Challenging the Faith-Based Payoff

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Certain words brand you as a screwball in America today: conspiracy theorist. Elvis sighting. Pacifist. Atheist.

Yes, atheist.

On Sunday, ABC News noted a pending Supreme Court case, which is testing the constitutionality of the Bush Administration’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. This is the Jesus-fueled gravy train that’s been giving away billions of taxpayer dollars to explicitly religious groups for the delivery of social services. Catholic Charities of New York, $2,500,000 just last year. Roseland Christian Ministries, $800,000. You get the idea.

President Bush has also made a fundamental change in the way this taxpayer money can be spent by recipients. Employers spending the faith-based jackpot can actually discriminate in hiring—they can say, “we will only hire a drug addiction educator who is Christian,” or “we will only hire a pregnancy counselor who is anti-choice,” and pay them with federal tax dollars. Your dollars.

No separating Caesar and God for this Administration. It’s a payoff for the faithful, pure and simple. Not religious faithful—Republican faithful.

Constitutional? The Supreme Court is deciding this right now. So ABC takes the lowest road they can find—‘hey, check out the nutty atheists trying to subvert American government and religion!’ (not that they can clearly distinguish between the two)

They frame the story as atheists vs. religious people, which has two significant problems:
1. Since the “religious” are 2/3 of the country while “atheists” are only 4%, why are these “secular fundamentalists” (what?) allowed to challenge religion in everyone’s lives?
2. This isn’t about the toleration of religion—it’s about government-funded religion. The First Amendment to our Constitution, remember?

It’s just another example of how the media have degenerated into a useless “he said/she said” “both sides of the controversy” approach. You know, the opinion of Creationism vs. the “opinion” of Evolution. The opinion of abortion-creates-breast cancer vs. the “opinion” of biology, chemistry, and epidemiology (and no, of course it doesn’t).

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (appointed by Ronald Reagan himself) said, “Many Americans find the 10 Commandments in accord with their personal beliefs. But we do not count heads before enforcing the First Amendment.”

Just like you don’t have to be gay to value gays’ civil rights, and you don’t need to be a woman to value women’s civil rights, you don’t need to be an atheist to support the separation of church and state.

Shame on ABC News for framing one of the century’s most crucial Supreme Court cases as “the majority faithful vs. the minority screwballs.”

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