Friday, February 05, 2010

More Easy Money and Loose Accountability

Nearly ten years ago I interviewed Jim Wallis on my radio program and challenged him about his support for Clinton's "Charitable Choice" program and Bush's "Faith-based initiatives." I asked him several questions and he had a canned response for each of them. Until I asked him, "What could undermine the integrity of the Church's witness more than easy money and loose accountability." That question stumped him.

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.

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.
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.

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?"

2 comments:

Joe Blackmon said...

Gloating here in Tennessee

Obama admits health care overhaul may die on Hill

By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press Writer Erica Werner, Associated Press Writer – Sat Feb 6, 5:32 am ET
WASHINGTON – No, maybe he can't. President Barack Obama, who insisted he would succeed where other presidents had failed to fix the nation's health care system, now concedes the effort may die in Congress.

The president's newly conflicting signals could frustrate Democratic lawmakers who are hungry for guidance from the White House as they try to salvage the effort to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and hold down spiraling medical costs. Obama's comments Thursday night came hours after Republican Scott Brown was sworn in to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy, leaving Democrats without their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and Obama's signature health legislation with no clear path forward.

"I think it's very important for us to have a methodical, open process over the next several weeks, and then let's go ahead and make a decision," Obama said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

"And it may be that ... if Congress decides we're not going to do it, even after all the facts are laid out, all the options are clear, then the American people can make a judgment as to whether this Congress has done the right thing for them or not,"


So glad to see the American people are going to win this one and scum like you and the Obamassiah have failed.

John King said...

As the old saying goes, "If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas"