Faith-Based Statism

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Last
Thursday the House of Representatives, along largely partisan lines,
approved (233-198) George W. Bush's much-vaunted proposal to give
federal money to religious groups that operate community-based social
programs. Despite the fact that it is unlikely the Senate will approve
comparable legislation, religious groups all over the country are
elated.

I'm
glum, and let me tell you why.

At
the outset, let's acknowledge George W. Bush's good intentions.
In fact, this is a prime case of good intentions translating into
bad consequences. Bush is a professed Christian, and there is every
reason to believe his faith is sincere (unlike that of his predecessor).
Bush's life demonstrably changed after his acceptance of Jesus Christ,
and he boldly declares his allegiance to the Lord – even when such
declarations are not politically advantageous (remember in the campaign
when he asserted that Jesus Christ was the political philosopher
who most influenced his own views? That was an off-the-cuff remark,
one almost impossible to engineer for sound-bite benefit). As a
Christian, Bush recognizes the vital role that churches and other
religious organizations should play in the community, including
the role of furnishing charity and other social service to the needy.
The problem is not his view that religious groups should provide
community charity and other services. The problem is that he wants
to get the Feds involved. Bush may be born again, but God never
promised that everybody born again would be purged of bad ideas.

And
"faith-based" statism is a very bad idea.

Why?
Because state control always accompanies state money. This
is quite obvious in the present legislation. The Left cried bloody
murder when it discovered that Bush's proposed legislation exempted
groups like the Salvation Army from local and state laws forbidding
discrimination in hiring. The Salvation Army (rightly) excludes
homosexuals from its payroll because it (rightly) considers homosexuality
a grievous sin whose practitioners should not be employees in a
Christian organization. The Salvation Army, on this point at least,
enjoys clear Biblical warrant for its hiring policy. It should be
free to maintain this policy (just as homosexual organizations should
be free to maintain a policy prohibiting the hiring of Christians)
without state interference. But the fact is, anytime it wants the
state can alter the criteria by which it doles out the hard-earned
cash it extorted from hard-working citizens, and recipients that
once were the darlings of the state do-gooders can quickly fall
into disfavor with the frequent change of political and social winds.

It
is only fair to mention that the Salvation Army was not in a very
principled position to ask for exemption from such tyrannical laws.
For years it has been on the dole. Now it wants exemption from laws
laid down by the same people that dole out the "free"
funds. The Army would never have gotten into this pickle had it
never taken the state's dough. If you dance with Devil, the romance
is hard to break.

The
Left doesn't want religious organizations using federal funds if
those groups are not in line with federal (or local or state) social
policy (in other words, the politically correct creed of the moment).
This is one time that you'll find me siding with the liberals, though
we oppose this legislation for different reasons. They oppose it
on the grounds of separation of church and state; I oppose it on
the grounds of separation of charity and state. They don't want
the Feds supporting a religion they disfavor (they only want the
Feds supporting the religion they do favor – secular humanism).
I don't want the Feds corrupting the religious groups that receive
their money.

State
money corrupts every religious organization that accepts it; and
if you get state money, you shouldn't whimper when you suffer state
control. Christian universities are a leading example. If they accept
federal funds, and soon become dependent on those funds, they are
at the mercy of the Feds and their gory social engineering. If no
school is deemed worthy of funds unless it teaches Darwinism as
truth, unless it refuses to discriminate against homosexuals in
hiring policy, and unless it lives up to politically correct environmentalist
standards, federally funded Christian schools are presented with
a clear choice: quit taking the Feds' money, or compromise the Faith.
Most opt for the latter. Some like Grove City College and Bob Jones
University do not. About 20 years ago the Feds revoked BJUs tax
exemption because the school prohibited interracial dating. The
school told the Feds to take a hike (though it later relaxed its
dating policy). Today, BJU is the only university in the country
subject to taxation. It values its principles more than it values
the Feds' funds. Any religious organization that values its principles
will reject the offer of state money, even well intentioned state
money, as this money certainly is.

The
Modesto Bee (July 20, 2001) reports: "Religious groups
can do a better job than government agencies in meeting the needs
of the poor, said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill."

I
quite agree. What I don't understand is why the esteemed Speaker
would then feel obliged to get one the biggest government agencies
of all, the Congress, to feed tax money to these religious groups.
Let citizens keep the tax money and give it voluntarily to religious
groups who in turn can use that money to help the poor and others
in the community.

We
need to get the state out of the charity business, out of the education
business, out of the intelligence business, out of the medical business,
out of the environmental business, out of the postal business, out
of the chemical-control business – frankly, out of about every business
there is. The state corrupts virtually all that it touches.

Even
– or perhaps especially – religious organizations.

July
25, 2001

P.
Andrew Sandlin [send him mail]
is Executive Vice President of the Chalcedon
Foundation
a Christian educational organization committed
to applying the Faith to all of life. He has written hundreds of
essays and articles and several books.

P.
Andrew Sandlin Archives

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