Friday, September 30, 2005

Faith-Based Initiatives In the Wake of Hurricane Katrina

From Joseph Farah:

Thanks to the urging of Republican officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to transfer taxpayer money to churches and other religious organizations as reimbursement for providing shelter, food and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

That was the "good news" from Washington this week.

The American Civil Liberties Union wasn't happy about it – and neither am I. We differ only on our reasons.

The ACLU, of course, believes the allocation of federal tax dollars to religious groups for any reason is a violation of the First Amendment prohibition against establishing a state church.

But the idea that the First Amendment forbids the government from promoting religion in the broadest terms is just plain bogus. It wasn't true for 200 years of American history. This is a recent invention of extremists who would share little in the way of civic values and republican philosophy with Thomas Jefferson – the man who coined the term "separation of church and state."

Jefferson didn't believe in anything remotely resembling our modern notions of "separation of church and state." His concerns, and the concerns of the other founders, were all based on how government might harm churches, not vice versa.

And it is this concern of mine – not any phony First Amendment issues – that leads me to oppose this latest government attempt to seduce the church.

We don't need it. Like practically everything else government touches, it's going to do more harm than good. It will result in profligate waste and inefficiency. And though there is no First Amendment problem with the idea, there very definitely is a constitutional problem.

The charity programs to be funded have nothing to do with the enumerated powers of the federal government. In other words, they are none of Washington's business. They are rightly the domain of the churches and private charities, not the U.S. government.

This represents the government's latest bid to usurp the authority and mission of the churches. It's the church's job to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and nurse the sick – not the U.S. government's.

Government has already far exceeded its constitutional authority and largely hijacked this vital role from the church. That's neither to the church's credit, nor the government's.

I'm glad to see Farah coming out against this. I have another problem with churches being given money for services by the government. That is, such an arrangement will make churches beholden to the government, which will inevitably lead to churches changing their services to fit the dictates off the government. While the government doesn't do a lot of things well, one of the things it does do well is attatch strings to the money it hands out. The church would wind up hanging in a tangle of red tape, some of which would go against the foundational beliefs of Christianity.

In short, the Church will become a fee-for-service organization. As the Bride of Christ, were not supposed to be getting paid for our Love.