I've been sort of following messages on MyDD, a blog on political issues that seems to focus on changing things in the Democratic Party. This is not usually a focus for me but the I decided to respond to the following inquiry about whether it wouldn't be better if the Democrats dropped blocking gun-control laws and "faith-based" initiatives. The first paragraph is the question, the second is my response. MyDD :: Educate Me
The second is faith-based initiatives. Now, I am not talking about adopting the federal grants for teaching abstinence, which I believe has been repeatedly shown to be bad policy. However, I think it is a good idea to eliminate some of the barriers that prevent the federal government from working with relief and charity organizations. Certainly, we do not want federal money going to those in need only if they attend bible study, but at the same time do we really want to deny people help because of an abstraction? I think Democrats running on keeping, even expanding, faith-based initiatives is a good idea. Shouldn't we encourage the efforts of those with faith to help people? As long as the funding isn't going to abstinence-only programs, which do not work, or with strings attached about attending the church / temple / mosque in question, which would be an establishment of religion, I think it is a good idea.
As you've commented, just because a charity is sponsored by a religion isn't a ipso facto reason to NOT give them money as long as performing religious rites or prayer isn't required to receive the services. (As an aside, I think this is a very hard rule to enforce, given that some services are in church buildings, decorated with religious symbols, etc.) Of more concern to me is the equity of distribution of such funds to religious charities of various denominations. Are Muslim charities really getting "faith-based" money in proportion to their work? Suppose a Wiccan group applies for such funding? (It's against many Wiccans beliefs to proselytize therefore, in a nonpreferential system, would make them excellent receipients for funds.) And if you think it too strange to give funds to Witches doing charity work, you've already answered the question. Can distribution of such funds really be non-denominational?