The question of faith-based aid

On the face of it, many progressives will strenuously object to a "center for faith-based aid" being set up within the Department of Homeland Security.

By presidential fiat (now known, euphemistically as an "executive order"), Bush "ordered the Department of Homeland Security yesterday to create a center for faith-based and community initiatives within 45 days to eliminate regulatory, contracting and programmatic barriers to providing federal funds to religious groups to deliver social services," according to the Washington Post.

And it's understandable. There's little reason to trust that the Bush administration won't use this mechanism to funnel money to favored supporters and denominations while ignoring the violations that're sure to ensue.

Violations like giving money to faith-based charities that discriminate in their hiring. Take the Salvation Army, for example, which not only doesn't hire Muslims and Jews, but also requires that employees "both report where they go to church and that they agree with the Army's mission: To proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They were subsequently sued, though they won the case and continue to discriminate as they spend your tax dollars.

But that's not the whole story.

Take Katrina. Despite the problems of overlap and redundancy, religious organizations did often provide aid when federal agencies were unable (or unwilling) to. FEMA is reimbursing many of them for the aid they provided.

As the Post article points out, that reimbursement -- taking money from the government at all -- is controversial among religious orgs, though the article picks a crappy and deeply-flawed example in Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing...

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.