Faith Based Discrimination

Ignorance of Diversity is Business As Usual

I’ve tried to keep my articles calm and considered of late. However, on occasion, the Bush administration’s sheer brazenness stuns even me. For example, from the White House’s own website (though I can’t guarantee that the file will remain there long once word gets out):

Colby, from Centralia MO writes: Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

Jim Towey I haven’t run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can’t be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.

Well, since this was an online chat, I think we can forgive Mr. Towey for not knowing about pagan faith-based groups. (A cursory Google search on ‘pagan charities’ dug up a few, the largest found during that brief investigation apparently being an alternative scouting organization called Spiral Scouts.) In his defense, I was unable to find any pagan equivalent to, say, the Salvation Army.

On the other hand, try a google search on ‘pagan “food drive”‘ instead and a lot turns up. The first link found at the time of the search was regarding a series of food bank drop points for a Pagan Pride Day in Los Angeles, though the event itself dates back a few years. Similar drives apparently take place around the country, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina (now there are some brave people) and at least one other location in California for the same purpose. City sizes range from places I’ve never heard of to Chicago.

All of which, of course, throws Mr. Towey’s bigotry into sharp relief. He all but states that members of “fringe groups” are by definition incapable of having “loving hearts.” He is, of course, entitled to his opinion, bigoted or otherwise. The United States government, however, is not entitled to discriminate based on the willful ignorance of its servants.

This could easily be dismissed as an aberration in another department. We are speaking, however, about the president’s prized faith-based charity program — the supposedly efficient method by which less government money will reach more needy people. According to its proponents, this program is supposed to exist to avoid discrimination based on religion rather than support it, by providing to religious groups what non-religious charity organizations can already receive.

Given this administration’s notoriously close relationship with the religious right and its apparent disdain for the First Amendment, many have been dubious about the purposes of this faith-based initiative. Given a statement like this from the Director of the “Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,” that concern appears all too valid. After all, you’d think that, given this administration’s time-honored tradition of saying one thing and doing another, that the Bush appointee for this sensitive position would at least take care not to say (or in this case, type) anything blatantly inflammatory.

Of course, for the Bush regime to take this precaution would require them to care about preserving the Bill of Rights, or even to care about looking like they do. As this administration has made all too clear, they are far more concerned about promoting a radical agenda and pandering to that agenda’s constituencies than any concerns about liberty, justice, or the Constitution. President Bush swore an oath by his own God to protect and defend that Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Someone should have told him that becoming its enemy himself does not release him from that oath.

(/) Roland X

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