Detail from Simon Dewey, Christ - Touch of Faith (Source: Eras Magazine)
Heaven help us!
24-Mar-06. George W Bush puts all his trust in "a higher Father," and that's OK. What's not OK is that that is no way to run a government. With all the problems that the Department of Homeland Insecurity has to worry about — like, say, "security" — W wants it to devote resources to smoothing the way for "faith-based" organizations as they go about doing their good works. I'm not making this up.
On March 7, 2006, W signed Executive Order 13397--Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, directing the DHS to establish a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.—Executive Order 13397 (Full text here [PDF])
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
Leaving aside for the moment the merits and wisdom, not to mention the constitutionality, of the whole faith-based initiatives program, What the hell does this have to do with homeland security? Our ports aren't protected; grannies take off their shoes before boarding an airplane but uninspected air cargo flies with them in the same plane; our chemical plants are shockingly unprotected from sabotage or attack; there's a war going on that we're not winning; and W wants Chertoff to worry about this? In sports this would be called not playing your position. Surely "regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles" would be issues for the the departments of Commerce, Treasury, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, or whatever, not Homeland Security.
But now let's go back to the merits and wisdom and constitutionality of the whole faith-based initiatives program that was put aside temporarily. The Founding Fathers had the right idea when they realized that religion and government don't mix — Amendment I. There is no question that many religious organizations do good works. The problem is that when they are essentially made adjuncts of the government through "faith-based initiatives" certain ones are inevitably supported and others not, and that government support helps to establish those as more legitimate than others. And we have seen this played out in spades under the Bush administration. The Republican party is now in thrall to the Christian Right. I would have thought that "make no law respecting an establishment of religion" perfectly clear, but W and his ilk have worked assiduously to dismantle the separation of Church and State. The first amendment says "establishment of religion" and to me that means any religion. What part of that don't these Bushies get?