Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hit Me Baby One More Time

Original Link:

by digby

Obama to expand Bush's faith-based programs

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and -- in a move sure to cause controversy -- support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Obama was unveiling his approach to getting religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks Tuesday at Eastside Community Ministry in Zanesville, Ohio. The arm of Central Presbyterian Church operates a food bank, provides clothes, has a youth ministry and provides other services in its impoverished community.

"The challenges we face today, from putting people back to work to improving our schools, from saving our planet to combating HIV/AIDS to ending genocide, are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We need all hands on deck."

But Obama's support for letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions was likely to invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination.

David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush's commitment to the cause, said Obama's position has the potential to be a major "Sister Souljah moment" for his campaign.

This is a reference to Bill Clinton's accusation in his 1992 presidential campaign that the hip hop artist incited violence against whites. Because Clinton said this before a black audience, it fed into an image of him as a bold politician who was willing to take risks and refused to pander.

"It would be a very, very, very interesting thing," said Kuo, who is not an Obama adviser or supporter but was contacted by the campaign to review the new plan.


Obama proposes to elevate the program to a "moral center" of his administration, by renaming it the Office of Community and Faith-Based Partnerships, and changing training from occasional huge conferences to empowering larger religious charities to mentor smaller ones in their communities.

He also proposes a $500 million per year program to provide summer learning for 1 million poor children to help close achievement gaps with white and wealthier students. A campaign fact sheet said he would pay for it by better managing surplus federal properties, reducing growth in the federal travel budget and streamlining the federal procurement process.


Obama does not see a need to push for a law to make this program work as Bush did, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy.

Bush never got Congress to go along so he conducted his effort to give religious groups equal footing with nonsectarian groups in competing for federal contracts through administrative actions and executive orders.

Obama did say earlier this week that he didn't support the proposed constitutional gay marriage ban in California, so at least that's not on the menu. I'm looking forward to some other good news though because the last couple of weeks have been pretty hard to take. I think I'm just about Sistah Soljah'd out.

The rightward tilt on national security, guns and the death penalty are not entirely unexpected. Democrats have been doing that for decades and I guess it's not over yet. And I knew that they generally had decided to adopt explicitly religious rhetoric and were attempting to appeal to evangelicals on issues of poverty and global warming etc. But this honestly surprises me. I didn't expect any Democratic president to continue this right wing notion that the federal government should directly fund churches with tax dollars. I fundamentally disagree with the concept. Churches are already tax exempt and part of the reason for that is that they do charitable work. Government should not meddle in it or subsidize it. And the idea that the government should fund entities that discriminate is simply backwards and repugnant.

Maybe it's good politics. I can see how it might co-opt some of the religious right. (Let's hope it's enough that they don't feel the need to do this anyway.)But this one really sticks in my craw, especially the notions that he won't go through congress to fund it and the idea that the"moral center" of the administration will be religiously based. That just doesn't sound like fundamental change to me. That sounds like garden variety conservatism.

Wake me when the transformative, post-partisanship features something that doesn't make me nauseous.

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