January 24, 2008

Obama's Politics of Religion

In a recent interview with Beliefnet, Barak Obama was asked about the role that faith and faith-based programs might play in confronting social ills. The question posed suggested to Obama that perhaps his view is similar to George Bush's. Obama replied:
No, I don't think so, because I am more concerned with maintaining the line between church and state. And I believe that for the most part, we can facilitate the excellent work that's done by faith-based institutions when it comes to substance abuse treatment or prison ministries...I think much of this work can be done in a way that doesn't conflict with church and state. I think George Bush is less concerned about that.

His response reminded me of the claims made by a Wisconsin based atheist organization that put forth a lawsuit claiming that the government had crossed the so-called wall of separation in allowing faith-based organizations to receive government funds for the purpose of taking on these social ills.
the Freedom From Religion Foundation Inc., objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

But I'm not here to defend Bush's work against the charge that he isn't concerned about the separation of church and state. That's like asking someone if they've beaten their pet rabbit today. The charge is simply ridiculous as it assumes that Obama's view of the wall of separation is the correct position. To equivocate in response to the question posed to him is, at best, the artistry of lawyering, or is simply pure ignorance.

It's not been established that any of the faith-based organizations that have received federal grants to confront social ills have inappropriately diverted such funds to proselytizing efforts, nor has it been shown that Bush doesn't care whether that happens or not. But to put this to rest, the atheist organization did not get a hearing because their complaint was without merit. Faith-based organizations have always been a part of the work in our society, this isn't anything new.

No comments: