[A]ll the presidential candidates now seem to support President Bush’s faith-based initiatives, which enable federal funds to support religious charities. John McCain has affirmed that he would use federal monies to support faith-based charities, especially in education. (Mike Huckabee established a faith-based office when governor of Arkansas.) Hillary Clinton sees no contradiction between “our constitutional principles” and “faith-based initiatives.” And Barack Obama depicted faith-based programs as a “uniquely powerful way of solving problems,” especially for substance abusers.I remember when I first saw President Bush making a speech about his Faith-Based Initiatives saying that it was common sense (a phrase he often invokes when he is advocating something that is not common sense)* and being flabbergasted. Flabbergasted because faith-based initiatives are unambiguously exactly the sort of thing that the 1st amendment was intended to prohibit. They represent a direct attack on the principle of church/state separation.
The faith-based initiatives were never enacted into law by Congress but rather were created by George W. Bush’s executive order. A new president could end them with the stroke of a pen—but apparently that will not happen.
And as the editorial notes, President Bush created this program by Executive order when he was unable to get this program through Congress. Not only is the program a violation of the 1st amendment, but its existence represents the President usurping the powers of Congress. Yet none of the remaining candidates with the exception of Ron Paul are openly critical of a program that is a combination of a cynical Karl Rove plot to purchase evangelical votes and Marvin Olasky's Christian Reconstructionist inspired vision of recreating the 19th century religious charity model.
The monarchical concept of a Unitary Executive which has animated this presidency seems like it will be surviving at least in some water-downed form no matter who wins the '08 presidential election. The candidates question the implementation of this program but not the legitimacy of its existence and thus the "center" of American politics takes another shift in the direction of the conservative movement.
This is why I will not give Obama (whom I presume to be the eventual Democratic candidate) a pass for his Christocrat campaigning. Just because the Bush administration has been bad (indeed, possibly the worst ever) we should not forget our principles because we manage to elect someone who will be significantly less bad (i.e. better.)
*This might be a reflection of Bush's education in Luntz speak.