. . . Tuesday August 17, 2004

Under God and Under the Radar

Another independent report on the Bush administration uncovers the extent to which the administration has pushed through government support for faith-based programs.

You may have missed the broad-ranging public debate about these program changes that go to the heart of the separation of church and state (and the emphasis is on church; I don’t think a lot of Mosques are getting new government dough). If you missed it, it’s because there wasn’t one. These changes (like many others under this administration) have largely taken place under the radar.

There are currently faith-based offices in ten different federal agencies. A couple of examples of the faith-based changes you may not have heard about: A change to Dept of Labor rules exempts religious organizations (even those funded by the government) from laws that forbid discrimanation in employment. And churches can now use federal funds to renovate buildings that are used for both social services and religious worship.

As important as it is to take note of these changes, it is also critical to listen to the reactions from the Bush administration when it comes to answering questions related to the de-separation of church and state.

Here is a classic conservative tactic employed by Jim Towey, the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: “What it shows is that the president is taking the steps he promised he would take to end discrimination against faith-based groups.”

That’s called framing the debate. This really isn’t a story about a small segment of the executive branch trying to redistribute funds to a religious movement they support without getting the go-ahead from voters. It’s about ending “discrimination.”

Totally absurd. Totally transparent. Totally consistent. You can’t possibly understand the conservative machine in this country without understanding the way they use language to twist a debate.

Well, this is not about discrimination (unless you count the freeing of federally funded program operators to discriminate against potential employees). This is about an abuse of power and the misuse and redistribution of government funds to religious efforts that just happen to include a voting block critical to the right wing.

Concentration is important!