Religious intolerance: the real thing

Lately, a lot of people on the right have been awfully quick to cry religious bigotry for no good reason. I’m at the point where I reach for the remote every time Bill O’Reilly fulminates against “secularists.” So tonight when I heard him announce an upcoming segment about “religion under attack,” I was prepared to roll my eyes. Until I saw the segment.

It seems some “civil liberties groups” are upset because FEMA is going to use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations for services (shelter, food, and other assistance) provided to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

According to The Washington Post:

FEMA officials said religious organizations would be eligible for payments only if they operated emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state or local governments in the three states that have declared emergencies — Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In those cases, “a wide range of costs would be available for reimbursement, including labor costs incurred in excess of normal operations, rent for the facility and delivery of essential needs like food and water,” FEMA spokesman Eugene Kinerney said in an e-mail.

Apparently, the “civil libertarians” believe that this violates the separation of church and state.

What next? Are we going to say that the police (taxpayer-funded, after all!) shouldn’t be allowed to investigate a robbery at a church?

Yes, yes, I know there are differences. On tonight’s O’Reilly Factor, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was talking about religious indoctrination and discrimination in church-run charitable programs. Fine. You show me a religious organization that was asked by the local government to run a shelter for Katrina survivors and either barred people of other faiths or subjected them to intrusive proselytizing — as opposed to, say, merely handing out a Bible — and I will agree that they shouldn’t get a penny in reimbursements. But unless there is such evidence, why not treat religious groups the same as secular ones? (For that matter, why is there so little concern with discrimination and indoctrination practiced by programs based on secular ideologies — for instance, taxpayer-funded domestic violence programs rooted in radical feminist viewpoints?)

There is indeed a point where secularism crosses over into hostility toward religion. For an example, see the recent brouahaha over the tiny church crosses on the Los Angeles County seal. This is another such case. On this occasion, the so-called civil libertarians are only giving the separation of chruch and state a bad name.


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8 responses to “Religious intolerance: the real thing

  1. Anonymous

    “There is indeed a point where secularism crosses over into hostility toward religion.”

    Right. And, we passed that point long ago.

    If you’d been listening to folks like O’Reilly with a tad more open mind, then you would, like the rest of us, know about this by now.

    I guess it’s never too late to catch up.

  2. jimstoic

    My concern has more to do with the effect on the churches than the effect on the state. It’s as if God is begging money from Caesar.

  3. Anonymous

    “If you’d been listening to folks like O’Reilly with a tad more open mind, then you would, like the rest of us, know about this by now.”

    Indeed I pray for a day when relegion is truly accepted and in America insead of being marginalized. I mean really, The White House, the Senate and the House are barely controlled by devoutly religious Christians and only every single president has been an avowed Christian. In fact, Sunday is the only day of the week when my community at large (closed stores, no alcohol sales) even respects good Christian values. One day hopefully the religious in this country will recieve more respect and deference.

  4. DC Clipmonkey

    I am utterly aghast that conservatives would support this idea. I mean what has conservaticm come to? We’ve already got private schools getting public money through voucher programs and now we’re going to pay churches to do charitable work. I can’t even believe it. For a little more on this, please go to:

    Excerpt- “Reagan Republicans, Republican Revolutionists, and the Bushies used to argue for limited government based on the principle that private charity was the more effective and virtuous avenue for directing aid to the needy. This argument was a corollary of the proposition that private markets always produce more efficient outcomes than markets marked by government intervention. The theory went that instead of devising big government programs concerned with the general welfare we should shrink government, cut taxes, and let charitable organizations funded by private donations provide solace and support to those in need. This principle was no small part of the conservative ideology. And, as we find out, it’s no part at all of the conservative practice.”

  5. DJ Bracknell

    As organizations contribute, I am somewhat concerned that anyone would want to interfere with their efforts.

    That said (this is like a “But”) what if NAMBLA wanted to host a shelter. I’m almost positive the uproar would be universal, as I think it should be. I agree this is an extreme example.

    What, however, would happen if the responding association were the Atheists of America (who knows if they exist)? I think the response would be the same as NAMBLA based on the polls I see.

    I think it horrific that religious help is not reimbursed. BUT, you can bet your as= that if the organization were atheist, every christian conservative organization would have a negative say on reimbursement.

    At some point, we have to recognize the polarization of America has cost us from both sides of the fence.

  6. angry young man

    There’s an old tradition of giving black pastors a little “walking around money” to ease praise for the proper party into their sermons. This is just the Bush version: We’ll throw money at you by the bucketful if you’ll just tell your people we didn’t leave them to die, even though we did, oh, and don’t worry about any receipts or anything for your services.

  7. Cathy Young

    Please let’s not forget that we are not talking about charitable work, but about emergency aid that these churches and religious organizations provided specifically at the request of government.

    By the way, there is nothing really new here. The Salvation Army, a religious organization, has been getting reimbursed by the government for providing shelters and other services to the needy since the 1960s, under both Democratic and Republican administrations (though in some cities they’ve lost their contracts because of their refusal to extend domestic partnership benefits to gay employees).

    dj bracknell, re your question about NAMBLA: I’m pretty sure that even if they did host a shelter, the government would not be asking them to provide any services.

    However, battered women’s shelters, many of which are run by radical feminists with pretty extremist “all men are evil” ideologies, do receive government reimbursement for the services they provide.

    Good question about Atheists of America. I think secularists need to start building up their own network of charitable activities.

  8. jimstoic

    The problem is the path the money takes: my pocket -> government -> relief organizations. This path enables the government to determine which relief organizations get my money. I’d rather make that decision myself, and that seems consistent with conservatism.

    But you’re right: if the organizations were acting at the behest of the government, they should be reimbursed by the government.

    Also, I have worked for a church-run charity that received Federal dollars. The money had to be used in a very limited way and came to shape at least part of that organization’s ministry. That’s part of why, aside from emergency situations, I’m uncomfortable with churches getting government money.

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