IN THE NEWS
[This post is profoundly off-topic, but I'm sufficiently motivated to go there.]
As many Americans did, I contributed to the Red Cross and other relief organizations after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Whatever my feelings about the Bush Administration's bungled handling of the disaster, before, during, and after it occurred, I felt that it was my duty to help those in urgent need.
During that fateful week, when the Bush Administration was stammering and stuttering its way through the nation's worst natural catastrophe, my alarm bells started ringing when White House spokesperson Scott McClellan kept repeating how grateful the Administration was for the assistance from faith-based organizations. The most important occasion was the White House briefing on September 6, 2005, when McClellan recited how President Man O. Action was having around-the-clock meetings with the people responsible for the, er, response. Here's what McClellan said:
Then this afternoon -- or later this morning, the President met with
community and faith-based organization. The President is continuing to
call on the country to support these community and faith-based
organizations who are helping people in need. He met with a diverse group
of faith-based and community groups, including the representatives from the
AME Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army, the Red
Cross, the United Way, the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and a number of others
were present, as well. These are the armies of compassion that are
bringing love and hope to the people who have been affected, and they're
helping to feed, clothe and house those who are in need.
When McClellan repeats particular phrases, you know that they have been carefully entered into the punch cards that are fed into his skull right before he enters the briefing room. That way, RoboProp can continue spitting out the talking points, even when they're not even relevant to the question being asked. When I heard faith based...faith based...faith based, I suspected that something was up. Someone--and I bet we can guess who--was making sure that the faith based organizations got special mention, for some reason or another.
Today, we heard one of the reasons: FEMA has announced that it will be reimbursing faith-based organizations--in simpler language, churches--that provided assistance during the Katrina disaster.
National crises, like 9/11 and Katrina, normally unify the country. You actually have to make a deliberate effort to divide Americans at times like these. It's someone's deliberate policy--and again, I bet you can guess who that is--to single out "faith-based organizations," otherwise known as churches, for special commendation and largesse.
I'm all for doing whatever we can, as a country, to help the small Mississippi church mentioned in the article linked above rebuild from the wear-and-tear it suffered while housing and feeding Katrina evacuees. However, there is no reason why the US government has to make the direct, immediate connection between federal disaster relief funds and churches. Isn't a simple appeal enough? A list of the deserving churches? Why, pray tell, direct payments from the federal government to churches. Excuse me, faith based organizations...faith based...faith based...
So why is the Bush Administration going out of its way on September 6 to highlight religious groups, and on September 27 to give them federal funds? Because there is a zealous streak in this White House--and I bet you can guess where it starts--that doesn't believe in the separation of church and state. In fact, the Establishment Clause, one of the least disputable part of the Framers' intentions, is offensive to them. Therefore, they see a golden opportunity in the Katrina disaster to erode the wall of separation further. What kind of cold-hearted bastard would turn down help for those who helped the Katrina victims?
Then this afternoon -- or later this morning, the President met with community and faith-based organization. The President is continuing to call on the country to support these community and faith-based organizations who are helping people in need. He met with a diverse group of faith-based and community groups, including the representatives from the AME Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, the United Way, the YMCA, Catholic Charities, and a number of others were present, as well. These are the armies of compassion that are bringing love and hope to the people who have been affected, and they're helping to feed, clothe and house those who are in need.
Well, me, for one, if we're singling out churches and other religious organizations for special attention. I'm sure there were plenty of churches, mosques, synagogues, unions, Elks Clubs, Rotarians, feminist groups, Odd Fellows Society members, gun clubs, and average people of no affiliation whatsoever who pitched in and helped. None of them deserve any more or less praise, or any more or less assistance, than anyone else. In fact, most of them would probably respond to the offer of reimbursement the way people cited in the Washington Post article did: No, thanks, we gave because we knew people needed our help. We don't expect anything in return.
Still, there are those in the Bush Administration waiting to pounce whenever the opportunity to pounce on this issue. If they could batter down the wall of separation with baby ducks, or they could make cute puppies hostage to the termination of the Establishment Clause, they would.