'Faith-Based' Religious Discrimination and the Failures of Conservatives and Modern Conservatism

While there's been a lot of discussion about David Kuo's book Tempting Faith, the wee lil' Mad Biologist seems to be the only one who has viewed the intentional rejection of proposals from non-Christian religious organizations as religious discrimination ('no Jews need apply'). This discrimination is why funding faith-based organizations based on their religiosity and not on what they would to do advance the interest of the Republic is so odious.

At a personal level, it represents the failure of individual conservatives: certain people thought it was appropriate to discriminate against Americans different from themselves. But these aren't a few bad apples. This is the obvious consequence of what happens when you mix politics with religion: you sully both. Digby writes:

Whether out of a cynical power grab, as it most certainly is with many of the preachers and all of the Republican politicians including Joe Lieberman, or whether out of a sincere desire for people to know Jesus, this is a recipe for disaster. Right now, they only have to content with atheistic malcontents like me who don't appreciate my tax dollars going to religion at the expense of other programs. But it's only a matter of time before it sets off infighting among the churches themselves....

This is not to say that only a rightwing Christian would do such a thing. It could be anyone who had a vested interest in the outcome --- which is exactly why people like this woman should not have been making such decisions. But how can you say that committed religious people should not be involved in such things? You can't even ask the question. The only way to deal with this is for religion not to be involved in such things.

Digby is wrong about one thing. It's not "a matter of time before it sets off infighting." As far as this Jew is concerned, the infighting has already started, although right now, it's 'Christians' against everyone else. But let's look at the particulars of the discrimination. This is from Kuo's book (italics mine):

Many of the grant-winning organizations that rose to the top of this process were politically friendly to the administration. Bishop Harold Ray of Redemptive Life Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach had been one of the most vocal black voices supporting the president during the 2000 election. His newly-created National Center for Faith-Based Initiatives somehow scored a 98 out of a possible 100. Pat Robertson's overseas aid organization, Operation Blessing, scored a 95.67. Nueva Esperanza, an umbrella of other Hispanic ministries, headed by President Bush's leading Hispanic ally, Luis Cortez, received a 95.33. The Institute for Youth Development, that works to send positive messages to youth, earned a 94.67. The Institute's head was a former Robertson staffer. Even more bizarre, a new organization called "We Care America" received a 99.67 on its grant review. It was the second highest score. They called themselves a "network of networks" an "organizer of organizations". They had a staff of three, all from the world of Washington politics, and all very Republican. They were on tap to receive more than $2.5 million.

All this information trickled in to our office when we requested updates on the Compassion Capital Fund. It took a while, but we finally got the list of recommended grantees. It was obvious that the ratings were a farce.

[A few years later,] my wife Kim and I were together with a group of friends and acquaintances. Someone mentioned that I used to work at the White House in the faith-based office. A woman piped up and said, "Really? Wow, I was on the peer-review panel for the first Compassion Capital Fund." I asked her about how she liked it and she said it was fun. She talked about how the government employees gave them grant review instructions - look at everything objectively against a discreet list of requirements and score accordingly. "But," she said with a giggle, "when I saw one of those non-Christian groups in the set I was reviewing, I just stopped looking at them and gave them a zero."

At first I laughed. A funny joke. Not so much. She was proud and giggling and didn't get that there was a problem with that. I asked if she knew of others who'd done the same. "Oh sure, a lot of us did." She must have seen my surprise, "Was there a problem with that?"

I told her there was actually a huge problem with that. The programs were to be faith-neutral. Our goal was equal treatment for faith-based groups, not special treatment for them. This was a smart and accomplished Christian woman. She got it immediately. But what she did comported with her understanding of what the faith-initiative was supposed to do - help Christian groups - and with her faith. She wanted people to know Jesus.

And Digby calls bullshit. She wasn't innocent; she, and her colleagues, knew they were engaged in religious discrimination, and they did not care (just like the creationists who don't care about lying either). Digby again:

And I hate to be nasty about this, but this woman he describes is not actually an innocent. She giggled about how clever she was for automatically giving the non-religious Christian groups a zero because she was among people whom she obviously assumed would approve of such behavior. When she saw that she was dealing with someone of integrity she backed off and pretended not to have realized that she was not being a good Christian or a responsible adult. It was not a simple misunderstanding.

So having gone through the particulars, I wonder why, as we begin the 21st century, using the government to overtly discriminate against certain religions is not a political issue? In fact, it's not even on the radar screen. And I also have to wonder why we have forgotten what so many have learned through bloodshed: politics and religion do not mix.

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So, I wonder when the first Jewish group that got a zero files suit? A little discovery of the records of the Compassion Capital Fund ought to work wonders.