Friday, March 10, 2006

A Public Service Announcement

This came to me as a sudden miracle when I was reading about Bush's faith-based initiatives. We are now going to have them even in Homeland Security. One article discussing the faith-based programs tries to reassure us that a separation between church and state still remains:

Baltimore's Davenport says all of the people involved with The Door are "people who want to put their faith to work by serving those in need."

However, he adds, there is no religious component to any of the programs, other than perhaps saying grace when snacks are served to the students. And he says children of all faiths, or no faith, are allowed to attend.

At the center, there is no evidence of religion, other than that the building is a former church. There are no religious icons or pictures in view. Students receive individualized instruction in reading and math, much like any other school, although classes are smaller. Davenport says there are no required church services, no breaks for Bible reading. However, he says, religious values of respect for one another, humility, kindness and service to others are what make the programs run. "Faith is a key part of our programs, but any religion is done on our dollar, not on federal dollars," Davenport says.

The bolds are mine, to draw attention to a common argument in this context, that the federal money is somehow earmarked for secular stuff and has no impact on the faith-spreading stuff. This is very false.

Consider a case where a church has, say, fifty thousand dollars a year to spend on both good deeds and preaching the faith, and they decide to divide it into two equal halves. Then the faith-based grants come along and this church wins a twenty-five thousand dollar grant for its good deeds program. What is the effect of this on the preaching part? It has now twice as much money to use as before, if the church decides not to expand its social program.

So we have just enabled a church to double its resources on religious activities, and we have done it through tax-payer money.