For A Faith-Based Initiative to Work, You Gotta Have Faith
By Bonnie Chernin Rogoff
Founder, Jews For Life
August 3, 2001
President Bush's campaign theme was "compassionate conservatism," and with his faith-based initiative, he is trying to make it happen. He is the first President to try to bridge the financial gap between secular and religious organizations to accomplish an important goal: shared efforts will reap greater rewards when helping the poor and homeless. Imagine organizations of all kinds vying for the same federal grant money, yet working together to assist people in repressed communities meet their daily needs. If Bush could pull it off, that would be quite an achievement. Therein lies the problem.
The Democratic Party has been paying lip service to the poor while keeping them confined to the cycle of poverty. Desperate drug addicts, poor single mothers and homeless people are not born hopeless, they are made that way once they are convinced there is no escape from their misfortune. In the traditional liberal view, opportunity is not theirs to pursue, but more government programs will keep them going. Can an oil change save a motor that needs rebuilding? Surface tactics will only go so far. Still, government programs have made the Democratic Party thrive, while they exploit the poor to their own gain.
So, when President Bush offered an alternative innovative change via a faith-based initiative program, the familiar grumbling that has become the Democratic Party's trademark reaction was heard around the globe. It was bad enough that religious groups and churches would be eligible for funds. Suppose the program worked? What if, by combining help with an invitation to welcome G-d into their lives, recipients would find something superior to just another government handout?
The Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7) would allow churches, synagogues and religious charities to compete with secular organizations for federal grant monies to help needy families. New tax deductions would be created that would encourage private charitable donations. The bill will not permit federal monies to be used for proselytizing or distribution of Bibles; religious groups would have to use their own monies for that. The bill sailed through the House much to the angst of angry homosexual rights groups, who claim that federal anti-discrimination laws would be violated by churches that continue to hire employees based upon their own morals and beliefs. However, under current civil rights laws, religious groups and houses of worship are already exempt from the federal statute. The homosexual activists are resorting to absurd political posturing to turn this issue into their issue.
Meanwhile, humanist organizations that espouse a faithless society oppose H.R. 7 and misrepresent the original meaning of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. Availing funds to churches for social services does not equate to the establishment of Christianity as a national government-mandated religion. That won't stop groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State from perpetuating the separation myth, because any ecumenical group that receives government funding is anathema to them.
All those who oppose the Community Solutions Act have one thing in common: they couldn't care less that the poor, homeless and drug addicted would receive extra help. They would rather kill H.R. 7 based on their own selfish principles than help those in need.
It is shameful that any political ideology should turn this into a discrimination or church/state issue. The idea behind the faith-based initiative is to unite different organizations together behind a common goal. There will always be an ideological divide among groups, but this isn't a case of let the better ideology win. Rather than considering religious charities adversaries, secular groups should welcome them in a mutual effort to alleviate the poverty and drug abuse that has become a chronic problem in our culture.
Senate Democrats have the power to kill this initiative. They are not inclined to help the underprivileged climb out of their meager existence, for their modus operandi is manipulation. By insisting people in poor communities must rely on government to fulfill all their needs, needs are all they are ever going to have. How many families whose permanent source of income is welfare and food stamps have ever been successful in that lifestyle?
Often, professing a belief in G-d provides inspiration for many criminals to turn their lives around, leave prison and become upstanding citizens. Whether they are "born again," or become observant Jews matters much less than they stop committing crimes. If such individuals can change and adopt constructive modes of behavior, doesn't that say something about the powerful effect G-d has on people? The combination of faith and financial aid for poor people can be a formidable weapon against the Democratic system of dependency.
In my view, whatever religious or secular conviction a person accepts, or whether a particular organization is responsible for endorsing that belief should not be an issue. The only issue is whether chronically unproductive people adopt positive attitudes, helping them attain a dream or two in a lifetime.
One or two dreams achieved on one's own are far better than thousands of requests granted by Uncle Sam.
Copyright 2001 by Bonnie Chernin Rogoff. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.