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Theocratizing FEMA and Pregnancy

from OnlineJournal.com

In the aftermath of hurricane Frances’ strike on Florida in 2004, the Bush Administration’s use of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to advance its agenda was just beginning.

Following hurricane Katrina, the FEMA web site promoted donations to Pat Robertson’s
Operation Blessing as well as more than 20 other religious organizations. Sometimes FEMA simply listed the main offices of churches.

As reported by the
Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), in late September FEMA altered its policies to allow for the retroactive "reimbursement" of churches and religious groups that helped with evacuees. In her October 4 letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor made the case:

The unprecedented change in policy by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to retroactively "reimburse" churches and religious groups for helping hurricane evacuees is bad business — and worse government.

There should be no payment or reimbursement where there was no prior contractual agreement. FEMA's plan will open the floodgates for future reimbursements without government contract or public oversight.

Money is fungible. Any tax dollars given to churches for "reimbursement" can and will be used for anything—including proselytizing and prayer. Churches and denominations already get taxpayer subsidy through tax exemptions under the assumption they are charitable. But churches are uniquely exempt from filing IRS forms other charities must file, and they do not account for their finances to the public or the government.

There was no legal "prior contractual agreement." That being the case, one would think that if the federal government is going to reimburse churches and religious organization that helped, they should also reimburse other groups that helped. But it's highly unlikely anyone in the Bush theocracy is considering doing that.

No one begrudges any of the help given to victims of Katrina and Rita, but the Bush Administration’s latest means of funneling federal tax money to churches and religious organizations that will, undoubtedly, use the money to advance their common theocratic agenda is repugnant to anyone who believes in the idea of separation of church and state. (It should also be of major concern to those worried about the ever-deepening budget deficit Bush and his administration are racking up.)

Will Samaritan’s Purse, the "relief" organization run by Billy Graham’s son Franklin, be receiving "reimbursements?" As an Associated Press story pointed out, "The organization has been criticized for delivering gift bags to displaced children that include Christian tracts and a stuffed lamb that plays 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

On October 3, Graham gave a speech at a conference hosted by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. When talking about Katrina and New Orleans, Graham said "There’s been satanic worship [there]. There’s been sexual perversion. God is going to use that storm to bring revival. God has a plan. God has a purpose."

Although he didn’t overtly claim Katrina was "God’s wrath" against non-believers and homosexuals, Franklin Graham certainly used the idea: believe, do and live as We tell you to, or "God" will whack you again. Intimidation and fear are the modi operandi of religious fundamentalists and evangelicals. Not surprisingly, bigotry is the main weapon of theocrats. All the above were well represented in legislation proposed by Indiana state Senator Patricia Miller (R- Indianapolis).

Sen. Miller wields considerable power in relation to health care in Indiana. The Health Finance Commission she chairs was scheduled, on October 20, to decide whether to recommend Miller’s latest legislative initiative to the General Assembly: To make it illegal for gays, lesbians, and single people in Indiana to use reproductive science to assist them in having a child. Her bill defined "assisted reproduction" as "causing pregnancy by means other than sexual intercourse." As the Washington Blade reported:

A doctor cannot begin an assisted reproduction technology procedure that may result in a child being born until the intended parents have received a certificate of satisfactory completion of an assessment required under the bill...

The required [assessment] information includes the fertility history of the parents, education and employment information, personality descriptions, verification of marital status, child care plans and criminal history checks. Description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents also is required, including participation in faith-based or church activities.

Not only would gays, lesbians, and single people be automatically excluded, so would atheists, agnostics and those who choose not to participate in faith-based or church activities.

Miller said she realized her bill would be "enormously controversial...We’re not trying to stop people from having kids; we’re just trying to find some guidelines."

A day or so after her proposed legislation drew media attention — and what GOP spokeswoman Jamie Jorczak called "a firestorm" of criticism — Senator Miller withdrew the bill.


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