Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Faith-Based Social Services

As President Bush has gone around Congress and behind the public’s back in the past four years to spread his faith-based initiative throughout the government, serious issues begin to arise.

When Congress refused to pass his proposals to lower the long-standing barriers against spreading the gospel in publicly funded social services programs, Bush used administrative rules to integrate religion into social welfare services. He established faith-based offices in ten federal agencies, including The Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development and the Department of Commerce, increased funding for religious-sponsored programs and connected a vast network of religious groups, which Republicans used in the 2004 election.

Such changes now allow churches to discriminate based on religious belief, and to use federal funds to renovate and build places of worship and proselytize. In practical terms, religion is creeping into social services as never before.

Once considered a “cult,” Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church receive government grants to teach “healthy marriage” programs. Josephine Hauer, a Unification leader, works for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and told a seminar of religious leaders in Oakland California, “I want to make this a marriage culture.” The seminar was sponsored by a $366,179 grant from HHS.

Richard Panzer, another Unification leader, runs Free Teens USA, which received a $475,000 grant for after-school abstinence programs in New Jersey. David Capprara, former president of a group funded by Moon’s Washington Times Foundation, currently runs the U.S. Corporation for National and Community Service, which oversees groups such as the AmeriCorps Vista.

Although he criticized the Faith-Based Initiative as “a Pandora’s box,” Pat Robertson, founder of the right-wing Christian Coalition, received a $500,000 grant from HHS for Operation Blessing, to support international food relief. Overall, funds to religious groups from the HHS increased 41 percent-from 483 to 680 programs-in 2003 and now account for $1.17 billion of social service funds. Florida even has a “faith-based” prison–the first in the nation.

According to Wilfred McClay, professor of history and humanities at the University of Tennessee, Bush’s changes are “a dramatic change” from past practices. The push to encourage religious groups to address social problems is a continuation of Clinton’s welfare reform, which allowed religious organizations to compete for social welfare service funds.

McClay points out that the separation of church and state goes back to early American church leaders such as Roger Williams. McClay predicts that there will be “lots of rhetoric” but not much legislative or executive action on the issue in the coming four years. “Misgivings about emphasizing the ‘armies of compassion’ don’t always come from secular groups,” McClay emphasizes, “but also from religious groups afraid that the threat to their religious mission will be corrupted by government money.”

Tom Barry, policy director for the Interhemispheric Resource Center, traces religious involvement in government from Ronald Reagan, who based U.S. foreign policy on moral clarity combined with military might. Since then, a number of think tanks along with conservative and neo-conservative groups began framing foreign policy in moral terms.

“These groups want to spread Judeo-Christian values around the world,” says Barry. “They support a national security policy based on preventive war to spread U.S. ethical and moral values as superior to other values.”

Bush contributed to the so-called cultural war by rejecting the separation of church and state “in favor of rhetorical and policy initiatives that brought religion not only into the public sphere but also directly into government,” says Barry. Right-wing policy groups are infiltrating the U.N., which the Christian right formerly criticized as secular, in order to reshape the agenda. Groups such as the Family Research Council and the American Life League seek U.N. status to oppose abortion, restrict women’s rights to birth control and promote “traditional values.”

While there is opposition to integrating government and religion within the religious community, Mark Silk, director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, finds that Bush relies upon an activist base of Republicans, composed primarily of white faith-based evangelicals. Historically, religious leaders opposed government funding of religious groups primarily because of anti-Catholicism.

“There was no way conservative Protestants wanted to underwrite a Catholic parochial education,” says Silk. “But after Protestants established their own schools to avoid integration, they changed.”

Whether religious belief helps people overcome social problems remains to be seen, but Silk points out that many religious groups, such as Catholic Charities, chose to become secular social service providers. The friction begins when they proselytize and become political.

“It’s tough when issues become identified in religious communities as matters of faith rather than public issues that need compromise,” Silk says. “There’s always a concern when religion creates an unbridgeable divide.”

Compromise becomes impossible when religious groups, which hold to “God’s will,” refuse to make accommodations with secular interests. The last time groups failed to compromise was over slavery. Although conditions today aren’t as volatile as they were during Lincoln’s time, when people are unprepared to compromise, civil war is often the result.

DON MONKERUD is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows politics. He can be reached at: monkerud@mail.cruzio.com

More articles by:
October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail