Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason and Freethinkers, explains the history and problems with the faith-based initiatives in today’s edition of The New York Times.
President Obama has only blurred the lines between church and state even more.
The fact is that many people served by these projects — including children with absent fathers, addicts and prisoners — form a captive audience. It cannot be easy to say no to a proselytizer if saying yes means a warm bed in a homeless shelter, extra help for a child or more privileges while serving jail time. Embrace Jesus as your savior and, who knows, you may get early parole.
Back in 2003, there was a flurry of excitement surrounding a study that at first glance seemed to suggest that participants in Mr. Colson’s prison programs in Texas had been rearrested at much lower rates than other released prisoners. There was just one problem: the study excluded everyone who quit the program in prison — two-thirds of the starting group. It is as if the Department of Education were to measure the success of public schools by not counting dropouts. This ought to give pause to Mr. Obama, who has spoken so often about restoring evidence and science to public policy-making.
… we are moving blindly ahead with faith-based federal spending as if it were not a radical break with our past. If faith-based initiatives, first institutionalized by the executive fiat of a conservative Republican president, become even more entrenched under a liberal Democratic administration, there will be no going back. In place of the First Amendment, we will have a sacred cash cow.
For all the lip-service Obama has given us, it’s all undermined if he not only allows money to be given strictly to religious groups, but also if they can discriminate in hiring and proselytize with the funding.
Right now, as Jacoby points out, his faith-based team headed by Pentecostal minister Josh DuBois has said they will handle these issues on a case-by-case basis. I hope liberals remain vigilant and get vocal the moment they slip up and allow a religious group to misuse the money.
For a Constitutional scholar such as himself, it’d be nice to see Obama match his words with some real action and keep religion out of politics as it should be.
The faith-based programs need to come to an end.
(Thanks to Joe for the link!)