Nowhere in the Constitution did the founding fathers contemplate a federal government collecting tax money and apportioning it out to every supposed good cause that anyone anywhere could think of. The federal government was never meant to be a charity!
Now a debate is raging about all the taxpayer-funded religious organizations and whether they can have any power to hire people based on their faith if they get federal money. And, critics of those organizations are using the Constitution to call foul! What a lot of nerve! Here is yet another piece of jibber-jabber on the topic, this time from the Jewish Daily Forward:
After much deliberation, an advisory council has presented the White House with a blueprint for reforming the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, to ensure that the bright line separating the public’s money from support for private religious behavior is visible and honored. The recommendations suggest welcome improvements to a federal operation that too often has been fuzzy on serious constitutional issues. But this good work doesn’t go far enough.
Among the recommendations, the council called for the government to amend its rules to clarify that federal funds cannot be used to pay for explicitly religious activities. That ought to be obvious. But it’s not, and the council — drawn from members of many faiths — was wise to stipulate that social service providers not use direct government aid to pay for religious instruction, for example, or disseminating sacred texts.
The faith-based initiative’s aim is not to prop up religion, but to support those religious institutions that help the poor and needy, especially in communities long abandoned by everyone else.
But a larger issue wasn’t even up for discussion. From the outset, the Obama administration instructed the council not to consider whether religious institutions receiving public funds can be required not to discriminate in hiring. The 1964 Civil Rights Act permits such an institution to hire according to faith, to protect freedom of religion. Once public funding for child-care services or drug rehabilitation is in play, however, the church or synagogue should no longer be allowed to discriminate in hiring staff for such programs.
This isn’t a theoretical issue. A prominent refugee resettlement organization that reportedly receives up to 70% of its funds from government sources has just enacted a policy requiring new employees to be Christian [here recently]. It’s legal. But is it right? And can the faith-based initiative continue to blur constitutional lines and earn our support?
Let me make a really novel suggestion, how about if we follow the Constitution and give no government funding to any non-profit group! Then the religious ones will be free and able to hire only those of their faith!