Monday, February 28, 2005

We write letters

In response to a very vague editorial in the Lancaster Sunday News, Don Eberly, who helped to create the Bush administration's Faith-Based Initiatives program:

I am disappointed that the Sunday News would run an editorial by a Bush administration official without any supporting context or differing perspective. Even though you note that Mr. Eberly writes as a "private citizen," the fact remains that he is arguing in favor of a government policy that he helped create. Readers deserve to have more than a politician's word that such a program works as well as advertised.

Because, despite Eberly's praise of the power of volunteerism in civil society, many questions remain about the administration's Faith-Based Initiatives program. Here's what Eberly left out of his article:
  • The first director of the program, John DiIulio resigned in frustration, saying that the administration put the program's effectiveness second to its political impact. David Kuo, deputy article that the administration had woefully underfunded the program, despite its promises to the contrary, despite congressional Democratic outreach achieve adequate support for the initiatives' aims. On more than one occasion, the administration proposed funding particular programs at a certain level, only to later cut the appropiations or simply refuse to spend the money.

  • The current director of the program, Jim Towey, admits that there is no way to determine exactly how much money is spent in faith-based initiatives. Congress has been frustrated with the lack of oversight on the disbursement of funds; poor accounting and controls makes it nearly impossible to determine if the money has been spent effectively. In fact, tracking of faith-based money has been so poor that when 2003 grants were disclosed early this year, it was discovered that many had been made to local government organizations, not faith-affiliated groups.

  • The money that has been spent--and tracked--was disbursed in swing states in the 2004 election. Towey declared a nonpartisan stance for the program, then promptly went on a tour of those same states to lead seminars on accessing program funds. While on this tour, he charged that were John Kerry to win the election, the program would be "relegated to the Smithsonian." Several grants were made to groups with strong ties to the Republican party.

  • To date, the only non-Christian group to receive faith-based funds is the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung-Moon. Moon controls the Washington Times, and has been active in American conservative politics since the 1980s.

  • Under existing executive orders, organizations receiving faith-based initiatives funds are allowed to discriminate on religious grounds in their hiring practices, and may include

Don Eberly may be right. Faith-based initiatives may help unlock the power of volunteerism and philanthropy. But just as easily it could be cynical patronage politics by another name, using government funds to subsidize the activities of favored friends. At this point, there's simply not enough information to say, one way or another.

But this is certain: we deserve to have our questions about this program answered. This is true for no one more than Christians, who deserve better than vague appeals to their compassion as proof that their faith is not being used as a pawn in someone else's political game.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Alsauf said...

PastorDan -- is there a link to the organizations that have received money? While I'm not surprised that the only non-Christian group is the Unification Church, I'd like to see that on paper in black-and-white before I start repeating it.

Also, I tend to use the following phrase when mentioning the Unification Church -- "The Unification Church, which is working on a program to have Christian churches remove their crosses and replace them with crowns, is led by the Reverend Sun Myung-Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who was recently crowned the "King of Peace" in an event attended by several United States senators and congressmen at the Senate Office Building".

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Alsauf said...

Oops, I meant "is there a link to a website that shows the organizations that have recieved money".



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