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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 12,925,174  

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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 

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

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 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.

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".

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 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?

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.

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.

Well, This Is The First Time I Have Heard Of This Initiative... Jan 29th. at 6:44:22 pm EST

Galen (New Westminster, British Columbia CA) Age: 34 - Email

Well, this is the first time I have heard of this initiative, and to be honest, it scares me to death... And I'm Canadian!

George W. Bush. The man who signs execution warrants without a second thought. The man who signed into law the ability of the worst polluters in Texas to write the environmental protection legislation. The man who did not even have his first paying job until he was in his forties. The man who at least to me is nothing more than a muothpiece for the Religous Right.

Let me get this right... He wants to spend public monies supporting organizations whose aims are the end of choice for pregnant mothers, the avowed destruction / eradication gays, and the foundation of a state ruled by a christian theocratic elite? He wants to give them money to run the social programs that (at least for the time being) are mandated by federal law?!? So... when he and his masters start to cahnge the laws, whittling away at those same said programs, given the voter apathy of recent years, who will stop him?

Yes, I know there are many christians do many kind and good acts, who do live as they say they do, but the kind of christians that George Dubya runs with are the ones who will win most of the money.

As for being safe in Canada...HA! We have our very own version, home grown and bred. He goes by the name of Stockwell Day. If you think George Dubya is nasty, Stock the Jock is worse! Before he went into politics, he was a christain minister, who among his other dubious distinctions, supported one of Canada's worst holocaust deniers and anti-semites, advocated the dismantleing of the social services system in Canada, called for a bounty on gays, and most recently cost the taxpayers of Alberta $790, 000+ for a libel suit where he accused the lawyer of the same offences that his client was accused of, at the same time calling for the man's summary conviction , without a trial! So anything that George Dubya suggests, Stock the Jock will go for like a starving dog!

Well, I'll Tie Myself To The Stake And Say That I Believe... Jan 29th. at 6:05:33 pm EST

Pandora (Orlando, Florida US) Age: 15 - Email

Well, I'll tie myself to the stake and say that I believe that this faith-based social program is not a terribly bad thing. As much as some pagans here would like to deny it, many Christian groups do amazing amounts of social service that is helpful to their communities. And they do not do it because they want to convert the poor little heathens to Christianity. They do it because the Bible supports helping their fellow man, and their God supports it.

Quite honestly, I think that a Christian/Jewish/Muslim organization could make better use of the money now then a pagan organization could. They are much larger then we are and capable of doing more things with the money. No pagan organization I can name has the manpower to use the money the right way. Nor, it seems, do they have the conviction-most pagan groups seem to believe that the only reason they function is to protect us all from those evil, hate-mongering Christians who are actually following exactly what their religion says...but that's another rant =).

Now, to draw attention to the Bush-bashing going around here. YES, we know he is a Christian. YES, we know he is a conservative one
So ask yourself this-are you against Bush because you honestly disagree with his political ideas, or are you against him because of his religion? Though you may not admit it, 9 out of 10 of you are the latter. That makes you guilty of everything you accuse him of doing.

Bush's Plan Is A Flagrant Violation Of The Separation Of Church And... Jan 29th. at 4:52:41 pm EST

AnOwl (Ravenswood, Illinois US) Age: 37

Bush's plan is a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state. We as Americans and as Pagans should fight the planned use of taxpayer money for religious uses, or uses by religious organizations (no matter what non-secular uses they claim it will go towards). In the mean time WE SHOULD stand in line right beside the fundamentalist Christian organizations and ASK FOR THE MONEY. It is after all, money that comes just as much from you and me (from our tax dollars) as it comes from anybody else. Who amongst us should ask for this money? There are plenty of non-profit Pagan groups out there. The great majority of Pagans, and all non-profit Pagan groups of which I am aware, are strictly by bound by their beliefs to never proselytize. That fact in and of itself guarantees that Pagan groups will not do what we fear the mainstream Christian groups will do - go on a national recruiting spree. Pagans might actually do a better job of using the money for charitable works than most any other group would do - we at the very least could do just as good of a job. If you are Pagan and you do not think that there are Pagan groups around you who are doing non-profit volunteer work for the good of the general community you need to look around a little more. There are many, many such groups. They, as a rule, do not 'toot their own horns, ' (it's a karma thing) but the most certainly are out there and most certainly could use cash to do their work. Again, I do not think taxpayer money should ever go to any - and I mean ANY - religious organization. But if it is going to go to one, it should go to all. By the way, I don't know where it is written that a religious group that is given this money must say while doing charity work that they are a religious group. We as a society are used to religions doing "charitable work" while at the same beating us over our heads with their religious messages. There is no rule that says that is the way it has to be. You could be a Pagan group and operate a shelter, a soup kitchen, a counseling service, or any other number of needed charitable services and never ever once mention religion at all. It is a mighty wondrous way to operate. The notion will be shocking to most Christians, but it is second nature to most Pagans to keep their religion to themselves. Again I will reiterate I do not want the government to give out tax dollars to churches or religious groups of ANY kind. However, if it is going to happen we should stand up and be counted. We should not exclude ourselves just because we disagree with the plan. If we do, our self exclusion may very well turn around and bite our butts when we wake up one day in the newly "Christian Only" USA. We should make the Bush administration realize that it is not going to be easy to give our money, our tax dollars, only to the groups that he and his fundamentalist Christian supporters deem legitimate (i.e. other fundamentalist Christians). We know he is not going to allow Pagans to join his little group of "State Approved Religious Organizations." Sadly, it is very likely that this little scheme of Bush and friends will succeed. If we as Pagan groups do not ask for the money, and then get turned down (as you KNOW we will), then how will we ever be able to challenge this horrible plan in court? If the Bush administration is forced through the courts to count every religious request equally, whether it is Christian or Pagan, I doubt it will take much time before they scrap the whole idea of giving our tax dollars away to any religious organization. That is the day I await.

I Suppose That We Should Have Expected This. A Deeply, Religiously Conservative... Jan 29th. at 4:46:28 pm EST

Seabhac (Concord, California US) Age: 28 - Email

I suppose that we should have expected this.

A deeply, religiously conservative man has been put in high position (not elected), and he has made it clear that his way is the right way, that his ideas are the right ideas, and he will not back down from any of them.

This "faith-based" initiative is not a good idea, period. Christianity is evangelical, and as such, the churches and organizations of that faith *will* do their level best to spread the "good word". Trying to put in happy-happy-touchy-feely language into the initiative to supposedly prevent that from happening is just a way for Mr. Bush to say that he's doing the right thing. Even the fact that he refers to it as "faith-based" proves that he is focusing on the religious, rather than the charitable.

The problem is, this initiative is not the right thing. While the various conservative Christian faiths are bound and determined that their way is the right way, they will proselytize in any venue - including charity work. And if they receive funds supposedly earmarked for charity work, they *will* be able to spread that "good word" in more and more situations.

This is, to some degree, about the separation of church and state. Mr. Bush apparently does not believe in the separation of 'his' church and 'his' state.
Everything he has done so far proves this - from the declaration of the day after his inauguration as a day of prayer, through the nomination of John Ashcroft (who is even more of a religious conservative Christian), and then this initiative.

And this will only get worse. If we stand up against this, we show both him and those around him that we will *not* be bullied into following along with the majority. If we do not stand up, then we are simply letting the bully rule the playground, and it will get worse for pagans day by day.

Mr. Bush is showing an astounding lack of good sense. Perhaps his faith makes him certain, but he doesn't have the right to force the rest of us to subscribe to his faith, especially through this "faith-based" initiative.

As was posted earlier, write to your representatives, write to your senators. But more importantly than that, watch the news for more of his efforts. Only if we are silent will this man be able to harm us.

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