Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stimulus Bill Includes Funds for Faith-Based Initiative

Among the many items in the proposed economic stimulus bill, HR 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is a provision for funding of $100 million for grants to faith-based organization through the Compassion Capital Fund [at pg. 141 of bill]. Half of the amount would become available October 1, 2009. A proposed amendment by Rep. Susan Davis of California would increase the total appropriation to $500 million. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the purpose of Compassion Capital Fund grants is "to expand and strengthen the role of faith-based and community organizations in their ability to provide social services to low-income communities."


Lasher said...

I'm going to put this out there: I oppose the government funding any faith-based initiative. And not just because "faith-based" is just code for "Christian." The government ought to be agnostic - - it ought not posit the existence or non-existence of any divine reality. If an atheist group - or one that just does not identify itself with any religion at all - wanted to, oh, go to a third world country to help re-invigorate the economy there, or clean the environment, or offer medical care, or offer education, why should they be denied funding because they aren't "faith-based"?

Besides, the government ought not fund anything like that. If the community wants to improve itself, then those in the community need to start organizations, get involved, and improve it themselves. That's the only way it will get any better.

Christian Apologist said...

This is a trap. Its motivation is to get these faith based charities dependent on government funds so that the government can later come in and dictate how do their activities, and who they can discriminate against.

Anonymous said...

LOL- you said "...government can later ...dictate...who they can discriminate against."

-American Atheist

chris said...

Oh dear. Is this part of the Dem's proposal, or has it been added to appease naysayers?
This is a terrbile idea, just as it was under Bush. It is incompatible with our doctrine of separation, it complicates the protected status of religion, and it involves the state in funding groups which discrimnate in ways not permitted to any other publically supported groups.
That this is added while people are complaining about $50 million to support the arts industry and haggling over how many millions to provide for aid to students and schools, is just absurd.

Chimera said...

AA, I read the same thing, and I think he's serious. Lots of Christians think it's their constitutional right to discriminate against anyone they don't like, and they also think it's no more than fair that they get to use other peoples' money to help them do it!

Lasher, I'm with you. Pull the money plug and let every faith sink or swim on its own dime.

CrypticLife said...

Yes, Christians also have the reason CA mentioned for wanting a secular state: they want to retain their ability to discriminate freely (it actually goes farther than that, but CA brought it up, so. . .).

And I agree with Chimera -- they do want to discriminate, and believe CA is serious.

Terry L. Mann said...

The facts are that Faith based organizations receiving federal funds is nothing new. It has been in place since the Johnson administration via Catholic Charities and Jewish Community Centers. It is only recently been embraced by other Christian organizations. The additional facts are that the belief is "If Faith Based organizations are providing the same social services as non-Faith Based organizations, and abide by the same federal guidelines, (along with three others written just for this purpose) they should have equal access to the same funds." There are strict guidelines in place to prohibit proselytizing. The grant presently in place have all passed constitutional muster and court challenges.

The facts are that these grants are so Faith Based organziations can assist the Federal Government in social services where there is agreement and it expands what has been in place. They has "swam" for thousands of years on their own dime. This is as much a service to the nation and the government and the people as it is to these organizations . . . maybe more so.

Kagehi said...

Umm. But, that is the problem Terry. They are "not" held to the same standards. They don't have to say how their money is spent most times, they do not have to refrain from proselytizing for the most part, they don't have to even provide services that the same "class" of group they claim to belong to have to, under the law, etc. It was one of the things Obama brought up on his run to the White House, "Allowing support to such organizations ***if*** held to the same standards, and only if", and it was one of many things that the Republicans whined, and complained about, and insisted was "unreasonable".

If they where following the same rules, at all, why would they have spent so much fracking time during the election insisting that Obama was going to "destroy" them, by demanding that they follow the same rules? You can't have it both ways, sorry...

Bob Ritter said...

It was wrong for G.W. to create a White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives and it is wrong for Barack to create Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Instead of giving religion a preference, which violates 35 Supreme Court decisions requiring "neutrality," I encourage Barack to eliminate the office and let all groups compete on a level playing field in a nondiscriminatory manner.

How's that for transparency.

Kagehi said...

Those are definitely serious enough issues, but the "real" problem I have with this BS is that such groups almost "always" have some ulterior agenda, and a fundamental "belief" in what ever solution they implement that leads them to repeating the same action over and over, indefinitely, while failing, on the principle that they "can't" be wrong about their methods.

What you get are groups like Salvation Army, which, on the surface, provide decent services, and are careful to not step on too many toes, but whose "leadership" are among those that think higher education, especially for women, is dangerous and shouldn't happen. Or, you get some group stuck on providing care using X, Y and Z, when X and Y don't work at all, and refusing to change, because X is tied to their faith, and they simply flat out refuse to acknowledge that Y doesn't work either.

We need flexible solutions to problems, which change over time, based on what does and doesn't work. Some times you get that from religious groups *by accident*, due to them being more secular than religious, but the rest of the time you get the kind of BS you see going on in the Vatican, where it takes 500 years to just admit they persecuted people that where right, while still insisting that *they* never got it wrong.

How many faith based initiatives do we "know" a) work, b) work better than some alternative, or c) don't have some secondary agenda, which in some cases undermines the good they are attempting? Answer is, a) we don't know, because I lot of them lie, b) we don't know, because most don't have to, or bother, to keep records, and c) 50% of them, as a conservative estimate?

Its not enough to want to do good, you have to **do** good. And starting out thinking that everything you do *is* good, by default, is not a sane way to do anything but mediocre, or worse.

Christian Apologist said...

I deliberately used the word discriminate. If a private company using private funds wants to do specific things with their money they have the right to discriminate. For example if an organization is specifically set up to help families with adopting children they should be allowed to discriminate who they help out. If they feel a couple will not provide a good environment for raising children then they should not be compelled to help them.

CrypticLife said...

50% of them, as a conservative estimate?

Conservative for who? I think almost all the religious services have a second agenda, even if it doesn't impact on the work they do. I suspect for most, it at least impacts in some manner.

Chimera said...

"...Salvation Army...whose "leadership" are among those that think higher education, especially especially for women, is dangerous and shouldn't happen."

Really? You've got my attention on this, Kagehi. I have done a fair amount of work with the Sally Ann, and I've never seen this attitude among any of the officers in the organization. One of the reasons I do work with them is that they don't get in anyone's face about religion, but focus on simply treating everyone with kindness and dignity, sometimes in the face of all odorifous reason. They don't preach that people should behave in certain ways, they simply do it as an example for others to see and follow...if they choose.

But if you have information to the contrary, please link it so I can examine it. Or if it's not on line, point me in the right direction.

"...if an organization is specifically set up to help families with adopting children they should be allowed to discriminate who they help out. If they feel a couple will not provide a good environment for raising children then they should not be compelled to help them."

And how would you allow them to describe a "good" environment? On what basis would you allow them to decide what is "good" and what is "bad?"

Kagehi said...

I may be misinformed then Chimera. There are groups that do think such things, but it may be one of the "other" organizations. Lets just say, I have seen what groups do on the surface, even among "local" leaders, and its not "always" the real view of the people at the very top. PETA being a good "secular" example of that sort of thinking. I don't remember the specific source I got the impression from, so its possible it did refer to a different group entirely. If so, I... well, apologize for the error.

Hmm. Looking up their wiki, their principle beliefs, (item #3 on the bullet list) pegs then as fall of man, genesis, fundamentalist, mostly Biblical literalist types. hunting around you get the "impression" that they are also, oddly, of the stripe that think you can reconcile most education with the Bible, including science. Problem is, there have been groups since the dawn of higher education that have correctly concluded that the more education something has, the more likely they are to "not" believe in literalism, and possibly not Christianity.

So, we have a serious conflict here. An organization that promotes education, yet... has to recognize what ever group from the Pope's underlings, to the entire rest of the fundamentalist movement see. Religion and most education from the sciences to history, *do not support* their interpretation of what is of reality, and the more educated someone is, the less likely they are to believe their version.

I have no problem seeing someone "in" the Salvation Army being quoted as saying something like, "higher education may not always be a goal to strive for, especially in the sciences, which girls should probably avoid.", or what ever it was. It has all the hallmarks of people trying, on one hand, to improve education, while at the same time holding on to "some" cultural prejudices about women's roles/vulnerabilities to corruption (after all, they do believe in original sin, and science is "not" the same as working for God as a soldier in their "army"), and a recognition that higher education may "tempt" people to abandon their faith and reject their "true path to salvation".

This is why I get hives when dealing with any sort of religious group. Their outward goals do not always gibe with the realities of... reality, or their own actions, like the promoting of the very thing that tends to "undermine" belief in what they think wants them to promote it. At some point, something has to give, and, in my experience, its a lot more likely to be some member going off on the evils of "undirected" higher education, from "people trying to turn us from god", than them realizing that their basic premises could be fatally flawed. The former can be justified as conspiracy. The later.. would be cutting off their own legs.

So, even without a direct quote of someone saying it... I peg it at about 86% on the "likely" side of being an unspoken idea, or abstract fear they all have, which some of them "may" state out loud.

At the very least, there is some "serious" cognitive dissonance going on here.

Barb said...

Bob Ritter, "secularism" is a philosophy with religious implications --as is atheism. Why should secularists and atheists receive gov't money for programs they would sponsor which aren't as effective as the ones run by Christians? Prison and drug rehab programs, e.g. and agencies that help the poor; secular mental health services over christian counseling services, secular daycare programs over church daycare. In the inner city of D.C., I understand that many black churches have ministries to the needy --and latchkey programs/pre-schools, etc. which ARE getting aid from Bush's initiative. Barack knows these are good to support --even though they are in churches and by churches. My understanding is that they can proselyte and teach the Bible, etc. --but not on the gov't dime. The Gov't dime will go to the utility bills, facilities, food, etc.

Chimera said...

"...'secularism' is a philosophy with religious implications --as is atheism."

Not they're not. Nothing remotely to do with religion in either of them.

Kagehi, I need to do some reading on this and some comparison with my own experiences, if they're different. I'll catch up with you later.

Kagehi said...

Snort. And the FSM provides (or, isn't it ironic how someone arguing "against" an organization gets a post about them the next day?):

But, yeah. I "thought" they where fairly sane for a while too. I have come to see them in the same light that, say, military maneuvers by someone that doesn't like your country, on your own border might. Its "possible" they are just training, but only a fool assumes its the only thing they are doing.

And Barb, **my** understanding is that, while this may supposedly be true, it hasn't stopped most of them from a) doing it anyway on the government dime, b) lying about their actual results, or even c) unintentionally promoting the problems they are trying to solve, by *imagining* a one size fits all solution, which never worked for more than 10% of the population in the first place. And the later one bothers me "almost" as much as (a) and (b).

Public schools, as another example, made "easier" to pick out, due to all preaching being "illegal" in them, are not even "allowed" to do **any** promotion of religion, yet we have, in the last 10 years, more than a few case, one of which was in 1999, where some Illinois school accused a student of Witchcraft and putting "hexes" on a teacher, other involving everything from atheists being beaten up for not wanting to illegally pray at a football game, a few years back, to the case of one Jewish family being harassed because they complained that the illegal prayers where too "Jesus" based (which isn't even an objection to the prayer, just how it was done).

The federal government agencies responsible for keeping track of what both schools and these "faith based" agencies really are doing can't even keep up with the number of churches intentionally breaking the law during political campaigns, which is something the churches "traded" as part of what gives them the right to not pay taxes, and there are almost as many faith based initiatives out there as their are churches. So, I am confused why you imagine, given some of the BS they "do" pull, that you think there is not problem with them ignoring any rule they want, as long as they can convince themselves that they a) won't get caught, b) will be protected by the bamboozled local population if they do, c) are doing it for their god, and d) will only get slapped on the wrist anyway.

Oh, and, just to be clear, things like secular drug programs are "required" to keep clear records of who enters and leaves, **may not** report only those that stay in the program as successes, *must* do follow ups, to determine how long the "treatment" lasts, if it does, and *must* make, at least an attempt, to find out why someone leaves the program. The documents are pretty well buried and hard to come by. Penn and Teller managed to dredge a few up for their special on 12 Step programs, but you won't find them very easily at all. Why? Because most only keep records of people that "pass" the programs, they do not, and are not required to, check on those that leave, either after passing, or dropping out, and, in the case of 12 Step, their own article says, "We do not speculate on why 90% of the people that join the program drop out before completing it." That sentence, by itself, which implies no interest in figuring out why the program isn't working, or fixing it when it fails, would get a secular group closed down and banned for breaking the regulations they run under **instantly**, even if they where not also deleting the records showing who had and hadn't entered, to make them look better.

There is not level playing field here. Like everything else touched by religion, there are so many rules covering what the government **can't** tell them to do, based on those things being, "based on the tenants of their faith, and thus untouchable", that even enforcing the rules they "can" enforce is a mine field. And, sorry to say, but for every 100 people that help them, because they honestly intend good, there is probably at least one that doesn't care, as long as they look like Mother Teresa, and in those 100, there is probably one who would keep people in poverty, and near starving, as "gods will", just like she did. And there are not enough federal agents in the entire country to keep track of which ones are which, when the only thing they are "accountable" for is a list of people "helped" (but not the people that they fail), and the "promise" they won't hand out Bibles along with the soup, tents, or what ever it is they are doing.

And, as in the case of the Salvation Army... Sometimes what is done "on the surface" isn't what is going on behind the scenes, where it "matters" more.

Chimera said...

And it's later...

Okay, Kaghei, I did some research, especially on the Sally Ann's wiki, and I found a lot of "We believe..." stuff, but not a lot of "You have to believe..."

I have no objection to consenting adults' voluntarily confining their own beliefs and behaviors to what I would consider to be a narrow set of rules and regulations. A problem arises for me only when they step outside their authority and start to tell others how they have to live. And in my rather lengthy relationship with members of the Salvation Army, I have never once been proseytized by any soldier or officer. They accept me at face value, just as I accept them -- each knowing that the other doesn't share all beliefs and behaviors, but seeing no need to impose upon the other.

I would not want to live life as a Sally Ann soldier, and I daresay they wouldn't want to live my life, either. But we're all okay with that. And we get along just fine.

Barb said...

Religion says there is a God, Chimera; atheism says there is not. so they are both systems of belief.
There is no reason to favor atheism --as secularism does --over other "religionists."

we should favor the belief system that does the most good --if anything --and that surely is not atheism.

Equal access is fair.

Kagehi said...

Hmm. Prior post was apparently too much. lol Will just say one thing, the only "religious" implication that secularism has is:

Since no one, not even those claiming to follow the "same" religion, can even manage to agree on "exactly" what the rules are that should be followed, its better that you aim for what people "can" agree on, and leave the arguments about which, more radical, concepts and rules are *right* to the inside of church buildings, or the occasional inter-religion lynchings.

In other words, everyone is likely to agree that stealing someone's wallet is bad, but you are likely to get 50 different theories on everything from what the wallet is made of, how the person earned the money stolen, if they should have donated more, even if they "deserved" to have the money, or, possibly, even if the thief somehow deserved it, so his theft was, if not right, then at least "forgivable". Secularism says, forget all the bloody arguing, and just accept that the "theft" was wrong, without all the flip flopping, trivialities and stupid BS.

So, for everyone that doesn't agree with the "specific" law that happens to effect someone (usually themselves), it has "religious" implications. Too bad! Because unless you find some solution for all the issues of "which one, or version, or interpretation", even a "religious" based law is going to pee in someone's cereal, and most of them will also be religious.

As for atheism having an impact... Why is someone saying they don't believe in your god, but otherwise having ideals and beliefs that are almost as scattered all over the spectrum (yes, they are conservative atheists, and even some that are "creationists" in 100% of every way that counts, other than insisting that it was space aliens that did it, not some sort of god. There is no "central dogma" for atheists, despite the current trends of the "big" names to talk about materialistic views), such a huge problem? Are they passing laws that really differ from that of either "conservative" anti-abortionists, or liberals with arts majors?

And, more to the point, why is it that every religious person on the planet seems to be so faithless and scared of them that one guy writing a book they don't like can "undermine" a religion, according to them, despite the fact that the faithful publish more books that than apologizing for, romanticizing, quoting testimonials about, or putting together special "daily quotes from the Bible", ***per month***, than every atheist has in the last ten years? Why is god so weak he needs your defense, so powerless than one book can undermine him, and so blind to the danger that he needs the faithful constantly watching out for "bad people" than want to... do the right thing, because everyone agrees its right, and not because the loudest bully on the block shouted the rest down this week?

I just don't get it.

chris said...

CA wrote, If a private company using private funds wants to do specific things with their money they have the right to discriminate.

1) Not entirely true;
2) Beside the point as we are discussing the use of PUBLIC funds, not private monies. Groups that accept public funding are - constitutionally - expected to not discriminate against protected groups. Bush's faith-based program exempted religous groups from this fundamental constitutional requirement.
While I wish Obama would just scrap this office altogether, I do appreciate the reinstatment of constitutional requirements for all groups receiving funds.
If you want to discriminate, use your own money - and face the legal consequences.

Barb said...

Chimera, religion says there is a God; atheism says there is not.

They are both belief systems about God.

Secularism addresses the here and now and is considered non-religious. But secularism becomes like atheism if it supports atheism --the idea that there is no God.

Gov't in effect establishes atheism if it discriminates against religions. That is no more neutral than establishing Chrsitianity.

Kagehi said...

No they are not Barb. At most an atheist will say, "I find the evidence for god so weak that I would bet that the next roll of a roulette wheel will land on 'purple', before betting that 'any' god ever described by man existed." That isn't a certainty, its a "near certainty". Ok, so, its hard to understand the difference. But, lets try this. I tell you that yesterday I saw a horse in front of your house. Even if your "house" is in the middle of some city where they are no horses, this isn't "impossible", because I have lots of evidence that horses really exist.

I have no evidence gods do, especially yours, and as such I reach the **exact** same conclusion that you do when someone asks if you believe in Zeus, Thor, Ahriman, Shiba or "The Thirteen Lords of Kobol". Just because they are "about" the same thing doesn't mean they rely on the same "principles" to reach their conclusions. Atheism is simply stating, "I find it very unlikely, possibly to the point of total absurdity, that god exists." This requires a "conclusion" only.

You insist that you "know" he exists, that takes "faith", since you have no evidence that everyone agrees on, or is even willing to universally acknowledge. Faith is the "absence" of facts, atheism is a conclusion reached "from" facts. Atheism is not a religion, because it has no holy books, no demands about how you "must" live, no requirements for achieving salvation, and no "church" to lead it. Those are the things that "define" what a religion "is", not just the belief in one single thing, which they imagine is behind it.

But, seriously. Your own argument invalidates your own claim. You can't *deny* atheists the right to have their "religion" catered to by the government, by denying god, and then turn around and claim that they "also" have to support your claim that god "does" exist. That the claim that *any* secular principle denies god, simply because it denies some tenant of your religion is "your" problem, because, as I said before, you are not the only one with a god, nor do you have the only *version* of your own god, which everyone agrees on, so you cannot claim that any principle secularism disagrees with you on is "invalid", just because *your* faith doesn't like it. At best, its hypocrisy, at worst, its lying about what "is" and "isn't" an attack on "god", who is not, as much as you would like, defined by your personal opinions of what is and isn't true about such a being.

The government job is to discriminate against "anything" that isn't factual, or to the benefit of the country. It should be 100% agnostic to which side "wins". Yet, it isn't. It sides 99.9% of the time with *you*, even when its bloody obvious that religion's ideas about a subject, like sex education, or its lack, are 100% wrong. Leveling the playing field, and preventing such blatant abuse, is *not* promoting atheism, or discriminating against religion. Its doing their damn job for once.

Chimera said...

"They are both belief systems about God."

No. They're not.

Religion may or may not be "about" something called a god (not all religions have gods). But atheism is not about god. It's not even about belief.

It's a lack of belief. Nothing there. Zip. Rien. Zilch. Void. Nulla far niente. How many languages do I have to say it in before you start to get it?

How can a thought be "about" what does not exist for the thinker?

chris said...

Aha: Chimera is an epistemologist! :-)
As long as we are taking Barb seriously, at all, let's also note that 'a belief' is not equivalent to 'a system of belief[s].' I believe there are oysters. That is a propositional belief and implies no system whatsoever. I suppose one could have a system of belief that produced the proposition, but - as Chimera observes - this is unlikely when the proposition is simply a denial of existence.
The only 'system' presupposed would be an epistemic system, which provided rules of evidence, etc. In other words, if I do not bleieve oysters exist, that is the extent of my beliefs about oysters.

Chimera said...

"Aha: Chimera is an epistemologist!"

I'm a what?

*looks it up*



chris said...


Oh, sorry! I thought you might be a [trained] epistemologist! I'm laughing.

By the way, ontologists might not use the term in a way that would make you grin. :-)

I no longer remember what started this conversation, by the way.

Chimera said...

"I thought you might be a [trained] epistemologist!"

You can trained for that? And you can get paid for doing it? Hey, I am so there! LOL!

Jim51 said...

The "Atheism is a religion" line is truly pathetic, weak and desperate.

I guess this makes Barb an athorist. Those athorists have been responsible for horrible crimes you know. And all because they deny the godliness of the true son of Odin.
So if we don't support the teaching of Thor we are obviously pushing athorism.

wjfreeman said...

During the previous administration, I worked for Dare Mighty Things, the federal contractor that provided technical support for the faith-based initiative known as the Compassion Capital Fund. Much was made about the Bush Administration’s innovativeness in providing public dollars to support the work of faith-based organizations. This was inaccurate. Government support through a network of grants and contracts has been provided to religious organizations for non-sectarian social services for the past 50 years.

What was new was allowing federal funds to be used to support religious and quasi-religious activities under the guise of social services. This happened with a wink and a nod through the Capital Compassion Fund and related faith-based initiatives. This cannot be allowed to continue in the Obama Administration.

Additionally, I witnessed first hand, technical assistance training on how CCF grantees could legally discriminate against people they didn’t want to hire based on religious predilections. As an American, I was and continue to be offended that taxpayer dollars would be used to exclude any group of people. This, as well, cannot be allowed to continue.

Yet, beyond these challenges, there is the wider, Constitutional issue of the separation of church and state. The previous administration – certainly not the most respectful of the Constitution in general – somehow believed that the separation clause was up for grabs. It is not.

We are all diminished when government can use its substantial weight to assault the Constitution by funding the peculiarities of religious entities. Let’s hope that President Obama, as a constitutional scholar, will safeguard these vital protections by curtailing the errors of the past faith-based initiative.

View my blog at

Chimera said...

Jim: As opposed to a Hathorist, which is someone who prays to the blood-thirsty cow goddess in Egypt? When we get going with these mix-and-match pantheons, we really, really need to watch our spelling!

chris said...

Thank you for your post and your blog.

Anonymous said...

The Government was founded on God and we didnt have problems like we have now, then. Why dont we go back to God and stop shoving him away so much.

kevinburns55 said...

The idea that god should have any involvement in government just sickens me. I have had to make many hard choices in my life today and god had nothing to do with them. The last thing I want him involved in is my financial choices. When I had to get sober from drugs and alcohol I went to Narconon Vista bay and god played no part in that, why should I let him get invovled in politics of any kind. Don't abandon your human reasoning and drink the "punch" just to be apart of the group. Make human choices for the betterment of society and the group, not some God we all don't believe in.