Pres. Barack Obama has signed an executive order that extends, and tweaks, former Pres. George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative. It was a fulfillment of a campaign promise.
But like his predecessor in office, Obama may be flirting with violating the First Amendment’s prohibition against government entanglement with religion. He claims this isn’t the case and says he will appoint the right people to make sure there is no entanglement. But in the trenches, who can really be sure? Has Bush’s initiative already become a slippery slope, one that even Obama can’t walk away from?
The Bush initiative was fraught with violations. Of course, the Bush administration couldn’t care less, since the former president was an evangelical Christian himself. Some of the religious leaders that are involved in Obama’s revamped initiative are worried that they may not be able to participate without compromising their religious beliefs. But the moderate Christians and those on the left are also not happy. They want to undo the Bush administration’s practices on hiring as quickly as possible.
Obama wants to reevaluate hiring practices to make certain that those in charge of distributing government funds do so in a purely secular manner, with no evangelizing. But once taxpayer money starts flowing into religious institutions, it opens the possibility that some of that money will filter over to the evangelical side, as happened during the Bush administration.
Besides, Obama doesn’t really need to kowtow to the religious right. They are all but irrelevant these days. The country took a major turn to the left last November, and that left the evangelicals crying foul. And none have cried louder than that ultra-conservative loudmouth Rush Limbaugh. But that just proves my point, Limbaugh and his ilk of brainless whiners are irrelevant. Obama doesn’t need to pay them any heed whatsoever, and that includes continuing the faith-based initiative of his predecessor.
Now, it’s true that faith-based organizations, such as churches, are flung far and wide across the country and that they are already set up to distribute charity to those in need. They already have food pantries, shelters, and distribution centers for clothing and other goods. So it does make a certain amount of sense for the government to use this infrastructure.
But it is also very important to keep in mind that those who run this infrastructure of charitable giving have a larger purpose in mind. They want to convert the masses to religion, and most of those doing the converting are evangelical Christians. It is dangerous to put government money into their hands.
As an illustration of how the thought processes and worldview of the religious right differ from secular humanists, take the example of the bus ad wars going on in London. A secular group paid to run ads on the sides of London buses that said, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The slogan made no definitive pronouncements about God. There is nothing in the slogan that requires them to prove anything. It’s just a statement of their belief and it leaves nothing to question.
But after a failed attempt to get those ads banned for being “offensive,” the religious groups decided to fire back with an ad campaign of their own. Their bus sign reads, “There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life.”
Notice the absolute certainty espoused by this ad. The sentence proclaiming that there definitely is a God requires proof. Yet they offer none. It shows a level of narcissism lacking in the secularists’ ad. And the Christian ad also asks people to join with them, something that is lacking in the secularists’ ad. Secularists aren’t recruiting.
That type of mentality is widespread among all Christian conservatives. They can’t help it; it’s who they are. Throw government money at them, and they will find a way to use it to further their religious causes. They will find ways to use it to proselytize or coerce.
The caveat that Obama seems to already be aware of, but one which requires constant attention, is that when you give tax money to religious groups for them to use for purely secular purposes, there must be a system in place to make sure it is being used properly and with no strings attached.