Check out this yahoo news article that Seth sent out in the mailing list:
Taking a page from President Bush, Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday he wants to expand White House efforts to steer social service dollars to religious groups, risking protests in his own party with his latest aggressive reach for voters who usually vote Republican.Isaah points out that this isn't just going to be an extension of Bush policies. As the article goes on to say (towards the end):
Obama also chose a different emphasis for why religious charities are an important answer to solving poverty and other social problems: because they better know the people who are hurting, instead of Bush's argument that religion itself is a transforming power the government must not be afraid to harness.Seth has argued (and I'm paraphrasing so correct me if I'm wrong) that the federal government should not fund charities in general. This would be akin to a forced donation. Personally, I think we pay taxes to the government in exchange for services, and it's perfectly fine for the government to spend that money on things that benefit the country as a whole, including charities. Perhaps government money has a corrupting influence on private charities, but it's equally likely that fewer charities would exist if they didn't get any government funding. And helping people through funding private charities is probably more efficient than supporting the same people through welfare or medicaid.
And while Bush supports allowing all religious groups to make any employment decisions based on faith, Obama proposes allowing religious institutions to hire and fire based on religion only in the non-taxpayer-funded portions of their activities — consistent with current federal, state and local laws. "That makes perfect sense," he said.
The problem arises because most private charities are religious. There are huge first amendment problems when religious charities take government money and use it to proselytize, increase their numbers, or give perks to their congregation. Even though Obama says, for instance, that religious institutions can only hire and fire based on religion in the "non-taxpayer-funded portions of their activities," who is going to make sure? Are we going to have to fund a bureaucracy to watch the religious charities? I doubt that the small, grassroots organizations Obama is thinking of funding will be able to separate their personnel into those who work on taxpayer-funded activities and those who don't.
Charities can help solve our poverty issues and other social problems, religious or not. If a religious charity wants to spend their money and donations for religious purposes, let them. Just don't give them government money. If a religious charity wants some taxpayer money, it should be their responsibility to create a secular arm of their organization to administer the donations. What's the point in focusing on religious charities in particular? Obama's reasoning, that:
religious charities are an important answer to solving poverty and other social problems: because they better know the people who are hurtingsounds just like his blanket statement that poor people cling to their guns and religion.