Coming up: A Spectacular Internecine BrawlAuthor of this text: Charles M. Jaquette
Anti-religionists should be rejoicing coast to coast over
President Bush's Executive Order of December 12, 2002 activating his faith-based
initiative for government aid to religious charities.
the order trashes our venerable Constitutional separation of church and state,
but there is good reason to believe that it will even more seriously damage the
very religions that it purports to help. Here's why.
initiative promises that no longer will charities be turned down for aid simply
on the basis of religion alone. Each church charity will be on the same footing
as other private charities in applying for government money. The playing field,
said the President, will be level for all applicants, religious or otherwise.
must qualify to receive money. There will be a handbook written in "plain
English," the President said, with guidelines and regional seminars to
explain the plain English and show groups how to qualify. Some groups must
necessarily be skipped over.
guidelines have not been widely publicized, but we can make reasonable guesses
as to what they must contain. For example, in light of the President's recent
unequivocal positioning on the issue of segregation in the Trent Lott case (not
consistent with the spirit of the country), would we be safe in saying that any
church which practices discrimination need not apply?
would narrow the field somewhat. Then there might be some religious groups that
are a bit edgy for our new official moral arbiters. The NAC, or Native American
Church, which employs the hallucinogen peyote in its worship, would probably be
passed over as would the petitioners from the Rastafarian congregations, which
use marijuana in their rituals.
not making the cut might be groups with names like „The Satanic Sacrificial
Brotherhood" or „Jihad Now!" How about the old-hate mill of the
skinhead militia, The World Church of the Creator? No point in buying bullets
for those chaps when you might have to eat them for lunch down the road at a compound shoot-out. Give them a „Disapproved."
we to expect Bush and Ashcroft to recant on moral positions they've already
actively pushed from their public offices? If not, don't waste paper in applying
if your church tolerates or supports pro-choice, stem cell research, sex
education, assisted suicide, or stewardship issues like saving old growth
forests from lumber companies or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from
and religion. Sometimes it's hard to tell what religion is all about, but not so
with politics. Votes. Politics is about votes. In case of a squeeze, who will
get the bucks for charity? Pablo Flores, part time pastor of the Iglesia
Pentacostal on a dirt street at the edge of town or Pat Robertson's tank of
PhD's and lawyers?
you chose Robertson, you're right on target because the ACLU reports in its
March 2003 newsletter that one of Robertson's front organizations called
Operation Blessing International is already receiving funds from the White
we find out, to paraphrase the pigs of Animal Farm, all playing fields will be
level, but some will be more level than others. It probably wouldn't hurt your
church's chances if it happens to be of the Born-Again, End-Times,
Fundamentalist stamp, similar to that of Bush and Ashcroft.
the world knows the reputation of religion for its bloody pit fights between
this sect and that sect, between East and West, between liberal and
like "Anti-Christ, false prophet, Devil's spawn, apostate, infidel,"
and worse fly like dead leaves in the winter wind. Holy wars are among the most
acrimonious and nasty on record.
in-fighting in the scrap for government largesse will only add to the rancor.
So if you enjoy really down-and-dirty, eye-gouging church fights, then
you're in for a treat in the corning years as sacred groups square off for their
slice of the pie as a result of this ill-considered Executive Order.
some perceptive religious thinkers realize that rigorous separation of church
and state is religion's best friend for a couple of reasons:
get exactly the same break from the government. No favors are asked and none are
given because there are none to give.
Constitution U.S. clerics can boast one of the highest rates of godliness among
the Western democracies. Around 85% of Americans claim to believe in the
separation opens the door for all kinds of wacko theologies to surface and claim
their day in court for a cut of the swag, plus free TV time in front of the
cameras. These will do nothing to improve the already besmirched image of
religion as a worthwhile activity.
sum, by signing this faith based blunder thus trumping all opposition, young
George W., with his proclivity for destructive behavior, continues to dismantle
the Constitution while at the same time, laying solid groundwork for a spectacular internecine brawl which should keep lawyers and heaven-bound
defenders of all kinds of faiths hustling from now until kingdom come.
Charles M. Jaquette, a "separation junkie," is a retired high school teacher from Arizona.
Published in the 2003 August/July issue of the American Rationalist ©.
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|Charles M. Jaquette|
A "separation junkie," is a retired high school teacher from Arizona.