When the Founding Fathers created the Bill of Rights, they made sure that in the 1st Amendment there was protection against the government instituting any type of religion-based establishment. The so-called “establishment clause” protects Americans from being forced into complying with any religion as its primary function, but it also should prohibit the government from giving taxpayer dollars to religious organizations, because by definition, it is unconstitutional. Since Ronald Reagan pandered to the Religious Right even though he hardly attended any church, religious leaders have made progress in transforming America into a Christian nation with the help and blessing of every president since Reagan opened the floodgates. For the past 6 months, Republicans have used faith as their primary weapon in their war on women and as expected, the Christian fundamentalists’ influence in Congress and the states has grown exponentially as women pay the price for living in a country where theocracy is rapidly replacing the archaic representative democracy.
In 2001, after only nine days in office, George W. Bush signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) as compensation to evangelical Christians for their support during the 2000 general election; the office is part of the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Whether or not the OFBCI panders and pays taxpayer dollars to evangelical Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, or the local Wiccan organization, it is patently unconstitutional and has enhanced fundamentalist Christians’ influence on government. It is especially troubling that the OFBCI is part of the White House, because as soon as an extremist fundamentalist president is elected, the OFBCI will be firmly entrenched and will have the full power and authority of the presidency and any remaining semblance of democratic government will be finished.
The argument for faith-based initiatives is that church groups are more in tune with neighborhood and community needs, but that is an argument to justify indoctrination, proselytizing, and evangelizing poor people into the Christian faith in order to receive help funded by the American people. On top of using taxpayer dollars to proselytize and indoctrinate the poor into Christianity, faith-based organizations are exempt from unfair hiring laws because, that’s right, they are religious organizations and are not compelled to follow the rules like the rest of the population who are supporting them. The amount of money being given faith-based groups appears to be in the billions of dollars each year, and besides being used to make disciples for Christ, is being abused by many members of the clergy.
In California, for example, revelations of malfeasance by a county faith-based group tasked with purchasing and renovating homes for the poor has brought investigations and resignations of several evangelical preachers and their families. The administrator and staff took federal dollars and bought homes, redecorated them, and then took up residence instead of renting them to the poor. Most of the homes were in moderate to upscale neighborhoods that suffer from an inordinately high number of foreclosures. Besides spending taxpayer dollars on personal residences meant the low-income families, the staff and director paid themselves hundreds-of thousands of dollars per year to carry out their illegal use of funds. At last count, there were at least 20 homes purchased and being occupied by the administrator and staff, and in a few instances, members of the same family occupied more than one federally funded residence. Although one would like to think that this is an isolated incident, it is more than likely that such cheating goes on around the country in smaller cities and rural areas that are suffering from the downturn in the economy. One of the problems is that the groups monitor and audit themselves because they are good Christians who would never cheat. In the instance in California, the argument being proffered is that the crooked preachers had been conducting their own internal audits for years and county leaders never considered questioning “good Christians and their important charity work.” There is more outrage to the story and it does happen in every city in America.
For some unknown reason, most churches in America can register with the government as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization and besides never having to pay taxes, any income a member of the clergy makes is taxed at a much lower rate (or not at all) than the rest of the population and residences are considered parsonages owned by the church which are tax exempt. It is a racket that the government needs to put a stop to because besides being patently unfair, it is rife with abuse at the hands of good Christian preachers, who, by the way, are driving luxury vehicles paid for by the congregation and the government. If any other American had no visible means of support, drove luxury cars and lived in upscale homes, they would be investigated by the IRS and Drug Enforcement Agency, but because they are good Christians, they are praised for their taxpayer-funded charity work.
The religious groups are also using tax dollars to fund their proselytizing efforts at community shelters and food kitchens. Around the country in many homeless shelters it is required that every person must submit to sermons, prayers, and bible lessons as a requirement for sleeping and eating at the shelter. It is true that any homeless person has the ability to opt out of the evangelizing at the hands of good Christians, but they really have to opt out. The management and administrators of faith-based organizations set the standards and requirements for eating and sleeping at the shelters, and if a homeless person refuses to participate in worship services, they are refused accommodations. Many of the homeless population are veterans who have mental disabilities caused by multiple tours-of-duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and in order to receive a meal and place to sleep, the veterans are required to sit and listen to a bible sermon regardless if they are Christians or not. It is nothing more than taxpayer funded establishment of religion and it is in direct violation of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Americans are suffering in an economy that Republicans created to enrich the wealthy and corporations, and instead of using the precious resources to assist the neediest among us, our government is spending billions of dollars to establish Christianity as the state religion. President Obama did not create the faith-based initiatives, but he has perpetuated the unconstitutional activity and said that the faith-based organizations “deserve a seat at the table when reforms in policies affecting those partnerships are considered.” The president has heeded requests to monitor and insist that the faith-based groups do not proselytize the people getting assistance, but there is no monitoring apparatus in place to ensure that the groups are complying with the law. President Obama has made it a priority of the faith-based initiatives administrator to guarantee there is no religious requirement, indoctrination, or proselytizing using federal dollars.
There are already government entities in place to administer assistance to the needy without subjecting them to bible sermons or prayer services, but vile Republicans in Congress are eliminating or cutting their funding and giving the savings to the wealthy and corporations. There is a serious problem that at a time when government programs and jobs are being slashed out of existence, billions of taxpayer dollars are being given tax-free to religious organizations who write-off their expenditures of our money. It is an outrage of epic proportion, but because the religious extremists hold sway over Congress and the president going into a general election, little will change. It is hardly curious that Republicans are cutting programs to feed low-income seniors, children, and families who are destitute, but they allow government sponsored and funded religious indoctrination subsidized by scarce taxpayer dollars. In fact, in 2004, Republicans moved to pass legislation giving tax incentives to groups and individuals who donated to faith-based groups and nothing has changed since then. Based on the actions of Republican conservative Christians in Congress and state legislatures, there will be no restrictions on faith-based organizations and there will be no spending cuts to the unconstitutional establishment of Christianity.
With all the problems facing America, it may seem petty to complain about the federal government using taxpayer dollars to establish Christianity as the state religion, but with billions of dollars being handed over to unscrupulous preachers and church groups when the country is in need of money, it requires prompt attention. However, Americans have a reverence for the sacred cow that is religion and it is why abuse and malfeasance is so rampant. In American cities where fraud and abuse are reported, there is seldom any mention of a church or clergy’s wrongdoing because Americans never criticize god’s servants whether they are stealing money meant for low-income families or raping little children in the local parish. There is nothing sacred about doing “god’s work;” especially when the American people are paying for that work with their hard-earned tax dollars.