[Hpn] Faith-based "human services" justify cuts in public aid? (fwd)
Sat, 20 Jan 2001 15:10:56 -0800 (PST)
** Will "faith-based human services" justify more cuts in public aid? **
Also, please "trim text below" to _only_ the parts to which you reply directly:
A Toronto Star article follows the one below:
FWD The Globe & Mail - 13 January 2001
BUSH'S CHRISTIAN GURU MARVIN OLASKY AIMS TO RESHAPE AMERICA
Opponents Fear Reversal of Country's Principles
by Doug Saunders
AUSTIN -- Marvin Olasky won't be in Washington next Saturday when George
W. Bush becomes president, taking the oath of office on a Bible used by
his father at his inauguration and also used at the nation's first
presidential inauguration of George Washington in 1789. Mr. Olasky isn't
one for big parties and hoopla. But the writings of the little-known Texas
professor -- ideas that would break down the traditional barriers between
church and state -- will be on the lips of many members of the new
Republican ascendancy, including its leader.
The phrase "compassionate conservatism" tripped off Mr. Bush's
lips hundreds of times during the campaign.
It sounded, to most observers, like something aimed at
appeasing moderate voters. But to fundamentalist Christian conservatives,
it signified the beginning of a radical public-policy experiment,
one that is neither glib nor moderate.
The phrase was coined by Mr. Olasky, a slight, tweedy man who
teaches journalism at the University of Texas and has become one of
Mr. Bush's most influential intellectual advisers. He did not hold
an official position in Mr. Bush's Texas administration and that
won't change as the former governor moves to the White House.
But Mr. Bush is preparing to make the professor's ideas a central part
of his government.
In short, compassionate conservatism is a taxpayer-funded mission
to allow religious groups to provide most government social
programs, allowing them to operate homeless shelters, drug-treatment
programs, pregnancy-counselling services, prisons and unemployment offices
-- even if their mission is to convert their clients to religious faith.
To opponents who charge that this will set social programs back
a century, Mr. Olasky pleads guilty. This, he says, is exactly the point.
"Historically, what we've found is the most useful kind
of poverty-fighting is spiritual," he said in an interview yesterday
at his home in the hilly suburbs of Austin. "If I've been any use in this
process, it's [been by] bringing up some history and showing how in this
country we knew how to fight poverty, through compassion that's
challenging and personal and spiritual. And we forgot that in the 20th
Mr. Olasky, like Mr. Bush, is a fundamentalist born-again Christian. The
two have shared ideas since 1993, shortly before Mr. Bush was elected
governor. Their last meeting was just last month. Mr. Olasky's book,
Compassionate Conservatism, published last year, contains a laudatory
introduction by the President-elect and a reprint of a campaign speech in
which Mr. Bush promised to bring religious groups into the government fold.
"In every instance where my administration sees a responsibility to help
people, we will look first to faith-based organizations, charities and
community groups that have shown their ability to save and change lives,"
Mr. Bush said, adding that the greatest hope for the poor is not found in
"reform" but in "redemption." In other words, religious belief.
In recent days, Mr. Bush has created an Office of Faith-Based Programs.
It likely will be headed by Stephen Goldsmith, a former Republican mayor
of Indianapolis who allowed religious groups to offer many of the city's
social services. Mr. Bush has promised to expand the scope of a 1996 law
that allows people to redirect tax dollars to private charities and
religious groups. He has stressed that those programs will also be offered
by non-religious organizations.
Mr. Olasky and his followers believe that poverty is not caused by
a lack of money, but by a lack of moral values on behalf of the poor. As
such, they see welfare as a poor alternative to religion.
"When I've gone around and talked to guys who've been homeless for
a long time or are alcoholics or addicts, when they do come out of
it, nine times out of 10, in my experience, it's a
religious transformation," Mr. Olasky said. "When you're thinking about
helping the people in the greatest need, then it doesn't happen
except through a type of religious transformation."
Many Republicans and religious conservatives believe that the Office of
Faith-Based Programs should be just the beginning. Jesse Helms, the
Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said this
week that foreign aid should be placed under the care of religious
All of this has raised the ire of freedom-of-expression groups
and constitutional scholars, who point out that the United States
was founded on the notion of a resolutely secular state. It is one of
the few major Western nations, along with France, whose Constitution
does not have a theological basis (mention of God in the Pledge
of Allegiance and the In God We Trust slogan on currency were added
just decades ago to differentiate the United States from
"This is on its face a kind of constitutional crisis. The merger
of church and state in the White House represents a terrible reversal
of the country's principles," said Barry Lynn, head of the
Washington advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, he notes, contains the phrase
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof," and the Supreme Court has
interpreted this to mean that governments cannot direct funds to religious
But Mr. Olasky and his followers believe separation of church and state
is based on a misinterpretation of the Constitution. In his books, he
offers a rereading of U.S. history in which such luminaries as Thomas
Jefferson and James Madison are replaced by more spiritually minded early
"The government was meant to be secular in the sense of not preferring
any religion. That's what the First Amendment was all about," Mr. Olasky
said yesterday. "The founders would have seen what we've done to the
public square not as neutrality, but as nakedness."
Mr. Olasky has devoted his life to extremes. Raised in the Jewish faith,
his political views became increasingly radical and isolated at
university. He joined the Communist Party in the early 1970s, when even
members of the extreme left had rejected Moscow-style leadership. He
toured the Soviet Union and became an agitator on the University of
Michigan campus, until a second, equally dramatic transformation occurred,
shortly after he married his second wife, Susan Northway.
"We asked ourselves which denomination represented the extreme opposite
of the hard-left," Ms. Northway said in a 1999 interview. "Then we looked
in the phone book and found the Conservative Baptist Church. By the end of
that summer of '76, we had come to Christ."
In 1985, Mr. Olasky founded a weekly newsmagazine, World, which reviews
events from a rigidly biblical perspective (he claims it is now the
fourth-largest newsmagazine in the country). He created a new Presbyterian
church suited to his views. A decade later, his book, The Tragedy of
American Compassion, which introduced the concept of compassionate
conservatism, got him noticed in Washington.
When Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House
of Representatives in 1994, he sent a copy of the book to
every congressman. It was eagerly read by George W. Bush, who had
converted to fundamentalist Christianity in the 1980s in an effort to end
his drinking problems.
During his tenure as Texas governor, Mr. Bush became the first
state leader to allow proselytizing Christian organizations to
offer state-funded social programs, including a ministry-run prison program.
Mr. Olasky and Mr. Bush appear to have met at an opportune moment, when
devoutly religious citizens -- almost half of all Americans believe that
the Bible is literally true -- felt profoundly alienated from their
Throughout his election campaign, Mr. Bush made outspoken appeals
to disenfranchised Christians. His Democratic opponent, Al Gore, is
also a fundamentalist Christian and made equally frequent mentions of
God and Jesus Christ on the stump, but Mr. Bush peppered his
speeches with phrases, such as "personal redemption," that carry
special meaning for the religious right.
A poll of 1,500 Americans conducted this week by Public Agenda,
a nonprofit research organization, found that 44 per cent
think government funding for social services offered by religious groups
is "a good idea." About 30 per cent consider it "a bad idea," while
23 per cent would support it if the programs did not carry
In other words, many Americans seem to agree with Mr. Olasky
that religious and secular groups should compete for the souls of
the American poor.
"The thing that's been debated for 2000 years is what is Caesar's
and what is God's," he said. "You can't dissociate your policymaking
from religious views, but you can do what Bush does, which is neither
to encourage nor discourage religious groups, but to judge by results."
The Toronto Star January 14, 2001
PLAGUE OF PRIVITIZATION IS ROBBING OUR CITIZENS
By Dalton Camp
A friend, standing in line at a railway station washroom in Britain,
observed the following sign, erected by the management: "Due to service
improvement, there are reduced toilet facilities on this floor."
This, in the lexicon of the academic community, is known as "plastic
speech," in which vacuity is employed with the intention of assuring the
ignorant and the helpless that someone is in control and all is well, all
evidence to the contrary. My favourite has always been that Secretary of
Defence Robert MacNamara during the rigorous brutality of the ancien regime
in Vietnam against the enemy: "Autocratic methods within a democratic
framework were required to restore order."
These methods, under the rubric of "autocratic methods" permitted
torture, the routine abasement of human dignity and worth, but are
justified by bureaucratic vapidity.
New British rail system has produced chaos, with frequent delays and a
marked decline in quality of passenger service
British Rail, once a wholly owned public railway, has been sacrificed to
the gods of privatization. Instead of one publicly-owned railway,
privatization gave Britons 25 new railways. These, Britons were assured,
would provide improved service, healthy competition, lower fares and
The result has been chaos. Apart from much plastic speech, there was an
awesome decline in the quality of passenger service, frequent delays and
cancellations, not to mention the increased danger to life and limb now
provided by a public service driven by the lust for private profit.
And profits there are; privatized railroading has proved a gravy train
for the investor. As for the public, its rewards have been few and, of
course, the government is still shelling out millions of pounds in subsidy
for maintenance and other infrastructure costs. The British experience
speaks eloquently to the high public cost of free market capitalism.
Consider the illusionary bonanza of deregulation of the airline industry
both in Canada and the United States. While the public was promised the
benefits of open skies, which would include more competition, lower fares,
and improved service, Canada now has a high cost, non-competitive industry
in which flying has become a luxury. In the United States, where its
citizens are raised to believe that patriotism and capitalism are synonyms,
air travel has become a health hazard and will soon become a near monopoly
business. Given the lack of regulation, America's open skies have become
filled with bankrupt airlines and high altitude mergers.
We could, I suppose, travel by bus. But could we live without power? The
citizens of California are in the process of finding out. Four years ago,
the California state legislature voted unanimously to deregulate its power
industry given the assurance, in the language of The New York Times, "that
market forces would bring power costs down." This was, The Times adds, "a
dramatic miscalculation as it turned out."
California's largest private utilities are `sliding into bankruptcy' and
leaving people in the dark
As of this hour, California's two largest private utilities are "sliding
into bankruptcy." Responding to the growing crisis, the government of the
state, proclaiming deregulation a failure, has promised, in The Times'
description, "to reassert the state's control over its power market." This
would include steps to control power plants, grids, and prices. Privatizers
and free market theorists will complain of these developments, but
Californians will likely think it better than sitting in the dark.
The plague of privatization has robbed the citizens of their joint
properties - railroads, airlines, air terminals, "the King's highways" and
public space. And as its dark twin, deregulation, brings only misery to the
general population, someone might think to ask if there is any mechanism or
method of accountability somewhere. John Locke put it very simply: Members
of the society authorize others to act for them "to make laws . . . as the
public good of the society shall require." But then, we have this spell
whereby the legislators make laws only as the private good may require.
All this may have been more tolerable were it not for the fact that so
much was done in the name of a dubious philosophy, part of which argued
that government could not serve the public interest nearly as well as could
If we have learned anything, out of all this misadventure, inconvenience
and risky business, it is that it just ain't so.
Dalton Camp is a political commentator. His column appears Wednesday and
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