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...

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