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  • Monday, September 12, 2005


    Faith Based Government Spending

    I was curious about the government's "faith based" initiatives: How much money is distributed and what is the proportional distribution of various religions (Christian, Jewish, etc.) among the groups receiving money? Relatedly, is there a Christian bias or preference in such distribution?

    This is obviously far beyond the capabilities of a simple blog post and related web research. But I thought I'd give it a shot.

    First I have to point out a fairly obvious limitation of religious charity social programs. By their very nature, such programs are initiated and guided by institutional religious values. Whether they are overtly proselytizing or not, these programs are steeped in religious belief. This affects their philosophy and their goals. I don't mean their belief in God; I mean their priorities and methods for creating programs vis-à-vis their moral structure. A Christian program for troubled teens at risk of pregnancy will probably not thoroughly mention methods of birth control, much less abortion as a possible option in the event of pregnancy.

    I was able to find an interesting piece on the financial side over on TheocracyWatch. But even this is inconclusive. All emphasis mine.

    How much are taxpayers paying for what Barry Lynn, Executive Director of American's United calls "federally subsidized employment discrimination?" According to Daniel Zwerdling who produced two programs on faith-based initiative for Bill Moyers TV show NOW in September, 2003, "administration spokesmen say they can't break down how much money has gone so far to religious groups .. they claim they don't keep that information."

    The March, 2004, issue of Church and State reports that the "Faith Czar" Jim Towey announced to reporters that $40 billion dollars was now available to religious charities.

    By studying White House press releases and the White House web site, Daniel Zwerdling found that religious groups could apply to more than a hundred federal programs that gave out more than $65 billion. In addition, religious groups ccould apply for more money through state-administered programs.

    From the Washington Post, January 4, 2005:

    .. in 2003, groups dubbed "faith-based" received $1.17 billion in grants from federal agencies, according to documents provided by the White House to the Associated Press.

    That's not enough, said H. James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. An additional $40 billion in federal money is given out by state governments, he said..

    Speaking of Mr. Towey, the following is from a November 26, 2003 online discussion with Jim Towey, Director of Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives:

    Colby, from Centralia MO writes:
    Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

    Jim Towey
    I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.

    Since the number of practicing Neo-Pagans in the US probably surpasses the number of Quakers or Unitarian-Universalists, perhaps Mr. Towey isn't looking hard enough. I also love the way he says Neo-Pagans: 1) Don't care for the poor, 2) proselytize, 3) are fringe, and 4) don't have the will and love to carry out such work. It's actually amazing how much insult he can pack into three sentences while sounding mildly amused at the very concept of a Neo-Pagan charity group. (BTW, I use Neo-Pagan to describe relatively recent (circa 1940s to the present) revivals of older polytheistic religions and so-called "new religions." Pagan more accurately describes native and indigenous religions with a relatively unbroken lineage and heritage.)

    Like so many of my posts chronicling my little cyberjaunts through subjects, I have no conclusions. But I like asking questions and seeing where they lead me.

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