Well, $500 million in new "faith based" anti-gay federal funding
OK, that's the BAD news. I've laid out the picture here at Talk To Action ( read it - you really need to know what's going on with the porkslush fund called "faith based" ), and the bad news is really bad, but I've got a few ideas on what can be done.
Here's the short version of the story :
President George W. Bush quietly signed legislation adding even further - by half a billion dollars, to be spent over 5 years - to the growing rivers of federal cash flowing to "Faith Based" initiatives that are both allowed to practice religious discrimination in hiring and also, by mandate of federal law, enjoined - claims the Bush Administration - from using federal "faith based" money targeted at strengthening marriages to help gay couples who are married or have domestic partnerships and civil unions.
First of all, consider this : George W. Bush just signed off on 1/2 billion dollars of "faith based" federal spending that specifically discriminates against gay couples....
The gay rights movement has long had to fend for itself, but this really shocked me :
5 minor news sources covered this story - the new federal "faith based" pro-marriage spending. Two Christian right organizations, two pro gay news services, and the Online Journal
Mainstream eyes were - it seems - far, far away, and this fact was almost certainly noticed by many on the Christian right and the gay activist community. These dual messages seemed quite clear : One, that the Christian right was free, via its partisans in the White and the Congress, to advance its program of supplanting secular federal social programs with "faith based" efforts that can be discriminatory and even bigoted. Two, that the gay community, in its battles against anti-gay forces on the Christian right, was more or less alone.
However, Americans opposed to Christian theocratic government might do well to consider the implications of this statement from a Buzzflash interview with author and Talk To Action contributor Esther Kaplan :
Bush's faith-based initiative also privileges Christianity above all other religions. After sifting through every grant announcement I could get my hands on from Bush's faith-based offices, I couldn't find a single grant issued to a religious charity that wasn't Christian -- no Jewish charities, no Muslim charities, nothing. And when I spoke with Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he confirmed that no direct federal grants from his program had gone to a non-Christian religious group. This kind of religious favoritism is exactly what the Constitution's establishment clause was put in place to prevent.
As I wrote last February, 2005, the pot of federal funds that in theory was open for applications from "faith based" agencies was in fact quite enormous - possibly up to $100 billion dollars - and puts Kaplan's confirmation from Jim Towey in a rather stark light : the actual scope of burgeoning "faith based" government is in all likelihood far outstripping the ability of reporters, writers, independent researchers, and the media overall to even get a general bearing on the situation.
To compound the situation, "faith based" programs seem to be accompanied by "faith based" accounting. Daniel Zwerdling, producer of two 2003 programs on the faith-based initiative, for Bill Moyers TV show, is quoted as saying :
"administration spokesmen say they can't break down how much money has gone so far to religious groups .. they claim they don't keep that information."
What to do ? Well, look at it this way :
Existing "faith based" spending is solely going to Christian groups ( or was as of when Esther Kaplan interviewed "Faith Based" office head Jim Towey ) but - in theory - any faith organizations can apply. What's necessary is the documentation of pervasive disrimination in the allocation of "Faith Based" contracts. There's a need to establish a clear pattern of biased "faith based" funding allocation.
That shouldn't be very hard, but real faith groups - Christian left, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, B'ahai - whatever and whoever, there's a vast spctrum of religious diversity in the US - need to apply for "faith based" funding. AND, those groups need to document their experiences of the process.
Then, if a pattern of obvious discrimination surfaces, well.....
That's anti-American, and that 's news
Further, I see no reason why such faith based organizations can't hire gay couples and pay them to promote straight marriage.
In Massachusetts, Texas, wherever.
We're working with a weak hand - we need to get creative, and fast.
After all, the current ruling is that religious groups receiving federal funds can hire whoever they damn well please, on basically whatever criteria they care to choose. So : gay, straight, bi. trans.....
In other words, I'm suggesting this :
The Bush Administration may be around for a bit yet. But, who's aggressively promoting - or trying to do that - progressive interests under the "faith based" cash giveaway ?
Hey folks, the money's being SHOVELLED out.
If you're turned down, share stories, then sue. As far as I can tell, a few lawsuits might help insure a more equitable distribution of these funds. Or at least expose the travest