[Hpn] Faith Based Initiative
Mon, 25 Jun 2001 18:06:44 EDT
From: Jeremy Reynalds, Executive Director Joy Junction, New Mexico's
largest emergency homeless shelter.
I thought that list members may be interested in the following.
The Bush administration is hoping that an endorsement from the U.S.
Conference of Mayors Monday will breathe new life into President Bush's
controversial plan to provide government funding to faith based charities.
As founder and executive director of New Mexico's largest emergency
homeless shelter (and speaking personally, a conservative social and fiscal
Republican as well as a Bush supporter), I contend that it's time for the
President's plan to die. The whole idea is flawed and is bad business for the
very organizations it purports to help.
To show you how bad it is, let me explain by using some of the points
made by the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State;
a group with which I have many serious points of contention. ( When I DO
agree with even one of the points made by Americans United, you've gotta know
there's something going on which deserves your careful scrutiny).
Just in case you'd never heard of them before, Americans United (AU) is
according to the group's web site, " a religious liberty watchdog group based
in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization (claims to) represents
70,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states."
Well, here's something that hasn't received a lot of attention; either in
evangelical or in secular media. According to the AU, the Bush administration
has told Congress that faith-based groups will be unable to include religious
activities in their programs if they receive government funding.
Speaking before a House Judiciciary Subcommittee on June 7, a Justice
Department attorney representing the White House was asked if a faith-based
group would be allowed to take funds under the Bush plan and still hold
religious activities? According to a report on the AU web site, the attorney
‘s answer was "no."
This appears to be a real about-face for the Bush administration, but an
inevitable one nonetheless. Allowing Christian faith based groups to receive
government funding and continue with their religious programs seemed to me to
be a sure fire way to generate a plethora of lawsuits; if not from individual
clients being assisted by the faith based groups, most certainly from
organizations such as Americans United and the American Civil Liberties
Not surprisingly, the AU's Executive Director Rev. Barry Lynn was quick
to comment on the Bush administration's apparent flip flop, calling it "a
major departure from the Bush administration's past stance (and one that
means the White House) "is either in full retreat or complete disarray ... In
the past, the president and his allies have insisted that religious groups
get funding without sacrificing their religious character. Now Bush's people
seem to be saying religious groups must drop all religious activity if they
get public funds. Which is it?"
Good question; which indeed? If the legislative uncertainty wasn't enough
of a good reason for turning down government monies, here's another good
reason. Lynn correctly observes that faith based ministries opting for
government funding are in effect providing an open invitation for the
government to regulate their religion. That's because the government is
obligated to regulate everything that it funds. As Lynn comments, "Once
churches, temples, mosques and synagogues are being financed by the public,
some of their freedom will be placed in jeopardy by the almost certain
regulation to follow. Houses of worship that have flourished as private
institutions may suddenly have their books audited or face regular spot
checks by federal inspectors in order to ensure appropriate ‘accountability.'"
Faith based "ministries" desiring federal intrusion should go ahead and
take government funding. The faith-based element of their program will
quickly become as extinct as the dinosaur. Those wanting to maintain and even
increase their faith- based distinctive might consider doing what we have
done and are continuing to do at Joy Junction.
Firstly, we have never taken and have no plans to ever take government
funding or do anything that might jeopardize the evangelical Christian
underpinning upon which Joy Junction is built.
Secondarily, we are beginning to turn away any offers of volunteer help
for our guests that are opposed to our Christian philosophy. Some of you may
recall, a few months ago we turned down an approximately $1200.00 gift that
was raised by a gay group that decided to stage a drag show. While we exist
to help the homeless, we do in conformity with basic Christian principles. We
felt that such activities undermined the very essence of our existence.
Soon after, we changed the on-site medical providers for our guests at
Joy Junction, from a group that while offering excellent medical care held
viewpoints that were incompatible with ours, to a volunteer doctor and his
team that minister spiritually while they are assisting medically.
Additionally, while the local school district offers an excellent after
school tutoring program for homeless kids, it is based upon secular
humanistic philosophy and sometimes espouses viewpoints that are incompatible
with evangelical Christianity. As soon as enough qualified individuals of our
faith persuasion come forward, we will move from the secular program to one
that embraces an evangelical perspective.
And so the list goes on. Our philosophy will be that we want to provide
the very best care and assistance for our guests. There will always be
shelter, food and Bible study. Also included amongst a variety of other
important skills being taught might be maintenance, computer skills, resume
writing, lessons in how to balance a check and dressing for success.
But emphasized in the teaching as the foundational building block upon
which all of these skills should be based will be the necessity of having a
relationship with Jesus Christ. At Joy Junction (along with President Bush)
we believe that faith is the most important key toward getting back on one's
feet again. Those faith-based ministries electing to take government funding
will have to decide whether they still believe that.