Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Using Taxpayers Money For Indoctrination

If you don't have a problem with the constitutionality of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, you should. (This is one of my many disagreements with Sen. Obama, by the way.)

And if you don't find this wrong, leave a comment. I'd really like to know how you are able to justify the distortion of our constitutional principles documented in the linked article.

4 comments:

Tom said...

It seems to me that the problem here isn't that there was a faith-based rehab center he could go to but rather that there was not an alternative. So I don't think this case can be used to argue that we shouldn't have faith-based programs. After all, in this particular instance, if we do away with them, the guy still ends up doing hard time in an over-crowded prison. What this shows is that the gov ought to be made to offer secular alternatives.

Sirfab said...

Tom, I will concede your point that the issue is the lack of secular alternatives.

However, I don't find it one bit surprising (in fact, I find it disgusting) that politicians who are ready to decry the waste of socialized programs don't have a problem instead with a situation in which the only services provided to inmates contemplate religious indoctrination.

And if this is true in a state like California, I can only imagine what the situation might be, or might become, in states like Alabama, Kansas, Utah, etc., where the population and elected representatives are largely socially conservative.

Tom said...

I don't have any great stake in all of this but in the name of playing devil's advocate, I'll reply: a conservative might well claim there is a significant difference between a non-governmental group running a social services program (even if that program is partially funded by state money) and the government's running such a program. They may think that non-governmental organizations that come into being to serve a particular function will perform that function better than the government will.

Personally, I'm not one who thinks that the government ruins everything it touches. But the issue of whether non-state organizations are more efficient than state-run organizations is an empirical matter. I'm for whichever does the job better.

Sirfab said...

Tom, your position on the matter is sensible and does not run along ideological lines, so it is well-worth hearing.

My personal opinion on this matter is that if the government, local, state or federal as it may be, outsources its services, it should provide a number of safeguards:

1. For the assisted, so that the quality of the services they receive is not diminished because of outsourcing. Too often the decision to outsource a service is driven solely by financial factors, with little or no regard given to the impact that lower costs have for services offered. (For example, a faith-based organization whose service providers are largely unpaid volunteers has an in-built cost advantage over a secular organization that pays all its licensed contributors. Is the cost advantage the only thing we should care about? How do you keep the playing field level?)

2. For the providers of the services, who often lose their state job when a program is downsized to limit costs, and end up being rehired by a private organization, at lower wages and no benefits or reduced benefits.

3. For society as a whole. Too often, and I know this from close sources, providers are allowed to perform jobs for which they are dubiously, ill or not qualified at all, in the name of cost containment. Often, outsourcing a service becomes an expedient and dishonest way to circumvent regulations (consider, for example, the outsourcing of military jobs to private outfits who do not have to adhere to the same standards of conduct that soldiers do--think Blackwater.) One might argue that in some cases the overall cost to society of an outsourced service, which includes its intangible effects, ends up exceeding the savings that the contracting agency advertised to the public.

Personally, I would have no problem allowing faith-based organizations to provide certain services, subject to the clause that they are not allowed--in any way--to advertise or promote their religious belief (including, for example, the display of certain religious symbols to the exclusion of all others, which is a form of rather subtle indoctrination). If they engage in religious activities with clients, as was the case in the article I linked to in my original posts, they should be disqualified from receiving public funds.

As an atheist, I find it incredibly frustrating that my tax dollars are increasingly being used for things I abhor, like wars and the promotion of religion, to the detriment of the staples of a civil society like good public education, access to health care, social services, etc.

This, of course, is a hugely complex problem that would require several posts in its own right.

Take care.

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