Amy Sullivan: Federally-Funded Faith

By Amy Sullivan 10-11-2006

This four-part Boston Globe series on faith and foreign aid is required reading this week. And it's especially troubling for those of us who have tried to convince our friends on the progressive side not to freak out about the president's faith-based initiatives. Like David Kuo, I have argued--and continue to believe--that the real story behind the faith-based intiative is how little money has been dispersed.

That continues to be the case in the realm of domestic social services. Spending for all social services--whether through faith-based or secular providers--is way down, and the faith-based initiative has been used largely as a political tool to attract support from religious communities.

But on the foreign policy side, as the Globe's reporters document, the administration has pressured grant-makers to favor Christian organizations over Jewish and Muslim ones; they have done away with requirements to inform aid recipients that they do not have to attend religious services in exchange for treatment; and they have encouraged religious organizations to mix proselytization with aid work.

You don't have to be a die-hard secularist to be disturbed by this. Melissa Rogers, a devout Baptist and one of the smartest experts on church-state law, explains why this all matters. Read her analysis.

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