In the August 2001 issue of The DeWeese Report
I warned that the Bush administration’s Faith-based Initiative (S.476) was
misguided and would not achieve its stated goal to use private organizations
and private charitable programs as a means to cut the federal budget and
return “caring” to its proper place in the private sector.
It’s a noble idea and, if it had a chance of working, I said I would be the
first to endorse the program with banner headlines. In fact, if the program
had been designed to simply roll back federal regulations, making it easier
for private charity groups to help the needy, the initiative would have been
The problem is that the program is designed to give federal funds to private
organizations. I warned that such a provision would be used as a “Trojan
Horse” to allow federal restrictions and guidelines on federal hiring practices
and separation of church and state to literally separate faith-based groups
from their very roots. For the almighty federal dollar, I warned, faith-based
groups would necessarily become little more than public agencies.
And so it begins. As Congress began to work on spending bills to fund the
program, the Left showed its predictable dark side. Rep. Chet Edwards of
Texas quickly crafted an amendment to the spending bill that would ensure
none of the funds appropriated in the bill would go to any group that “discriminates”
in job hiring based on religion. The measure was defeated, but it is a harbinger
of what’s to come.
Consider what such hiring restrictions would mean to a faith-based group
running a soup kitchen. A Catholic church would have to hire those outside
the faith to run the operation, which means it would no longer be a Catholic
charity operation. It would become just another federally-run soup kitchen.
Rep. Edwards used a different -- but more illuminating -- example, as he
said allowing “religious hiring rights” as called for by the White House,
where faiths could hire the faithful free of federal harassment, means Congress
would “legalize racial discrimination in this country.” Edwards offered an
example of a Jewish or Catholic organization refusing to hire a black Southern
Baptist. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island warned that allowing faith-based
groups to hire their own with federal funds would take the United States
down “a slow road” to the theocracy of Iran.
It’s astounding that the White House and Congressional Republicans could
even think that such an idea of mixing private groups with federal money
would ever achieve its goals. The White House has access to the best legal
minds in the nation. Did they not see that such legal attacks would render
the program useless? Did they not believe that the liberal forces in this
nation would do exactly what they have done for forty years, i.e. foist the
cancer of federal control on private and religious organizations?
In case the Republicans still don’t get it, allow me to enlighten them as
to the coming fate of the “Faith-based Initiative.” First, leftist organizations
will pile on for their share of the federal dollars. It’s what they do best.
In fact, it’s already happened, as the Nature Conservancy moved quickly to
add a section (Sections 106 and 107) to the original legislation to give
it special tax status to perpetrate federal land grabs. Indeed, the legislation
gives organizations like the Nature Conservancy a 25% capital gains tax advantage
to purchase land denied to others. The House version does not. That one Green
organization profited from land sales by more than $700 million last year
alone. Other massive land trusts are lobbying hard for this tax break.
Second, any faith-based organization which participates in the program will
be forced to comply with all federal guidelines, including restrictions on
hiring; banning placement of religious objects, articles or tracts within
the area where the public interacts with the charitable program. Special
staff and lawyers will be required to keep up with federal reporting and
compliance demands, thereby bloating the budget and decreasing time and resources
that should be spent on the program.
Third, leftist organizations will target any faith-based organization with
whom they disagree. The charity will be forced to endure endless lawsuits,
audits and negative publicity until they are finally driven out of the program.
A word to the wise: if you are a faith-based charity performing a valuable
service providing for those in need, stay away from federal funds. Your program
will survive on willing private contributions. If you accept federal dollars
to pay for your program then you deserve what you get.
Tom DeWeese is publisher and editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA.