Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A sellout to the protestant right?

Obama to expand Bush's faith based programs

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support some ability to hire and fire based on faith.
Obama was unveiling his approach to getting religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks Tuesday in Zanesville, Ohio, at Eastside Community Ministry, which provides food, clothes, youth ministry and other services.

But Obama's support for letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions could invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination.

Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. He also only supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxpayer funded portions of their activities, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy.
David Kuo called Obama's approach smart, impressive and well thought-out but took a wait-and-see attitude about whether it would deliver.

I'm not much rattled by this. Obama's support of FISA is more serious. Every poll I've read indicates that hard core evangelicals would never vote for Obama in numbers significant enough to warrant going after them. Never mind David Kuo's reaction; he's disappointed by Bush, but remains a completely politicized religious right winger with unbreakable ties to the Repugs. But once the federal money spigot is turned on, it's very difficult to turn it off.

This speech was delivered In a central Ohio town, at a local, mainstream Presbyterian USA church. It's being spun on the surface toward evangelicals; underneath, this was as much a message to centrist protestants & Catholics, denominations with established social service agencies & missions that don't have a rep for evangelizing the people they serve, but do have concerns about the kinds of strings that are attached to public money. Catholic charities help undocumented immigrants & would turn away government funding rather than be required to rat those people out to the Feds. I'd like to hear reassurances from Obama on that matter. & we must keep religion out of public funded birth control & sex ed matters. But mainstream church agencies & programs are the absolute bottom safety set for a lot of desperately needy people in America, in places where government has left gaping holes in the net. Bush's desire was to substitute religion-based social services for government aid. He screwed even that up. With Katrina, America learned what would happen when Brownie's FEMA couldn't do a fine job. I don't believe Obama intends that neglect of federal responsibities. I don't like a Faith-Based Social Services program operating out of the White House. Unfortunately, we already have one. If Obama grabs Ohio & PA with this promise, I suppose it's worth it.

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