Respectful Insolence

(Note Addendum before commenting, please.)

Is there any candidate who still supports the separation of church and state anymore? Heck, even Barack Obama seems to be pandering to the religious base these days:

CHICAGO — 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.

“The challenges we face today … are simply too big for government to solve alone,” Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. “We need all hands on deck.”

Obama’s announcement is part of a series of events leading up to Friday’s Fourth of July holiday that are focused on American values.

Worse, not only does he plan on making this program the “moral center” of his administration and renaming it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, he’s even favoring giving funds to groups that fire and hire based on religion:

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-taxypayer 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.

That’s a distinction without a real difference. After all, any money that a faith-based group receives from the federal government is money that frees up other parts of its budget to do other things–such as proselytize. Moreover, giving public funding to groups that base hiring decisions on whether or not an applicant shares the faith of the organization gives the government imprimatur on the concept that it is acceptable to discriminate based on religion.

Can someone explain to me again how Obama is supposed to be such a great candidate? These days, he strikes me as almost trying to outdo McCain when it comes to pandering,. Given how corrupt the Office of Faith-based Initiatives is already, why on earth would anyone want to expand it? Never mind that there shouldn’t be a government office of faith-based anything in the first place.

ADDENDUM: It’s been pointed out that there is a correction in the article linked to above. (That correction was not there when I wrote this early this morning.) The correction reads thusly:

Note: The Associated Press initially reported Obama supports “their (faith-based organizations’) ability to hire and fire based on faith.” NBC reports the campaign says Obama’s plan would prevent organizations from discriminating based on faith. The Associated Press changed its wording to say, “some ability to hire and fire based on faith.” The campaign says this second version is still inaccurate.

Let’s assume that that’s true for the moment and the story included a dubious quote. Even if so, it only mildly changes my opinion. For one thing, it doesn’t change that there shouldn’t be an office of faith-based anything in the federal government. That’s not an appropriate function of the federal government. For another thing, it doesn’t change my opinion that expanding such an office is a continuation under a “kinder, gentler” guise of the assault on the separation of church and state begun under the Bush administration, no matter how “benign”-seeming the rhetoric. (The bit about the road to hell being paved with good intentions comes to mind.) Moreover, even with the restrictions in this position statement, it doesn’t change the fact that giving money to faith-based organizations to do one thing frees up money for them to use for other things–such as proselytizing.

If such a proposal came from the Bush Administration with similar wording, there’d be a hue and a cry about mixing government and religion. Oh, wait, it did. All these apologetics about Obama’s initiative from people who castigate Bush for mixing religion and politics strike me as nothing more than a naive faith that “our guy” will do better at the same thing. It would be one thing if either Bush’s original initiative or this one were nothing more than changing the rules to allow faith-based groups to compete with secular groups for federal grant money, but it’s more than that. It’s the placement of an office in the White House whose primary purpose is to coordinate money going through religious-based groups. When government meddles in religion, it corrupts both. I don’t see how this plan by Obama would be any different.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark
    July 1, 2008

    Well, those faith-based charities provide “hope” with the taxpayers’ “change”…

  2. #2 kevin
    July 1, 2008

    (This from what I just responded to your post at Mad Mike’s place…)

    Orac – do you have any information about this from Obama directly, or from his campaign?

    The msnbc story you linked has, right in paragraph 2, a big disclaimer that the Obama campaign specifically denies the meat of the story, namely that Obama “supports funding organizations that base their employment decisions on religion.”

    The AP says they won’t change their story (they changed “supports” to “some”, and seem peeved that the Obama campaign still objects), but gives only the scantest evidence of such an assertion (from, as expected, an anonymous source). The quotes they give from Obama himself seemed pretty benign, and in line with what he has said before — religious people need to be “part of the solution”.

    I’m also a bit disturbed that you would even bother to cite fox news in the first place [at Mike the Mad Biologist]. They have less than zero credibility in my mind — about the same as linking an Obama story from world nut daily.

    -Kevin

  3. #3 Orac
    July 1, 2008

    Uh, dude, I cited MSNBC here and saw the story on Fox, Yahoo! and numerous other sites. Your hitting on the Fox News angle is disingenuous in the extreme and a red herring. It’s just a reprint of an AP story.

    I do notice that in the time since I wrote this and when it autoposted the the correction you noted pops up. (It wasn’t there early this morning.) Even if absolutely true, it only mildly changes my opinion, because Obama shouldn’t be supporting expanding any office of “faith-based” anything. It’s still pandering, and it’s still an assault on the separation of church and state.

  4. #4 Ryan Lanham
    July 1, 2008
  5. #5 The Ridger
    July 1, 2008

    Well, if that was the only difference between them it would be extremely disturbing. As it is, it’s only mildly disturbing, and not as bad as his yapping about taking on Iran, to be frank.

  6. #6 sdg
    July 1, 2008

    That’s a distinction without a real difference. After all, any money that a faith-based group receives from the federal government is money that frees up other parts of its budget to do other things–such as proselytize.

    i clicked the link and read the story before reading the rest of your post and when i read the part about hiring i thought exactly what you wrote about it.

    throughout the campaign(s), i’ve kept hoping (audaciously perhaps) that obama is just talking up religion to get elected, that he just joined trinity for local political gain, and that upon being inaugurated he will say, “so long suckas. i hate jebus!” (or something to that effect)

    i am losing hope.

  7. #7 Mark
    July 1, 2008

    For those of you convinced that this story is a double-secret GOP plot to smear Obama, here it is from the man himself:

    “I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea — so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.”
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0708/11462.html

    So you can’t discriminate “with the grant money”, but as Orac noted, that is not the same as “no discrimination”. Plus, it still pumps taxpayer money to religious nutjobs.

  8. #8 Joe V.
    July 1, 2008

    So, I’m an ACLU-card-carrying, secularist progressive, but I don’t have a problem with what the Obama campaign is suggesting (assuming the AP story is indeed wrong about hiring/firing based on faith). In my community, all the biggest, best and most effective charitable organizations are connected to a church. To me it just makes logistical sense to help these people work with the infrastructure they’ve already established, provided they can’t discriminate or proselytize to the people they’re serving. The proposed program won’t exclude secular organizations either.

  9. #9 sdg
    July 1, 2008

    the politico article certainly makes the situation seem less bad. why don’t they just change the name to “Council for Community Partnerships”?

  10. #10 Orac
    July 1, 2008

    Probably because the “Council for Community Partnerships” wouldn’t get the evangelicals on board.

  11. #11 Orac
    July 1, 2008

    So, I’m an ACLU-card-carrying, secularist progressive, but I don’t have a problem with what the Obama campaign is suggesting (assuming the AP story is indeed wrong about hiring/firing based on faith). In my community, all the biggest, best and most effective charitable organizations are connected to a church. To me it just makes logistical sense to help these people work with the infrastructure they’ve already established, provided they can’t discriminate or proselytize to the people they’re serving. The proposed program won’t exclude secular organizations either.

    Then may I assume that you have no problem with George Bush’s Office of Faith-based Initiatives? After all, according to its rules, groups receiving money are not allowed to discriminate or proselytize the people they’re serving, either, nor does the OFBI exclude secular organizations.

    On paper, anyway.

  12. #13 Martin Robbins
    July 1, 2008

    Looking at this whole election business as an outsider,I can’t help but feel that a lot of people in the liberal blogging community are really building Obama up in their minds to be some kind of amazing post-Bush saviour. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather him than McCain any day, but I can’t help but feel that a lot of you are going to be disappointed with the result a year or two down the line, just like a lot of British people were disappointed once the Blair honeymoon ended.

  13. #14 Hume's Ghost
    July 1, 2008

    I wrote something about this today, myself. And over at Glenn Greenwald’s blog where Greenwald has been examining Obama’s triangulations over the last two weeks http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/07/01/obama/index.html I raised the point about federal funding allowing the shuffling of funds, which makes the prohibition on discrimination difficult to enforce.

    There’s also the problem of this program having expanded and exacerbated religious groups lobbying for federal funds – such money and influence begging tends to corrupt civic government and religious institutions.

    In my post on this I noted that James Madison himself opposed faith based welfare and that Madison advised us in Memorial and Remonstrance to remember that it is underlying principle that should concern us:

    “[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of [the] noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it.”

  14. #15 Hume's Ghost
    July 1, 2008

    and here’s the Madison quote about why he opposed faith based welfare:

    “Because the bill vests in said incorporated church an authority to provide for the support of the poor and the education of poor children of the same, an authority which, being altogether superfluous if the provision is to be the result of pious charity, would be a precedent for giving religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”

  15. #16 Hume's Ghost
    July 1, 2008

    ‘All these apologetics about Obama’s initiative from people who castigate Bush for mixing religion and politics strike me as nothing more than a naive faith that “our guy” will do better at the same thing.’

    “[I]t would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism.” – Thomas Jefferson, Draft of the “Kentucky Resolutions” (1798)

  16. #17 Becca
    July 1, 2008

    Tell me again how Barack Obama is any better than George W. Bush when it comes to pandering to religious extremists?
    Obama: “I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

    Bush:
    “Mr. Bush said in the interview, according to a transcript, ‘I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.’ Asked again by a reporter whether he believed that both sides in the debate between evolution and intelligent design should be taught in the schools, Mr. Bush replied that he did, ‘so people can understand what the debate is about.'”

    Now, from those quotes, do you think the people each man is trying to appeal to might differ slightly?

    I would say Obama panders to mainstream American garden-variety Christians by saying that the government should try to encourage people to do good, even if through organizations that have some basis in faith. Cause, you know, Darwin-forbid we give money to habitat for humanity or something.
    Bush panders to fringe right wing American lunatic-variety Christians.

    Just because you don’t like Christianty doesn’t make most faith based charities the province of “religious extremists”.
    Your position may be right, but you will not convince me by pretending there is no difference between Obama and Bush. I think you need to try to demonstrate that this office does more harm than good, rather than just saying “pandering to religious people = awful”

  17. #18 J-Dog
    July 1, 2008

    The bottom line is that Obama believes in the seperation of church and state – bush and the rethuglicans don’t.

    Personally i think all faith-based whatever is total crap, but I also realize that most of the rubes have some kind of belief system in place, usually involving some sort of sky father. Yeah, they are ALL Looney, but I’d rather have Obama than Johnny McSame.

  18. #19 Ktesibios
    July 1, 2008

    The only purpose Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiatves” cookie jar ever had was wingnut welfare- a backhanded way of funneling taxpayer money to right-wing-authoritarian organizations calling themselves “churches”.

    To continue something which was begun as an assault against the separation of church and state and a means of using tax money to construct an extremist partisan political machine is madness, as is thinking that it can be “fixed”.

    To make an analogy, if the city installed sprinklers on the streets specifically designed to spray toxic industrial waste on peoples’ lawns, pledging to fix it so that it only sprays liquefied dogshit isn’t much of a campaign promise.

    This absolutely stinks of the usual overpaid DLC “consultants”.

  19. #20 Orac
    July 1, 2008

    Just because you don’t like Christianty doesn’t make most faith
    based charities the province of “religious extremists”.

    Who said I don’t like Christianity?

    Just askin’.

    What I don’t like is mixing religion and politics in such a naked fashion.

  20. #21 Orac
    July 1, 2008

    The bottom line is that Obama believes in the seperation of church and state – bush and the rethuglicans don’t.

    More like Obama says he believes in the separation of church and state. His proposing to expand the OFBI makes me wonder if he really does.

  21. #22 D. C. Sessions
    July 1, 2008

    Hate to break the news, but politics is one of the most Darwinian systems around. Traits that don’t enhance political survival [1] are ruthlessly selected against.

    Senator Obama is a successful politician. Please don’t even pretend to be surprised if he displays the survival traits required for his ecological niche. (That said, there are strategies within the subspecies which differentiate the members. Some, such as Senator McCain, are less artful about their protective coloration than others who at least “stay bought” instead of running open bids.)

    [1] Read, “getting elected”

  22. #23 JThompson
    July 1, 2008

    The fact that Obama speaks of nontheists in speeches as if they were people instead of an evil cancer trying to seduce the nations children into secularism, homosexuality, drugs, and whatever other stupidity Bush can come up with is what makes him better, at least if he sticks to that once he’s elected.

    Handing over taxpayer money to groups that already don’t pay taxes is pure stupidity. I’d imagine the groups Obama approve of differ slightly from the ones Bush does, though.

    As for the reason religious charities do better than other ones: Try getting tax exemption without jeeezus. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s also easier to talk people out of their money when you can throw gawd into it. Televangelists are proof of that.

  23. #24 ks
    July 1, 2008

    I tend to agree with Orac, but I think in light of the correction from the AP that a “wait and see” approach is more appropriate before concluding that Obama even “likely” does not believe in separation of church in state. Another piece of evidence to consider is his recent stance on the California ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage. The opposition to same-sex marriage stands on religious ground, and opposing a legal ruling on the matter is, loosely, a form of separation.

  24. #25 D. C. Sessions
    July 1, 2008

    ks:

    The opposition to same-sex marriage stands on religious ground, and opposing a legal ruling on the matter is, loosely, a form of separation.

    That could have been clearer.

  25. #26 Adrienne
    July 1, 2008

    Well, I still like Obama better than McCain, but I’m not “in love” with the guy. I think what the earlier commenter said re: not building Obama up as this amazing post-Bush savior is right on. You know, it might come down to the “lesser of two evils” choice for me, as it usually does. Obama isn’t perfect, and he stumbled on the whole antivac thing too (as Orac pointed out earlier). I think that more than anything, I’m just looking forward to the end of the Bush reign, even if the next one along is McCain.

  26. #27 Prometheus
    July 1, 2008

    Once again, politicians will say anything they think will help them get elected. Apparently, Obama has read the winds and feels that “the people” want to have federal tax money go to “faith based” social programs.

    I suspect, as DC Sessions mentioned, that any politician who has reached the federal level will have “selected out” any qualms they might once have had about saying things they don’t believe. In fact, I suspect that “successful” (i.e. currently employed) politicians don’t actually have personal beliefs – those have been replaced by polls and focus groups.

    I don’t believe politicians when they say things I agree with and I don’t believe them when they say things I don’t agree with. After all, they’ll change their tune as soon as the wind shifts.

    Not being a politician, I do have personal beliefs and values and my values tell me that giving my tax money to a “faith based” organization is an egregious violation of the separation of church and state. Others may disagree, but I feel that any money given to a religious organization improves its ability to spread its message.

    I object to being forced – by the IRS – to support religion, either directly or indirectly. Money, after all, is a fungible resource, so saying that federal money is given “just for charitable work” is ridiculous. Money given to support charitable activities allows the religious groups to shift money to prosletizing, church building or other non-charitable activities.

    Prometheus

  27. #28 Blake Stacey
    July 1, 2008

    Has this story come up here yet &mdash “Traditional Chinese medicine could be a remedy for failure at Olympics“?

  28. #29 J-Dog
    July 1, 2008

    I live in IL, and emailed Obama back in 2003 – seems like a lifetime agao – when Santorem was making ugly ID noises in the Senate. I asked him to bitch-slap Santorem and tell him to STFU. Obama emailed back that while he wouldn’t slap Santoremn, he did believe ID was religioulsy motivated, amd he did believe in the seperation of church and state.

    So, since this exchange was before the big Presidential bid, (announcement anyway), my thinking is that it is his real position. And, yeah, I DO realize people can change their positions…especially in politics, but I STILL would rather have Obama than Johnny Windsock McSame.

  29. #30 D. C. Sessions
    July 1, 2008

    Prometheus:

    I don’t believe politicians when they say things I agree with and I don’t believe them when they say things I don’t agree with. After all, they’ll change their tune as soon as the wind shifts.

    I wouldn’t go that far. Total weather-vane politicians lose credibility (think, “brand value.”) Even McCain isn’t stupid enough to flap around quite that promiscuously; he does his research as far as what positions will gain him net votes before announcing his principled positions.

    A certain consistency (think of it as the politician’s “brand”) is prudent marketing, because it’s often easier to lose a voter than to gain one. Of course, groups vary in that regard: Democrats generally treat the “black vote” as being so captive that they can take it for granted, just as Republicans take the “social conservatives” (aka religious right) as safe territory.

    The post-Reagan dynamic is the realization that there are more votes to be had from stirring up the “safe” wings than from trying to swing the center. This accounts for both the increased polarization of recent years and the care that pols lavish on maintaining their “brand identity.”

  30. #31 NickG
    July 1, 2008

    The problem is that while I would be all for Orac, Anthony Romero, or Jon Stewart for prez, you won’t get elected (well, maybe Stewart in a few years). I love you guys, but you just won’t play in Peoria for exactly the reason that you realize that faith based bullshit is just that.

    So while I don’t want my taxes wasted on that, it worries me less than candidates that are not solidly pro-choice, pro (at least near) universal health insurance, and have passable stances on poverty and global warming.

    Its like the death penalty – its morally repugnant in any developed nation. However, how many people die each year from execution in the US? How many die each year from diabetes and hypertension treatable with medicines that cost $30 a month? How many women die needlessly because when they first felt the lump in their breast they didn’t go to the doctor because they had no insurance?

    I don’t think for a second that Obama, (either) Clinton, Edwards, or several other Democratic politicians who publicly support the death penalty actually do. But about 2/3 of the US does support it so you currently won’t get elected the POTUS if you oppose it. And while its repugnant, to take an all or nothing stance on it ignores other more pressing issues. Its actually not unlike the idea of rationing in medicine… you can’t save everyone, but you do the most good possible for the most people possible.

    That noise you just heard was my youthful idealism dissolving in a puddle of black oil.

  31. #32 Jud
    July 1, 2008

    It’s very obviously aimed at diminishing still further the evangelical community’s less-than-enthusiastic support for McCain, but I’m still disappointed.

  32. #33 wfjag
    July 1, 2008

    “Can someone explain to me again how Obama is supposed to be such a great candidate?”

    Orac — You’ve obviously never been “SAVED!” in the tent revival tradition. The preacher comes to town; the tent goes up; and the “traveling salvation show” gets ta mov’n. Brother — It’s about HOPE! Sister — It’s about FAITH! YOU’VE got to BELIEVE! WE can CHANGE the WORLD. WE CAN DO IT. WE CAN ELIMINATE POVERTY, CRIME, WAAARR AND OOO-PPRESSION!

    But!!! It begins with YOU! YOU have to GIVE! YOU have to GIVE TILL IT HURTS!!! YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE!! SO GIVE NOW — till it HURTS. Show your COMMITTMENT TO HOPE, to FAITH and TO CHANGE!!! We can do it. Just repeat. We CAN do it. WE CAN do it. WE CAN DO IT!!!

    A few days later, the tent is gone, the preacher is gone, your money is gone, but you still have the same issues and problems you had before.

    Think that’s too cynical an assessment? Go back and watch Obama’s address to the AIPAC. If Jimmy Swaggart had been tickling the ivories and a few folks had rolled in the aisles (talking in “tongues” is optional), it would have passed for a good, ole time revival.

  33. #34 Cassidy
    July 1, 2008

    @JThompson:

    I think that’s a very important point. I heard this story on the radio, so they played some clips from the speech, and while I can’t regurgitate the exact quotation, I recall him saying, “Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, believer or nonbeliever.” Considering our current prez thinks of us as unworthy of American citizenship, this is a big step.

  34. #35 Ralph Dosser
    July 1, 2008

    If Obama can successfully split a sizable chunk of the evangelical Christian community away from the GOP, then the GOP will cease to exist as a meaningful national political entity. I’ll gladly throw some churches a few bucks for soup kitchens to see that happen.

  35. #36 Ralph Dosser
    July 1, 2008

    Oh, and I should add I’m an atheist.

  36. #37 D. C. Sessions
    July 1, 2008

    If Obama can successfully split a sizable chunk of the evangelical Christian community away from the GOP, then the GOP will cease to exist as a meaningful national political entity. I’ll gladly throw some churches a few bucks for soup kitchens to see that happen.

    I wouldn’t go that far — the GOP rather predates its current captivity by the fundie theocrats. Barry Goldwater comes to mind, for instance.

    Back when the South was yellow-dog Democrat country, the foaming-at-the-mouth set were more likely to split their votes. Roe v. Wade and the Civil Rights movement sort of broke that up, and the next thing you know the Republicans were addicted to the single-issue voters who were dedicated to putting prayer back in the schools and women back in the kitchen, by force as necessary.

    If the Democrats could (and I doubt that they can) take the bible-thumping monkey off the Republicans’s backs, the GOP would be better for it in the long run — as would we all.

  37. #38 Harry Eagar
    July 1, 2008

    Anybody who says ‘faith-based’ when he means ‘religious’ is trying to fool you.

  38. #39 Ranson
    July 2, 2008

    According to one of my few evangelical friends, Obama isn’t going to win any real measure of the right-wing church vote, not matter what he says. These people think McCain is too liberal, and they don’t even get force-fed a daily line of obfuscation and fearmongering about him. At best, this is a weak and misguided pander on Obama’s part.

    As someone else hypothesisized (and I can’t for the life of me remember who), Obama may be simply trying to mitigate the evangelical “outrage” against himself, so that they’ll turn out in less force against him. The lower the level of frothing-at-the-mouth hatred, the less likely he is to see people going door-to-door offering to drive opposing voters to the polls. That way, though he doesn’t win many of their votes, there may just be fewer cast against him. I don’t know how well that would work, but it may make more sense than the blatant pander.

    While there has been virtually no question that I was going to vote Democrat this time, no matter the candidate (and I’m a lifelong Republican (soon to be independent)), I’m not exactly enamored of Obama as the final choice. I liked him better than Clinton, but my first choice was Richardson. I consider this election to be all about Supreme Court appointees, and there’s no way I’m leaving my rights in the hands of someone who could appoint another Scalia.

  39. #40 Interrobang
    July 2, 2008

    The problem I can see about what Obama said regarding enforcing the proposed regulations is: How do you enforce those regulations? I honestly can’t see a way of doing it workably. Not only that, but if the hypothetical Obama Administration manages to somehow enforce those regulations, how much do you want to bet some right-wing ratfucker will stir up the other side, claiming, “You can’t do that! That’s religious persecution!” It doesn’t have to be true, it just has to play well in Poughkeepsie.

    I’m also not a fan of the idea that every dollar you free up in a religious organisation by providing a state subsidy for charitable/education/whatever work is a dollar that organisation has to spend doing religious activities.

  40. #41 Orac
    July 2, 2008

    I’m also not a fan of the idea that every dollar you free up in a religious
    organisation by providing a state subsidy for charitable/education/whatever
    work is a dollar that organisation has to spend doing religious activities.

    A bit of a straw man. I never said that every dollar freed up by state subsidies is a dollar that a religious organization has to spend doing religious activities. It’s a dollar they can spend on religious activities that they might not have been able to before.

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