Faith Based Folly
06 Jan 2005 03:19 GMT
Commentary on the Faith Based Initiative
Faith Based Folly?
By Michael S. Johnston
The Faith Based Initiative, it sounds simple and straightforward enough doesn't it? A government program that is designed to give public assistance to private, religious charities which are often more blessed with the spirit of giving than they are with resources to give. On the surface it feels kind of warm and fuzzy and how can anything possibly be wrong with that? Wouldn't we all like to do more to help the less fortunate? Sure we would, but some of do us have trouble in deciding which charity to give our money to and apparently this program is the Bush Administration's attempt to help out those of us that are afflicted with such indecision.
I think that you do have to hand it to the Administration for their courage in devising this program and their resourcefulness in making it into a reality because it so blatantly flies in the face of core conservative principles. How so? Well, for example, when the Bush Administration enacted their sweeping tax reductions for the wealthy
( the poor and middle class got a $600 cash advance that they had to repay the following year) they said they did it because; “people should be able to make up their own minds about where and how their money is spent”. Shouldn't that same principle extend even more so to faith based giving?
In addition consider that, as a taxpayer, your voluntary charitable gifts are tax deductible. But, when you are making your charitable contributions through a tax based collection scheme, you lose the tax deductibility of those contributions. So, by making involuntary charitable contributions for you, the Faith Based Initiative robs you of this tax deduction and therefore it becomes in actuality a back door tax increase, enacted by the very people who claim to be so against increased taxes!
I am sure that the groups who are currently receiving these funds won't see it this way but as a society we have to consider things on their merits individually and make the best possible decision based on the wishes of the majority as long as that decision does not go against the principles that are set forth in the Constitution. One of these principles is the idea that the Government shall not establish or financially support a church or particular religion. This principle is more commonly know as the Separation of Church and State and it has been legally tested time and time again and found to be valid.
As long as the free money is coming into your hand though it all does make such good sense doesn't it? But what if you are not inclined to give any of your money to religious groups? Then what? Sorry, it is compulsory now that you donate some of your money to whichever church that the government decides is the “correct” one via this federal Tithing program.
I think that there are some glaringly obvious loopholes in the concept of a Faith Based entitlement program for religious groups and I would like to point them out to you. For one, there are reported to be few rules to establish accountability in how or where the money is spent (such as on huge increases in administrator's salaries perhaps?). Second, the Initiative allows groups that receive these funds to proselytize (try to convert to their beliefs) the people they are helping with this money. Again, if you are a member of one of these groups, you trust the judgement of your leaders and it all makes good sense doesn't it?
But what if we look at it from a slightly different, but equally valid, perspective? Let's consider how many faith based groups (recognized, tax exempt religions) that there are in the United States today. We have Christians, of course, in all their forms. Churches such as Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Ok, we in the majority are all more or less fine with those groups and their beliefs, right? Well then how about Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Hare Krishnas, Moonies and Islamics? Are we all still on the same page here? These are all recognized religions and either do have or could easily establish charitable groups to help the less fortunate and to teach their beliefs to them while they are at it and so would be just as entitled to taxpayer funds under the Faith Based Initiative as any Christian group. I wouldn't care personally but I do see a couple of folks over there from the Southern Baptist Convention starting to squirm a bit at that prospect.
Now we take it to the next level. Remember that this is just as potentially real as the previous two scenarios. The final group of recognized faith based groups in the United States are those which are considered by many people to be sort of “fringe” elements. In this group we have the Wiccans (witches), Satanists, Druids and the Native Americans with their Peyote ceremonies. These groups could also establish faith based charities and be just as entitled to those tax dollars as is the soup kitchen run by the local parish of the Holy Mother of Sorrows church. Your tax dollars my Fundamentalist friends could, sometime in the near future, be funding such groups as The Damnation Army, The Red Pentagram or the Wiccan Women's Shelter. Satanists might establish an Orphanage in your town and raise your unwanted children according to the teachings of their religion. What is that you say, limit the funds to Christian groups? Sorry, the Constitution says you can't do that, remember?.
How do you feel about the Faith Based Initiative now? Is there any group listed above that you would rather not be contributing your money to? Is there any group that your God would rather you not contribute your money too? Would knowingly helping some of them spread their message (with your donation) perhaps endanger the future of your immortal soul? Good, then you understand now how some other people, good Americans themselves, could feel less than warm and fuzzy about contributing their money to your religion.
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