Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Obama Faith-based Regulations Permit Discriminatory Hiring Practices

The Obama administration has just issued new guidelines for the office of faith-based initiatives.  Americans United and the Baptist Joint Committee have both issued statements conveying their disappointment that the new guidelines do not address the issue of discrimination in hiring for religious non-profits who receive federal funds.  AU's Barry Lynn said, “Taxpayer money should never be used to underwrite religion or religious bias.” BJC's Brent Walker said, "It is simply wrong for the government to subsidize religious discrimination."

There are serious problems with religious non-profits receiving federal funds while maintaining discriminatory hiring practices with the use of those funds.  I've written about this before.  Here's reprise of my May 18, 2006 blog on Anne Lown and the Salvation Army:

I got a copy of Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming and started reading this superb book last night.

One story that Michelle told stopped me in my tracks. The story disturbed me so much that I had to put the book down and walk around the block to lower my blood pressure. It was the story about the "Christianization" of the social services division of the Salvation Army.

I have a vague recollection of reading newspaper articles about the Salvation Army receiving federal money while purging itself of homosexuals and non-Christians, but Michelle's account of her interview of Anne Lown, daughter of the nobel prize winning physician and peace activist Dr. Bernard Lown, personalized the issue and clarified the values that are at stake.

Here's a quote from Kingdom Coming:

Lown, who had been an employee at the Salvation Army for twenty-four years and oversaw 800 workers, said religion had never had anything to do with her job. As long as she'd been there, the New York social services division had been independent from the evangelical side of the organization. Her office ran more public programs than any Salvation Army division in the United States, most of them for children. Almost all of the money came from the state and local government, and Lown assumed that it would be illegal to infuse taxpayer-funded services with Christianity. Her division had gay, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu employees, reflecting the city it served. (p. 130)
Before this administration took office, it was "illegal to infuse taxpayer-funded services with Christianity." When those responsible for enforcing the law and upholding the constitution refuse to do so -- and actively work to undermine it -- anything is permitted.

Apparently, the Salvation Army decided to take advantage of this administration's lax enforcement of the first amendment. Colonel Paul Kelly was brought in to "heighten the agency's evangelical aspect." Here's another quote:

According to the complaint filed by the NYCLU, Kelly asked the human resources director at the Salvation Army headquarters, Maureen Schmidt, whether one of the human resource staffers at the social services division, Margaret Geissman, was Jewish, because she had a "Jewish sounding name."
Schmidt told him she was not. Geissman, who described herself to me as a conservative Catholic, told me that Schmidt then started asking her to point out gay and non-Christian employees at the division. She refused to answer, but day after day Schmidt kept pushing. "She said Kelly wanted to know and that eventually they were going to find out about everyone," Geissman told me. "She said the new vision for the Salvation Army was to have Christians and Salvationists and not to have homosexuals." (p. 131)

Anyone who has studied the holocaust knows the resonances of these conversations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Universal Health Care Became a Socialist Idea

Rachel Maddows' recent interview with insurance industry whistleblower Wedell Potter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mike Huckabee's Campaign for President Begins in Earnest

Ethics Daily is reporting that about two months ago around 40 Conservative Christian leaders gathered near the airport in Dallas to plot the political overthrow of President Obama. The meeting was convened by Evangelist James Robison.

In another article, Robert Parham chides these leaders for calling their plot a "prayer meeting."

30 years ago, James Robison convened a meeting like this and the result was the election of Ronald Reagan as president.

30 years ago Mike Huckabee quit seminary to assist Robison and his coterie of conservative clergy in their efforts. Later, he parlayed his connections to become governor of Arkansas. Now, Mike Huckabee is running for President of the United States.

For the past two years Huckabee has been courting the far out religious conservatives who think democracy is heresy and want an American theocracy. Some of those at Robison's recent meeting in Dallas are undoubtedly in that camp. Most of them, however, are simple Christian Nationalists who are opposed to the first amendment's disestablishment clause and want to impose conservative Christian morality on all society by force of law. The latter group appears more moderate to the public and has a larger audience within the conservative Christian community.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Southern Baptist Pastor Calls for More Dialogue on Bullying

Ed Sasnett, Pastor of Northeast Baptist Church spoke about the need for more dialogue about the problem of bullying in Norman. Sasnett spoke at a public dialogue on respect, tolerance and bullying sponsored by the Xenia Institute. The event was organized as a response to the suicide of Zack Harrington after a recent contentious city council meeting in which numerous abusive comments about homosexuals were spoken by members of the Norman community. The Norman Transcript's report about Sasnett's comments makes it clear that Sasnett is a voice of compassion and reason within a community that has acquired a reputation for arrogance and abuse:

“Everyone should have the freedom to give an opinion without being called names,” Sasnett said. “There are always going to be differences of opinion that are irreconcilable, but the opinions must be expressed in a way that is not abusive.”

. . .

Sasnett said he would like to see more small-group initiatives where those with opposing viewpoints could express themselves “in a respectful way.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On Shopping for Energy Efficiency, a new non-profit devoted to making it easy for consumers to find the most energy efficient products, unveiled their new website yesterday in a press release:

On, visitors will find lists of the 10 best choices for each product category, along with pricing, specifications, local and online retail options, and personalized rebate information.

“We want to make it easy for consumers to find, choose, and buy the most efficient products on the market,” said Norman L. Dean, President of TopTen USA. “We’re spurring an upward spiral toward efficiency—the more consumers demand it, the more emphasis manufacturers will place on efficiency. Rather than copying technology to meet a standard, manufacturers will be innovating to be the best.”

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Former Oklahoma Woman Becomes Deacon in Texas Baptist Church

Helen Moore Montgomery, a Mainstream Baptist and formerly a deacon at First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, has become a deacon at Community North Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas.

The Dallas Morning News recently published a story about her church's historic vote to elect women to serve as deacons. Three other women were elected to serve as deacons with her.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Podcast: William Tabbernee Interview

(Podcast 24 MB Mp3) Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-7-10 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. William Tabbernee, Interim Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches and Retired President Emeritus of Phillips Theological Seminary. We talk about his new book "Prophets and Gravestones: An Imaginative History of Montanists and Other Early Christians."

Mainstream Baptist a Favorite Blog at Oklahoma Policy Institute

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has just posted its list of "Favorite Oklahoma Politics and Policy Blogs."

We made their favorites list for "liberal-leaning" blogs.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

On Vouchers for Private School Education

Last night I debated Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute in a forum on “Religion in the Public Square” hosted by the Federalist Society and the ACLU of Tulsa University Law School. My time for rebuttal was up before I could challenge Bandow’s advocacy of vouchers for private school education. During the ensuing lively question and answer session the topic did not arise.  If I had an opportunity to speak to this issue, I would have said something along these lines:

There are a lot of things that could be done to improve public education in this country. Vouchers for private school education is not among them. We need realistic solutions for problems in the real world. The Cato Institute is offering idealistic solutions for a libertarian utopia. The latest article on school choice posted on the Cato Institute’s website makes that fairly clear. Andrew Coulson in his 2009 article Comparing Public, Private, and Market Schools: The International Evidence all but admits that evidence for the effectiveness of school choice in this country is weak:

“Would large-scale, free-market reforms improve educational outcomes for American children? This question cannot be reliably answered by looking exclusively at domestic evidence, much less by looking exclusively at existing “school choice” programs. Though many such programs have been implemented around the United States, none has created a truly free and competitive educational marketplace, being too small, too restriction laden, or both. To understand how genuine market forces affect school performance, we must cast a wider net, surveying educational systems from all over the globe.” (p. 31)
Then Coulson describes the utopian conditions that are required for vouchers to be effective:

“I found that school choice and direct payment of fees by parents, autonomy for educators, minimal regulation, vigorous competition among schools, and the profit motive for at least some portion of schools were associated with the most effective and responsive educational systems. The lack of even one or two of these characteristics was associated with inferior outcomes.” (p. 32) (Emphasis mine)
. . .
“A free education market is defined here as a set of competing, minimally regulated, parent-chosen private schools whose tuition prices are not strictly controlled by the state and that are funded (at least in part) directly by parents.” (p. 32) (Emphasis mine)
In Coulson’s ideal world vouchers would provide even the poorest parents with the means needed to directly fund a quality education for their children. In the real world, however, vouchers don’t cover the costs of education in a good private school.  Research has shown that the primary beneficiaries of vouchers were students from wealthier families. In Arizona, the state with the most recent school voucher case to come before the Supreme Court, only 12% of the students using vouchers for private schooling transferred from a public school.  Most of the vouchers are going to students who were already attending non-public schools. (Kevin Welner, NeoVouchers, pp. 45-46)

Transcript Publishes Blog

Today's Norman Transcript published my blog about Haunted Memories.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Christianity Today Covers Baptist Communitarian Controversy

Christianity Today has finally covered the controversy over CBF of North Carolina revising its foundational statements.

Voting Patterns

Yup, those senior citizens on social security and medicare must have gotten riled up against Obama's socialized medicine.

Income Inequality in America

The Economic Policy Institute has just released a preview of their report on the state of working America.

The chart above makes it clear where the income gains have been concentrated.