Sunday, July 13, 2008

Church-State Forum Buzzes on Obama's Faith-Based Expansion

James Carroll's Boston Globe op-ed on the behalf of secular rules to protect faith-based organizations has got discussion at Tennessee's religious liberty/church & state forum going.  Charles Sumner comments:
It probably is true than many of the religious groups are in some respects better than their secular counterparts. Yet many others are not equipped as well or staffed with people as informed and educated as the government offices. In some cases secular offices are being more or less replaced by religious in a geographic area. Their locations may not be as easily available to folks who sometimes have no automobile. There are also some people who would not go to a religious facility not of their own faith.

I think we should let Barack Obama know of our attitude on Faith-Based Initiatives. We should compliment him on his desire to prevent discrimination and proselyting but show him that it has not been a success.
I agree that Obama should be cautious in extending the Bush embrace of religious non-profits. I don't have a problem with an office to coordinate faith-based initiatives. I have a problem with the length to which the Bush White House went to trade tax dollars for patronage from the faith-based organizations. The risk is no less real for an Obama Administration, especially given Obama's background with IAF, which sometimes reduces mainline denominational social-justice commitments to a utilitarian calculus of power, control, and influence, for better or worse.

Former Bush Administration member David Kuo outlined the use of values as pretexts for consolidation of control during his time in the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives:

Given the fervor with which Obama is himself embracing faith-based initiatives we should be even more concerned about the potential for religion to become an instrument of control rather than a vehicle for curing social ills like poverty and homelessness.

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