of government. Government is not to establish a state church. Whether or not this initiative is unconstitutional is up for debate. That said if all federal funding was closed off to those organizations I'd be fine with it...but I wouldn't stop there.