Jewish Groups Alarmed Over Bush's Faith-Based Opportunism

Faith-Based Hurricane Relief

from Jewish Journal

The Bush administration is dramatically expanding funding for faith-based groups as part of its hurricane relief efforts, and some Jewish groups are warning that it could blow a big hole in the church-state wall.

“It’s like the levees; once the church-state wall is breached, it’s very hard to rebuild,” said Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which is criticizing the stepped-up faith based push as an effort to push an ideological agenda, not disaster recovery.

But other Jewish groups are wary of appearing like obstacles to the massive recovery effort.

“Everybody understands that helping people right now is a priority. Nobody wants to be seen as putting up roadblocks,” said an official with one major Jewish group. “The problem is, there are some in the administration who clearly want to take advantage of this to advance their causes.”

Last week the Washington Post reported that the embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is funneling money to religious groups, including churches and other houses of worship, that are providing a variety of services to displaced Gulf Coast residents.

According to news reports, the FEMA action came after pressure from conservative leaders in Congress.

Pelavin said his group is “concerned. This move by FEMA is unfortunately part of a bigger picture we’re seeing, where under the cover of hurricane relief, the administration is moving forward to advance proposals that wouldn’t otherwise have any traction.”

That bigger picture, he said, includes the waving of Davis-Bacon Minimum-wage requirements in post-hurricane rebuilding efforts, reflecting a longstanding priority of conservative groups, and last week’s decision to include religious school students in an ambitious system of vouchers intended to compensate schools for taking in children displaced by the storms.

Other groups took a more nuanced stance.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that his group won’t oppose the FEMA funding for religious charities, but expressed concern about its long-term impact.

“These are extraordinary circumstances,” he said. “It’s an emergency, so it’s something we won’t oppose. But it’s something we will watch and assess and, when necessary, speak out on.”

Several Jewish leaders expressed concern that federal agencies, under pressure from congressional conservatives, are creating political “facts on the ground” that may be offered up as precedents the next time Congress or the administration consider a major faith-based program.

“We have concerns that it may be overdone and these actions may be cited as precedents in the future,” Foxman said, adding that his group will also examine whether the administration’s new faith-based push is coming at the expense of non-religious relief organizations.

Some Democrats lashed out at the new faith-based push.

Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow with the partisan Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), said, “A lot of Republicans see the hurricanes as an opportunity to take conservative proposals off the shelf and slip them into the relief effort.”

The new faith-based push, he said, may be part of an administration effort to quell the growing rebellion within the party over spending.

“Many Republicans fear the conservatives are bolting over spending and the deficit,” he said. “Policy sweeteners — including the faith-based agenda — may be an effort by the administration to defuse that rebellion.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I was wondering, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in God. Why do you hate it so much? Did you like one time believe in Jesus and all this and then suddenly, "came to your senses" when something bad happened or just like what's the deal... why do you hate religion so much? Because I've met a lot of atheist but they don't hate anyone, they are just simply ok with there not being a God. But you ACTUALLY are very angry, as you slander something that you don't even believe in. It's like me slandering Buddha. Please respond, I'm actually very interested in your response. email at Mirrorgirl87@aol.com

May 07, 2008 7:44 PM  

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