Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama Finds Religion

Interesting little wrinkle being reported today:
CHICAGO (AP) — Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support some ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Obama was unveiling his approach to getting religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks Tuesday in Zanesville, Ohio, at Eastside Community Ministry, which provides food, clothes, youth ministry and other services.

"The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We need all hands on deck."
Now, this is one aspect of Bush's administration I could give even tepid support to. The idea that a Christian or other faith-based organization could more effectively distribute assistance to the poor, the hungry or those in crisis makes sense.

After all, isn't this what religion is supposed to be about, recognizing the troubles of your fellow man here on earth and maybe earning a couple of brownie points in your Creator's eye?

Plus, and this is a biggie, most religions have a few hundred if not thousand years headstart on governments when it comes to figuring out who truly needs assistance as opposed to those who just need a kick in the pants, plus they have the wherewithal (and lack of political opposition) to be more patient than a bureaucracy that demands results, however slow in coming.


This bit worries me:
But Obama's support for letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions could invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination.

Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. He also only supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxypayer funded portions of their activities, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy.
That last codicil, allowing hiring and firing only in non-assistance related positions, makes a bit more sense out of a potentially unconstitutional situation, but it doesn't make things completely hunky-dory.

What this would open the door for is challenges across the board in any industry or company who deals with the federal or state government to "liberate" themselves from federal hiring (and firing) guidelines based on religion.

You know the challenges would come quickly from the right-wing economic royalists who would sense an opportunity to dump first EEOC regulations, and then follow quickly with other "color/gender/sexual orientation/physical ability blind" regulations and, frankly, laws.

This is one aspect I wish Obama would revisit, and quickly, before he makes a mishegass of what could be a very good and fair way of encouraging community and citizenship.