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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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Question of the Week: 26 - 1/29/2001

What Do You Think About Bush's 'Faith-Based' Initiative Plan?

Pres. George Bush says that he will push a 'faith-based' social program this coming week that he hopes will grant federal money (taxpayer dollars) to fund religious groups doing social work. Does this plan violate the separation of church and state? If those federal bucks become available should Pagan religious groups make a grab for them, too? Or is this proposed religious feeding frenzy for secular federal money really a subtle plot to further bolster the Christian Radical Right's power to proselytize to the masses and, as Americans United believes, further erode the church-state wall?

 Reponses:   There are 87 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Don't Y'all Think You're Jumping The Gun A Bit? There's Two Scenarios... Jan 29th. at 6:54:06 pm EST

Sara (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 21

Don't y'all think you're jumping the gun a bit? There's two scenarios for this whole situation:

1. Bush actually pushes it through Congress and it gets passed. This is the imaginary version. In this version, aid goes to faith-based charities. I agree with the chick who said these charities are well-equipped to handle them. They are, just as much as "pagan" ones are. Christian charities seek to help the poor/hungry/homeless because they want to help, not because they want new followers. My only problem with this is that I think it's harder for faith-based charities to outreach in certain areas where government can reach out more efficiently. But they're not bad because they're monothiestic.

2. This is what will really happen. In your fear that Bush will pass a bill about this, you forget that Bush has absolutely no control over any money outside his allotment for buying presidential underwear. Congress controls all finances, and while the House is Republican (which means they're conservative - not stupid), the Senate is split 50-50. Ted Kennedy threatened to fillibuster John Ashcroft, he sure as hell would fillibuster this. This bill will die. It's merely a gesture to the Evangelicals who supported him, nothing more. If Bush doesn't have the far right, they'll put their funds into someone else. The reason why I know this is that Jesse Helms is proposing the same exact thing with international aid (and if you live in NC, can you please vote him out? He annoys me). Bush is thwarting Helms by doing a mirror program domestically, and neither can float together.

Furthermore, I don't mean to be nit-picky, but calling the Religious Right the "Christian Radical Right" is not only insulting to a powerful lobbying group, it's also a misnomer. By definition, they aren't radical. "Radical" denotes liberalism. And as much as I disagree with them, they truly do believe they're doing this for the good of society. Their way might not be the only way, but it is a way. And as for the "wall separating church and state, " that's a Jeffersonian concept just like "life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Nowhere in the Constitution do we have any of those rights. The only rights we have other than to freely worship lie with the Supreme Court.

I Think Some Who Post In This Area Need To Refresh Themselves... Jan 29th. at 7:32:14 pm EST

legalwitch (BigShoulders, Texas US) Age: 26

I think some who post in this area need to refresh themselves what our US Bill of Rights says (Remember these? This one is found in the same place where you find the rights to bear arms, and all that other controversial stuff.)

"Article I.Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress
of grievances."

True, nowhere does it say "seperation of Church and State" in the Constitution. But I think our very first right in the Bill of Rights makes the seperation of church and state idea pretty darn clear. I also think all those folks who are always trying to figure out how to make Article 1 say anything other than what it does say, are grasping at proverbial straws. Think about it: If you are the leader of the US, and you give US tax money to religious groups which you pick and choose according to your own relgious dictates it seems pretty darn clear that you are making a law regarding the establishment of religion.

I wonder if you all who seem to be for this establishment of religion thing remember what Bush has said about Witches. Its worth looking up.

I Always Seem To Have A Story To Tell... Many Years Ago... Jan 29th. at 7:38:57 pm EST

Tabeth (Akron, Ohio US) Age: 25

I always seem to have a story to tell...

Many years ago, when I was rooming with a drug dealer just to pay my rent, and several of my friends were as broke as I was and sometimes homeless (evicted) despite working 12 hours/day, six days a week, my co-worker John was evicted for the second time from the same landlord. John figured for the next few nights, he'd just stay at the Salvation Army shelter until our paychecks came at the end of the week, and he could placate the landlord with that whopping $250 check we got Friday afternoons. I offered him my couch, but he said no, he'd only take a few bucks for food on the way to the shelter and a ride there. I bought him dinner and dropped him off, feeling sorry for him but not knowing what else to do. He insisted he wouldn't sleep on my couch, afraid of upsetting my boyfriend.

John slept on a bench that night in the park. Turned out the Salvation Army wasn't interested in housing atheists who didn't even have five bucks to spare. He was told at the shelter he had to cough up $5 or go to a church service that very night and convert to their particular form of Christianity. He explained that he really just needed a place to sleep and a shower, he was quite happy being an atheist. Too bad, the woman at the shelter told him, and slammed the door.

John did finally find a couch to stay on the next night with another co-worker who had a spare room, but I always wondered how that woman at the Salvation Army Men's Homeless Shelter figured she was a Christian...

This is what I think of when W. starts his speech about the importance of faith. George, the people who are starving and addicted and homeless don't need faith--it's an act of faith on their part to simply *stay alive* every day, a faith that somehow their lives will get better someday, that the universe cares enough about them to have a reason for their existence above and beyond creating a cheap-labor market so that you can continue to subsidize corporations who keep wages at below-poverty levels. The faith of the people who need help is already strong--they believe in the fundamental goodness of living, of life, of humanity, they have faith *against* every racist, sexist, ignorant, act that our cultural hegemony imposes against them, every act that says: you don't matter. What our society, what George has said is this: We can take your social safety net away, ship your jobs to the Third World, criminalize your pain and mental illness and throw you in jail forever if you so much as wander around our snooty neighborhoods looking unkempt, because You People don't matter. Yet somehow, through all the misery and pain of the everyday task of living, these people manage to hold on.

At the same time, those people earning in the top 1% of the income distribution show an incredible lack of faith and charity: in terms of donations, most of theirs go to orchestras, ballets, ivy-league schools and, well, things that completely fail to be homeless shelters and drug-treatment programs. Since those same people shipped most of the unskilled factory work overseas, I guess they don't have faith that God takes care of stock options.

Faith-based initiatives? Who needs 'em?

When I First Heard About The Plan (on A Late-night Radio Talk... Jan 29th. at 7:45:57 pm EST

Emerald EastWind (Lincoln Park, Michigan US) Age: 17

When I first heard about the plan (on a late-night radio talk show), warning bells went off in my head. This could have the potential to erode that church-state wall, I think. As for Pagan groups getting a piece of the pie, I have very ambivalent feelings. It would obviously be beneficial, but I'm sure that's not what Bush had in mind when he constructed the plan, so there may be a backlash if Pagans make a claim. What we must remind ourselves and the rest of the nation is that freedom of religion is just that--freedom of religion, no matter what the societal norm or status quo may be. So, I suppose if some courageous, stable, secure Pagan groups want to stand up and be included in this, I say more power to them and the best of luck.

I Believe That Bush Is Going To Bring Troubles Upon Himself. I... Jan 29th. at 9:55:28 pm EST

Andrew (Adelanto, California US) Age: 15 - Email

I believe that Bush is going to bring troubles upon himself. I even wrote him a letter asking him to apologize to those of a different faith. The thickness between Church & State appears to be deminishing and I blame it all on President Bush's actions. I believe his ignorance is to be blamed for making such moves, even making a National Prayer Day. Bush has a once track mind in which can only see the Christian denomination in action, any other religions not just Pagans should take a stand and tell Bush "we do exist".

I Have Been Reading The Opinions Of Many. Both Make Good Points... Jan 29th. at 11:24:48 pm EST

Irebera (Fresno, California US) Age: 46 - Email

I have been reading the opinions of many. Both make good points on this issue of Bush.
My problem is no matter how it comes out. The only ones who will be hurt and left out will be the ones who need it the most.
They will have to chose weither, to go to a shelter and have to pray for their supper and bed (having to do this against their own beliefs) or stay on the street, go hungry and no where to sleep (where no one will make them put their beliefs last).
The churches that do help those in need are small and their voices are not always heard because they choose to help all who come to them. I doult that they will get very much of this money.
The larger churches with well known names and followers who donated to them will the ones, who will profit from the Bush plan.
While their in their nice warm churches thanking Bush for what he has given them. Outside on the steps, in the cold, will be the ones who needed the most and got nothing. They will wonder what to them again.

If It's True That New Government Moneys Are To Be Made Available... Jan 30th. at 1:12:46 am EST

Grey Stereambank (Alpine (San Diego), California US) Age: 23 - Email

If it's true that new government moneys are to be made available only to faith-based groups (rather than simply making them eligible for funds already available to non-religious groups), then this is clearly a violation of the Constitution (and yes, I have read it - though apparently W. hasn't). Don't get me wrong, faith-based groups aren't all bad, but this is a question of constitutional law, NOT religion or charity alone.

Here in San Diego, there's a place called St. Vincent's. Perhaps you've seen "Father Joe" on TV; he runs it. It's a Catholic-owned homeless shelter with a huge restaurant-type kitchen. They feed anyone who shows up, no questions asked, and there is no religious element at all, other than the name of the place and who's running it. There is no preaching during mealtimes. The only rules are no weapons, drugs, or alcohol. In my opinion, if they truly aren't eligible for funding for this service, THAT is a crime. (and I've heard conflicting reports on this).

On the other hand, another religious group (which I shall not name) also has a shelter. They hold a church service at dinnertime for the homeless, then serve only those who attended. Any federal funding to support this would be unconsititutional as support of religion.

W. needs to be reminded that the seperation of church and state is part of the Constitution which he took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend" just ten days ago.

Oh, and while we're at it, that same First Amendment also protects paganism, whether or not it's officially a "religion" in the eyes of the law - because if it isn't, it's an issue of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly.

- Blessed be

I Know That I Am Breaking A Rule By Posting Twice On... Jan 30th. at 2:45:07 am EST

JOhn Bilecki (effort, Pennsylvania US) Age: 44 - Email

I know that I am breaking a rule by posting twice on this one question. but the issue is too important not to be taken seriusly.

I, too, support the separation of church and state. I, too, believe that this agenda should be opposed, BUT... IF it goes through, and I believe it will, WHAT THEN? What is the 'backup plan'?

As a businessman (and fairly good chess player), I have learned that you cannot always play by rules of your own choosing. Are you willing to fight as hard for funding as you are in opposing the agenda? If not, we have already lost.

If Bush's initiative goes through, are YOU willing to stand by and let YOUR tax dollars be used by groups opposed to your very existence? RIGHT NOW we are winning every court case (or appeal) which deals with the legitimacy of our beliefs. The question is not "whether or not', the question should be 'What if?'.

It is easy to post an opinion on a web page (particularly when you are using an 'alias'). As a solitary, 'still in the broom closet because of my job' wiccan/pagan, I risk much. Nevertheless, I still post under my real name. What do you risk?

This is where the christian coalition has us licked... They are committed: We just talk.

John Bilecki

I Have To Say That, As Of Right Now, I'm Very Glad... Jan 30th. at 5:10:20 am EST

Sian Bunnage (Cambridge, England UK) Age: 35 - Email

I have to say that, as of right now, I'm very glad I'm not American! The proposals that Bush is putting forward make me extremely uneasy, not to say downright worried! When a country's leader starts pushing a particular faith path it opens the door to legitimizing religious bigotry and the denial of the right of every individual to choose the faith path that is most appropriate to them.

Now is the time for all concerned Americans, whatever their beliefs, to stand up to these proposals and try to prevent them from happening.

I wish you luck and invoke the blessings of the Lady on your endeavours.

Of Course This Violates The Separation Of Church And State. I'm Sure... Jan 30th. at 10:56:35 am EST

Kaicielia BlueDragon (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 24 - Email

Of course this violates the separation of church and state. I'm sure pagans could try to get this money, and if it passes, I hope they do, but do you think they'll get it? As was said on TV this very morning, Your tax dollars will go to these groups, but if you ever try to use the services you can be denied because of your religious views.

Bad, Bad, Bad!!!!!!! I Worked For A Ministry Once. Big Ministry, Tv... Jan 30th. at 11:14:59 am EST

John No-Name (Heartland) Age: 44

Bad, Bad, BAD!!!!!!! I worked for a ministry once. Big ministry, TV stations, printing company, corporate jets, a big C-130 Hercules....Oops, I just told who, didn't I? and I know...These large ministries care about nothing but conversions and "love gifts"....Now comes George the Pretender, and he's going to make the biggest "love gift" ever to these folks, and it's all on YOU and ME!

Why doesn't he just be honest with us and call his plan "Souls For Sandwiches"? You need a place to stay? we need you to repent of the "sins" that put in this situation in the first place....You're hungry? Yes, we see that, but isn't the hunger in your soul bigger than the hunger in your belly? Come, let me pray with you, then we'll get you a plate of over-cooked potatos....Your husband beats you? well, have you prayed to be "cleansed" of that uppity pride that's making him angry? After all, your place is be submissive to your husband....

Write your elected officials (that lets Dubya out, doesn't it?) The Republican ones will dismiss you as a crank, but maybe the Democrats and Independants will listen. If we don't stop this now, how long before our freedoms to worship as we wish are endangered? I'm already making preparations. They'll not leave me with nothing but "The 700 Klub" for news!


There May Not Be Anything In The Constitution That Says The Seperation... Jan 30th. at 11:23:27 am EST

Jayson Tegeder aka Garic (Omaha, Nebraska US) Age: 26 - Email

There may not be anything in the constitution that says the seperation of Church and state but it does say that the government will not make any laws favoring one religion over another. In my oppinion the rule that will be made that give the money to the faith based religions will most likely favor one religion over another unless done very carefully. Personally I think the money should be out there for social organizations to request for and have a set of guide lines that don't involve religion of any sort to obtain this money.

I think that everone that cares should get their house representative and senators office address and write letters with their concerns against this bill that is being posed. This is the oldest way that we have been know to get our feelings expressed. Supposedly we put them there though not always but they need to make us happy to make sure that they keep their jobs for next term.

Finally if this bill does go through then every Pagan social plan that is out there and I can't think of any at the moment but they are out there should be putting their two cents if not more in on getting some of this money. We all have voices and we should make them heard on issues like this.

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