Labor Week
Faith Based Graft
By Henry Meyerding
Sep 3, 2006 - 10:00:00 PM

I've gotten myself on another list somehow. In addition to the sex aids, weight loss, and as seen on TV gimcracks, I've got two new categories of spam to contend with:  Christian Dating and Christian Lending.

The former makes at least some kind of marginal sense. If you like to bowl, it would make sense for you to date bowlers. The latter makes no sense whatsoever. The Christian church for three-fifths of its history was against lending and all other institutions paradoxically known as "thrift." It wasn't until the Reformation that Christian churches countenanced lending with interest. Any interest over 3 percent was declared to be usury, a crime under church law that was punishable by surrender of all your assets and a public whipping around the town. Later, the minimum rate of usury was raised to 5 percent when the Pope wanted to loan money to the Hapsburgs, but lending and gambling were frowned upon right up through the middle of the last century by practically every Christian sect.

Another thing that was frowned upon in practically every sect of Christianity was the selling of the allegiance of the church. Some pastors, ministers, and priests might espouse their own personal philosophy at times from the pulpit, some might even say in reasonably blatant terms that a politician or a party was sinning and unworthy of patronage by any real Christian. But the support of the pulpit ought not to be sold to the highest bidder.

And yet in this new century we're witness to this deeply anti-Christian offense. We're witness to it in the cynical application of taxpayer money to buy the votes of Christian congregations. This is utterly abhorrent on so many levels—it makes Christian Lending seem almost childishly innocent. How could this come to be in these United States?

Once upon a time, a U.S. President had an idea. He thought that the government could disperse funds from the public treasury to groups, in communities across the country, who were doing good charitable works better and more efficiently than the comparable government programs. Unfortunately, this president had a lot of other problems and never got around to doing anything about this good idea. His name was William Jefferson Clinton.

His successor as President, or to be more exact, some of his successor's inner circle, resurrected Clinton's idea, but they didn't credit him with it, they called it support for Faith Based Initiatives. In the past half a decade, billions of dollars of public money have been invested in these Initiatives. Here is how it works:

  1. The executive branch designates funds for Faith Based Initiative programs. This is money that is handed out on the say-so of the President without any Congressional or Judicial oversight -- it does not need to be accounted for.
  2. The executive branch, through an assistant to the President, locates a church or charitable group they want to give the money to. For example, in Ohio many of these unsupervised government grants went to traditionally Democratic black churches.
  3. Once the money is received, the focus of a lot of the sermons preached from these pulpits took some surprising right turns. Many of these sermons were easy:  the dangers of Gay marriage or the gratitude of a great people to their men and women in uniform. Others were a bigger shift from past faith messages but they all had a common thread: they preached Republican Party talking points on issues, especially near elections.

Now, can I prove that these men of God were on the take?  Of course not. It isn't like they got a moral bill of sale in exchange for our tax money.  But when the facts repeatably line up along certain tracks, it is hard to suspend your belief in the obvious; if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

The point is that ALL government grants and contracts ought to be rigorously reviewed by bi-partisan processes, such as those of the General Accounting Office, whose reviews and conclusions are a matter of public record. At present the Faith Based Initiatives are essentially secret, which is an open invitation to graft and corruption. This isn't just spam—this is theft of your taxes to fund a political agenda.



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