Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Taxpayer Funded Discrimination

Bush is on his Faith Based Charity wagon again. I will have to admit, I am not totally against tax dollars going to religious based charity groups. They can often be more efficient and more agile in their response to critical needs. It all depends on how the services are delivered (religion neutral or not).

But here is the problem. A religious group can legally discriminate against employees' not of that faith. A Catholic church can legally not hire a Muslim because of his/her religious beliefs. I have no problems with this, but using federal dollars to fund discrimination is not right. So, if federal funds go to a Presbyterian charity, all non-Presbyterians are excluded from applying for jobs in that charity group. Say you are a Methodist social worker who loses your job with the government because of budget cuts. And now the funds are now going to a Catholic charity instead. You would have to convert your religion to Catholicism in order to apply for the new position. This is state sponsored endorsement of religion. If you don't think that Congressmen will favor their own religious sects when doling out the money, think again. If there is one thing that is constant in politicians, it is favoritism.

The only way to make this plan justifiable is to do away with a charity's legal decimation based on religion. A person should not have to change faiths just to land a job. Charitable organizations should be held to the same non-discriminatory hiring standards as any other group that receives federal funds. Everyone should have equal access to jobs created with federal funds.

Bush Says Faith Should Figure in Charity Jobs

By Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Tuesday threatened to impose controversial new policies to let federally funded religious charities make hiring decisions based on the religious beliefs of potential employees.

Calling for an expansion of his faith-based initiative, Bush said that if Congress did not vote for the changes in hiring law this year, he would consider doing it himself through "executive action." Administration officials later said it remained unclear what powers the president had to affect hiring laws through executive order.

The president's remarks came on the eve of a House vote on the hiring issue. Administration officials say that some religious charities have been dissuaded from applying for federal grants out of fear that they would lose their religious identities in having to comply with civil rights laws that prevent discrimination in hiring.

Opponents say the change would be tantamount to government-sponsored discrimination, a fear that led Senate Democrats and skeptical Republicans to block the initiative during Bush's first term.

"One of the key reasons why many faith-based groups are so effective is a commitment to serve that is grounded in the shared values and religious identity of their volunteers and employees," Bush said. "In other words, effectiveness happens because people who share a faith show up to help a particular organization based on that faith to succeed. And that's important, now, for people in Washington to understand."

Bush's faith-based initiative has been credited with boosting the GOP vote in battleground states last year among African Americans and Latinos. Under the initiative, the administration has encouraged federal agencies to funnel more money to religious organizations that Bush says often perform social services more effectively than the government.

The House is expected to approve legislation today that, among other things, would allow religious organizations that receive federal job-training grants to consider religious beliefs when hiring staff. The measure's fate is less certain in the Senate.

Bush, speaking Tuesday at a conference of groups involved in the faith-based initiative, said Congress should pass the measure to clear up a confusing web of laws regarding whether federally funded religious groups can restrict hiring to people with matching beliefs.

President Clinton signed laws that the White House was now contending permitted such hiring practices, including a landmark 1996 welfare measure that permitted preferential hiring by faith-based organizations engaged in welfare-to-work programs.

But other laws prohibit discrimination under federally funded job-training and education programs.

Opponents charged that Bush misinterpreted the laws signed by Clinton, and that the measures being sought by Bush represented a sharp shift in U.S. policy, creating an historic rollback of civil rights laws.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Church and State, which opposes the House bill, said the legislation being considered by the House would roll back existing discrimination statutes.

"It is astonishing that the president would put his so-called moral power behind a rollback of the nation's civil rights principles," Lynn said. He said that he would defend any religious organization's right to hire whomever it pleased for jobs and programs not funded by the federal government. But, he said, "this is about tax dollars being used affirmatively to fund discrimination."

(Full Story)


Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Absolutely everything you say is true.

Nevertheless, isn't the whole point about people getting help, as opposed to employment?

Boomr said...

Sure, but if that's the only point, then why can't the faith-based groups fund their own charitable activities out of the goodness of their own hearts?

I realize that churches and other religious institutions are more efficiently geared towards charitable acts, but they've been that way for centuries without significant funding from the government. They've already got a built-in fundraising machine (through tithes and other such religious contributions), so why hand them a fat government contract, too?

The most insidious part of this scheme is that at the same time he's pushing faith-based initiatives, President Bush is rolling back government-backed assistance and education programs. So, the main reason why the federal government isn't as efficient as the churches in providing necessary services is that THE GOVERNMENT WON'T LET ITSELF PROVIDE THESE SERVICES -- scratch that; the Republican wing of the government won't let the government provide these services.

The "whole point" of this is that the services that President Bush wants the churches to provide are properly services within the ambit of the government's duties. There are certain things that the government should provide to its people, and the failure to do so is no reason to shift the burden to the religious, and to force the people seeking those services to undergo a religious indoctrination at the same time.

As a non-religious person, I don't want to HAVE TO walk into a church to receive federally funded services that the government has a duty to provide. The constitution says I don't have to.

Dingo said...

The two are not, nor should they be mutually exclusive. There is no reason a charity can't help people AND be non-discriminatory. If the charities goal is truly to help and not to preach, then they should have no problem hiring persons of any faith and following general EEO rules. If their goal is to indoctrinate people with their own particular sect, then they have no business receiving federal funds. I think that would be a good litmus test for the goal of charitable organizations: Are the willing to be non-discriminatory. If not, they can go elsewhere for their funds.

Boomr said...

But if they're willing to be non-discriminatory and non-proseletyzing, then they're not really faith-based initiatives, are they? They've become secular offshoots, fairly independent from the original religious organization that spawned them. As long as that separation (both in name and in finances) is maintained, then I have no problem with the government funding them.

The problem is that this is not what the current administration wants. It is actively seeking organizations to provide services BASED ON religious doctrine as a means of providing services such as health care, drug treatment, psychiatric care, etc. Thus, the treatment for addiction is Bible study, or faith in God, or prayer, instead of addressing chemical imbalances or social factors. It's a way of filling pews with former sinners.

And, I guarantee you, the effect of the law would be overwhelmingly in favor of Christian church services, as opposed to Jewish or Muslim or Hindu organizations. Thus, even if the law is neutral on its face, the actual practice would be to promote one religion over others, and I don't want my government doing that.

Smoke Eater said...

Here's a problem I see in this logic, a church CAN discriminate on people who work FOR the Church, namely if you work for Eagle Mountain Church, they CAN (and do) require than you be a believer and a member of the church. However, to work in the warehouse for Kenneth Copeland Ministries, you only need to be a Christian, but not a member. Third, if you want to work for a drug rehab center sponsored by KCM, you DO NOT have to tell them what faith you are or where you do (or don't) attend church. This is how my church (not Eagle Mountain, that was just an example) has employees of the church, employees of their sponsored ministry (discipleship) programs, which are to spread the Gospel, as well as other services (suicide hotline, drug rehab services, and more), where MANY different people work. I will admit that we do have tracts available (on a rack in the building) but the counselors who are working with people trying to break their addiction DO NOT "prostelitize", but only seek to find out the BEST way to help each person. If it's a hospital, that's what is done, if something else can work, then that avenue is tried. If someone ASKS about a tract, or Christianity we tell them what they are asking about and will talk all night if they want to, but the SECOND they say "ok, thanks" WE STOP on that subject.

I'm not naive enough to think that ALL church sponsored organizations run like this, but as Dingo said, there needs to be a test to make sure that this does not become a "government sponsored" religion, but rather a way to better provide services needed by the community, right?

European fox said...

I think that giving tax payers' money to private charities, no matter what is their character, i.e. religious or not, is not a good option for all the possible discrimination and other problems that can arise as Dingo mentioned them.

However, the government, assuming it lacks the means to provide itself for certain services, could finance specific charities to do specific projects, in a transparent way, with a regular assessment of the charity's work.

In any other case, government money and charities should be held apart.

Boomr said...

First, to respond to Smoke Eater, as long as the rehab center is non-discriminatory in its hiring (and in choosing who receives services), then I'm OK with government funding -- although I do have a problem with the "tracts [being] available" and the all-night discussions. The simple fact is that people seeking treatment -- especially in the rehab context -- are particularly vulnerable to suggestion, even more so when that suggestion comes from the ones providing much-needed treatment. So, an addict goes to a rehab center, meets really nice people who help him get over his addiction, then picks up the only piece of reading material, which just so happens to be about the Christian faith, then finds out that at-length discussions on faith are available from the very people who are helping him. It's subtly manipulative -- although I'm sure it's not meant to be, and I'm sorry if I offend you by saying so -- and has the ultimate effect of encouraging the people who seek treatment to believe in the Christian god (because tracts on other religious options, or atheism, aren't provided). Even such a slight urging should be beyond the government's abilities.

To respond to European Fox, I disagree that government should NEVER fund private charities. Without private charities -- or, for that matter, private efforts in science, the arts, literature, or any other field of study -- innovations in society's services would never appear (or would be severely delayed), and we'd be stuck, in the social services context, with medicine and treatment options from the early 20th century (when lobotomies were still the treatment of choice for a wide variety of maladies). Private control of the direction of such things is essential to advancing the nation as a whole.

And I also disagree with your statement that the government "lacks the means" to provide for certain services -- if it has the ability to FUND those services through private (or religious) charities, then it by definition has the means to provide them itself. The reasons why private efforts receive government funding are many: (1) certain services are needed in certain areas, while others aren't, so the local charities are more likely to put the money to the best local use (like federal money being given to cities and states to fund education); (2) the government, or at least the administration in power, is unwilling to have government workers provide these services, so they're farmed out -- just like with defense contractors, construction projects, and countless other government jobs that are outsourced to private entities, which could just as easily be nationalized; (3) like I said above, private charities are more likely to reach innovation than government programs; (4) while private charities receiving government funds have to comply with certain regulations (like non-discrimination policies), they aren't subject to the mountain of bureaucratic oversight that government agencies suffer (just look at the recent shifts in the way the intelligence agencies have been shuffled around).

I'm not against the government outsourcing these services, but I am against such outsourcing when it comes with an endorsement of religion attached, no matter how subtle.

Boomr said...
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