Wallis should have had the foresight to see through a scheme that would give politicians a way to gain leverage over houses of faith. It is hard to maintain a prophetic voice when every time you bark at injustice you are biting the hand that feeds you.
Obama came into office promising change. Many of us were hoping that he would change the faith-based program, or, better yet, to end it. It was soon apparent that putting an end to the office was not going to happen. As David Kuo revealed in his book "Tempting Faith," the office became an essential component in efforts to turn-out-the-vote for the President's re-election.
From the beginning it appears that Obama, being a politician, could not resist the temptation to use the office for his own political purposes. An article in today's Wall Street Journal says Obama is using the faith-based office to court religious conservatives:
President Barack Obama's willingness to keep Bush-era policies on government-backed religious charities opposed by many liberals is helping to woo traditionally Republican evangelical leaders who can influence key blocs of voters.By now it should be apparent to everyone that the real purpose of the faith-based office has more to do with politics than with helping the poor. Politicians in both parties are using the office to influence religious leaders. Most religious leaders, liberal and conservative, are lapping it up like so many Esau's selling their birthrights for a bowl of soup. Here, have another heaping helping of easy money and loose accountability.
The approach, according to conservative leaders and liberal critics alike, is part of a broader strategy by Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats to regain credibility with centrist and conservative voters who tend to be more religious and have supported the GOP in recent polls and elections.
Not everyone thinks this is such a good idea. On Huffington Post today, Rev. Barry Lynn lists the efforts that he and some others like the Baptist Joint Committee have made, to no avail, to get the president to correct the most egregious problems with faith-based programs. Barry writes,
For example, I argued that all public funds that go to a house of worship to operate social services should be handled by a separately incorporated nonprofit -- or at least be kept in a separate bank account so we can keep track of how the money is spent. A 2006 report by the General Accounting Office examined faith-based offices in several federal agencies and found a lack of oversight of these programs.All Barry is asking for here is that the President put an end to the easy money and loose accountability. In a nutshell, that's what the government's faith-based programs are. But, it doesn't appear that Obama will be making any meaningful changes to this system.
Again I reiterate what I wrote in a 2004 blog, "If the devil himself designed a government program to encourage corruption and undermine the integrity of the church's witness, could he devise a more effective plan?"