A Faith-Based Recipe for Disaster

January 31, 2001

Published at
Free Republic, APFN.ORG, TruthUSA, Missouri League, Spintech, and Free-Market.Net

Liberals, predictably, oppose President Bush's newly created White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, on separation of church and state grounds. Christians and conservatives should likewise stand foursquare against it on biblical, constitutional and historical grounds.

The details of the Bush program, otherwise known as "Armies of Compassion" (AOC), will become increasingly clear in the weeks ahead. However, Bush's campaign web site spelled out the general philosophy. It stated that: "Resources should be devolved, not just to the states, but to the charities and neighborhood healers who need them most, and should be available on a competitive basis to all organizations - including religious groups - that produce results."

At first, Bush's proposal seems harmless. He wants to make it easier for us to write charitable donations off our income taxes. I'll take any tax relief I can get, but I have a better idea: implement substantial tax cuts now, and stop micromanaging how Americans live their lives and spend their money. Truly compassionate people will give more to organizations that help those who are legitimately suffering.

The problem lies with providing taxpayer dollars to religious institutions. II Corinthians 9:7 states that, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." God does not want stolen money, although many pastors do. Tax money is, by definition, given under compulsion. Giving tax dollars to churches and other religious institutions goes against God's word. (Are we talking about armies of compassion or compulsion?)

The "general welfare" clause in the preamble to the Constitution is not a grant of unlimited federal authority to tweak with society and its institutions until arriving at some optimal arrangement. Article I, Section 8 spells out those things the federal government can proactively do. The Tenth Amendment strictly limits Uncle Sam to these enumerated functions. Helping those in need is not a Constitutional duty of the federal government. It is a responsibility which the churches long ago abdicated in large part to the federal government. Under constitutional government, people could keep what they earned and donate it however they pleased, without fear of federal interference or need of federal approval.

(If I might digress, the real outrage of the Linda Chavez episode was the failure of anyone to ask the following question: what kind of government criminalizes simple acts of humanitarianism such as that which derailed Ms. Chavez' nomination? Moreover, will the Bush administration stop criminalizing such acts?)

The relevant golden rule here states that he who has the gold makes the rule. If religious organizations wish to qualify for federal dollars they will have to subject themselves to federal regulations. This is not mere speculation. It would be instructive to look at the history of federal aid to colleges.

In the 1960s, when Congress launched aid to college and university students, everyone was assured that this money would not lead to federal control of higher education. Before long, colleges and universities learned that, in order to keep receiving this aid, they would have to comply with federal affirmative action regulations, racial hiring quotas, and numerous other requirements. It is not an overstatement to say that dependency on federal aid has poisoned higher education in America.

Any university, corporation, or other organization receiving federal monies or contracting with the federal government must now comply with a seemingly endless labyrinth of federal regulations on everything from racial hiring quotas to drug testing. For states to receive federal funding for education, highways, and numerous other purposes, they must likewise surrender a measure of their autonomy to that district from whence all blessings flow. A common conservative argument against school vouchers is that tax dollars for private schools will in turn increase state and federal regulation.

The same dynamic will apply to churches. Accepting federal money always leads to federal control. It is bad enough that for decades churches have been faced with the choice of curtailing their political activity or losing their tax-exempt status. Churches, for the most part, no longer seriously question the modern megastate. The result has been dumbed-down churches, which are more dangerous than dumbed-down schools.

Can you imagine your church being faced with the choice of having to perform homosexual marriages or otherwise losing federal subsidies? Can you imagine having sermons subject to federal scrutiny if your church wishes to keep receiving federal money for a day care center? Can you imagine your church losing federal money because one of its alcohol counselors violated church-state separation by telling the story of the Prodigal Son to an alcoholic in desperate need of help?

Based on the history of federal funding of education, this is what awaits us under AOC. If Caesar has the gold, Caesar makes the rule. Do you want to risk the possibility of a president Hillary Clinton, or a house speaker Dick Gephardt manipulating the purse strings of your church? If President Bush's agenda truly departs from that of the last eight years, why is he so enthusiastic about something as fraught with peril as AOC?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His followers that, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." This is the choice facing churches under AOC. The question is: how many will have the fortitude to choose the right master? If few do, then AOC will be a faith-based recipe for disaster.

For more on this, see It's the End of the Church as We Know It. (I Don't Feel Fine.)

Read Don Crowell's fine letter on "Government Controlled Churches".

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

{short description of image}*** {short description of image}

This page hosted by Get your own Free Home Page.