Supporting Religion

President Bush wants to turn over charity dollars to the various religious bureaucracies.  I suppose this goes along with the conservative Republican position that those who do not have a lot of money just have not worked hard enough.  This is America.  Anyone who wants to work can work.  And if you just work hard enough you can make a lot of money. Right?

For the Republicans, government's mandate is to create an environment where business can flourish and therefore create jobs.  And with such an emphasis on working, there can be little support for charity.  How can you advocate a position that if you work you will get rich and at the same time explain why some people are not rich unless you believe that they do not chose to work.

Now what about those who do not chose to work, those who do not get in step with the "hard work is always rewarded" philosophy?  Well, President Bush seems to be saying that we have to turn them over to religion.  But should we take some of the tax money that the government collects and give it to the various religions?: seems like religions already get a lot of tax breaks which is sort of like giving them money to do good.

But the bigger problem is which religions are to get the money?  And if the Republican administration gives the Catholics $500 million, do you think more Catholics will vote Republican?  And if a Democratic administration gave $5 million to the Buddhist, do you think there would be a Christian backlash at the polls?

And how about accountability.  Will the government then be required to monitor how the money is spent and to make sure that no monies are spent on abortion related programs?  And will the government determine which government sanctioned scriptures can be read when free meals are being passed out?

Or should we just give them the money without any strings attached so as maintain separation of church and state?  

I personally think that the failure of any government is measured in the number of people living below the poverty level.  I think that it is the secular governmental policies which expand or contract the number of citizens living in poverty.  And therefore it is the government that should hand out the charity in the form of tax cuts, more access to health care, job training, educational benefits, and minimum wage legislation just for starters.

Let the religious bureaucracies administer the charity that their members willingly and generously support.  And let the government reduce the burden on religionist by creating a just society that reduces the number of disenfranchised citizens who find themselves poor and penniless.

John WorldPeace
May 24, 2001

Bush in Ohio to Push Charities Plan 

.c The Associated Press

CLEVELAND (May 24) - While control of the Senate slid from his party's grip back in Washington, President Bush toured a soup kitchen here Thursday to promote his ''charitable choice'' proposal, which is parked in Congress amid withering attacks from the left and the right.

The president arrived just after Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont announced he had split with the Republican Party, sending control of the evenly split Senate into Democratic hands. The audio of Jeffords' announcement played live aboard Air Force One in flight.

The impact of Jeffords' decision was felt here, even though Bush asserted that Jeffords was wrong to say that the GOP is partisan and difficult to work with.

''I respect Senator Jeffords. But respectfully, I couldn't disagree more,'' Bush said. ''I'm working hard with Republicans and Democrats to put in place a faith-based initiative that I truly believe will change America for the better.''

Bush was met by about 200 anti-free-trade protesters gathered in a park across from the social services center he toured at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church. They chanted ''Jobs not charity!'' ''Bush go home!'' as Bush entered the church. A man held up a sign reading ''Talking God, Working for the Devil,'' and another sign read, ''Seniors Have no Faith in Bush.''

Inside, Bush watched quietly as workers prepared a meal of cauliflower, chicken noodle soup and baked beans. ''I'm here to offer praise,'' Bush said.

''I want to make a pledge that my administration will be more supportive of the good works done here than any administration in the history of the country,'' Bush said. ''I understand the power of faith, that faith can change lives.''

Bush said he also understands the limits of government in truly turning people's lives around. ''What government cannot do is put hope in people's heart or a sense of purpose in people's lives,'' he declared.

''We'll never fund faith. We'll never fund churches. But we should fund the armies of compassion,'' Bush said.

The center, which receives 95 percent of its funding from private sources, allows formerly homeless people to serve as volunteers, performing duties such as driving for disabled people and helping serve meals to the hungry.

Thursday's trip marked the third time in a week that Bush had promoted his ''charitable choice'' proposal, under which religious groups could compete for federal funds to provide social services without abandoning religious elements of their programs.

The plan has drawn criticism from Christian conservatives who fear it would empower fringe religious sects, and from liberal groups who say it could blur separations of church and state.

Bush highlighted the plan during a commencement address Sunday at Notre Dame and said he would convene a White House summit in the fall to get corporate and philanthropic leaders together to discuss ways they can help both secular and religious community groups.

Tuesday, the president told a group of Hispanic clergy that all he is trying to do is expand what already is law for welfare programs, some education scholarships and Medicare and Medicaid hospital funding.

Bush says he considers charitable choice a logical third step in the fight against poverty - after the 1960s ''war on poverty'' programs created under President Johnson and the 1996 welfare overhaul signed by President Clinton.

St. Augustine and the affiliated Our Lady of Angels/St. Joseph Center for the handicapped, which is one block away, is one of 25 churches in the Tremont neighborhood of about 11,000 people from 33 ethnic backgrounds. About 40 percent are poor.

Sister Corita Ambro, a 31-year veteran of the hunger center which she directs, sees the needy daily and has a wish-list if Bush's initiative means public money for St. Augustine.