Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Senator Obama plans to continue Bush assault on church/state separation

The AP reports that presidential candidate Barack Obama plans to expand President Bush's Faith Based Initiatives program and will "support some ability to hire and fire based on faith."

According to the article, Obama does not support faith based hiring/firing except in the charities non-charity activities. But this was merely stated by an anonymous official (why anonymous?) and would require much greater restrictions and tracking of the use of money given to these organization than is currently being done.

Obama has stated his intention to review and rescind the actions of George W. Bush that he feels are in violation of the Constitution. Apparently, that intention does not extend to an action of Bush in which Obama feels he can benefit from triangulating Bush's "compassionate conservatism" given that Bush's Faith Baised Initiatives program was created by executive order when it failed to get through Congress and that such a program is nakedly at odds with the 1st amendment of the Constitution.

Granted, I suspect that this program under Obama would be less partisan and less corrupt and less a church/state violation than under Bush. But that doesn't matter to me - what matters is the underlying principle and that by leaving this program in place it leaves in place the possibility of future abuse such as that which has already occurred. Nevermind that it also leaves in place a program that was dreamed up as part of plan to slowly turn America into a theocracy.
As James Madison put it:

[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of [the] noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it.
Update: Glenn Greenwald on Obama's triangulation of the conservative movement over the past two weeks alone, in which:

Obama has done the following:

*intervened in a Democratic Congressional primary to support one of the worst Bush-enabling Blue Dogs over a credible, progressive challenger;

* announced his support for Bush's FISA bill, reversing himself completely on this issue;

* sided with the Scalia/Thomas faction in two highly charged Supreme Court decisions;

* repudiated Wesley Clark and embraced the patently false media narrative that Clark had "dishonored McCain's service" (and for the best commentary I've seen, by far, on the Clark matter, see this appropriately indignant piece by Iraq veteran Brandon Friedman);

* condemned MoveOn.org for its newspaper advertisement criticizing Gen. Petraeus;

* defended his own patriotism by impugning the patriotism of others, specifically those in what he described as the "the so-called counter-culture of the Sixties" for "attacking the symbols, and in extreme cases, the very idea, of America itself" and -- echoing Jeanne Kirkpatrick's 1984 RNC speech -- "blaming America for all that was wrong with the world";

* unveiled plans "to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and -- in a move sure to cause controversy . . . letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions," a move that could "invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination" -- something not even the Bush faith programs allowed.
I was going to write something myself about Obama having criticized Wesley Clark. It's so terribly frustrating. Republicans and movement conservatives attack and smear John Kerry ruthlessly. Wesley Clark answers a question that having been a POW is not in itself a qualification for president, i.e. it is not a substitute for substance on issues, and the conservative movement explodes in a fit of feigned outrage over the "swift-boating" of John McCain. Last time I checked, no one was going on tv to say that McCain staged his POW status or self-inflicted his war injuries like Michelle Malkin did to John Kerry.

Yet Obama went out and denounced Clark, thereby legitimizing a tactic and the unprincipled phony outrage that surely is going to be used against Obama in the future. Sure enough, last night when the Republican hack on Hannity and Colmes was challenged by Colmes that Republicans were making a mountain out of a molehill she responded that that was not the case because Obama himself had repudiated Clark. In other words, from now until the end of the campaign if anyone questions McCain being an authority on foreign policy simply by fact of having military experience then the noise machine can claim the phony moral highground that has been validated by the candidate who will suffer for it.

Sociologists need to be studying Democrats to try and understand what it is that gives them what seems to be a pathological need to constantly capitulate to Republicans.

Update II: Alex KoppelmanSteve Benen obtained a copy of Senator Obama's speech and he does intend to track the use of federal money to prevent discrimination in hiring/firing. I am not nearly as sanguine about this as Koppelman Benen is, however. Primarily because of my already stated objections to the program in principle.

Update III: My thoughts on this whole matter are pretty nearly identical to those expressed by Orac.

Let's assume that that's true for the moment and the story included a dubious quote. Even if so, it only mildly changes my opinion. For one thing, it doesn't change that there shouldn't be an office of faith-based anything in the federal government. That's not an appropriate function of the federal government. For another thing, it doesn't change my opinion that expanding such an office is a continuation under a "kinder, gentler" guise of the assault on the separation of church and state begun under the Bush administration, no matter how "benign"-seeming the rhetoric. (The bit about the road to hell being paved with good intentions comes to mind.) Moreover, even with the restrictions in this position statement, it doesn't change the fact that giving money to faith-based organizations to do one thing frees up money for them to use for other things--such as proselytizing.

If such a proposal came from the Bush Administration with similar wording, there'd be a hue and a cry about mixing government and religion. Oh, wait, it did. All these apologetics about Obama's initiative from people who castigate Bush for mixing religion and politics strike me as nothing more than a naive faith that "our guy" will do better at the same thing. It would be one thing if either Bush's original initiative or this one were nothing more than changing the rules to allow faith-based groups to compete with secular groups for federal grant money, but it's more than that. It's the placement of an office in the White House whose primary purpose is to coordinate money going through religious-based groups. When government meddles in religion, it corrupts both. I don't see how this plan by Obama would be any different.

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