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Driving in on I75, heard a brief story about this from the NY Times on the Rachel Maddow Show. The newsstory details a Pennsylvanian African American minister named Herbert H. Lusk, IIwho has offered his church as a venue for Justice Sunday III. JSIII is a pep rally for Judge Samuel Alito's appointment to the Supreme Court. Senate hearings on the appointment begin January 9th.
(Side note: Rev. Lusk's father has had some legal difficulty.)  Cheap shot, maybe, but what about the old phrase "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?"

Interestingly, Reverend Lusk who claims:

"I don't know enough about him to say I actually think he's the right man to do the job," Mr. Lusk said in a telephone interview on Wednesday about Judge Alito.

"I'm saying I trust a friend of mine who promised me that he would appoint people to the justice system that would be attentive to the needs I care about" - stopping same-sex marriage, assisted suicide and abortions for minors, and supporting prayer and Christmas celebrations in schools.

Reverend Lusk's church has received a $1 million grant through the president's faith-based initiative to run a housing program for the poor. Wouldn't it be more consistent if Rev. Lusk opposed Alito whose record on minorities, individual vs. corporate rights, and civil rights is abyssmal.

This reminds me of something in Jimmy Carter's book Our Endangered Values. He notes that religious organizations have received over $1.5 billion in tax dollars, most of which went to Christian organizations through the faith-based initiativewhich distributes tax dollars in the form of grants. On Al Franken's radio show, former President Carter described a debate that took place within the White House about leaving out other faiths. It pretty much came down to "it's our decision and we'll make it the way we see fit." Well, at least the Bushies are consistent. They use this logic with everything. The AP had this storyabout the amount of tax dollars going to churches.

Jim Towey, Director of the Department of Faith Based and Community Inititiatives, chatted on January 17, 2004 with Gordon Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Networking (CBN), founded by Pat Robertson. Here's an excerpt from the transcript:

ROBERTSON: What has he specifically charged you with, for the second term?

TOWEY: He wants to make sure that state and local governments receive the technical assistance they need. You know, 40 billion tax dollars are administered by state and local governments. They take federal funds and administer it. We want to make sure that faith-based organizations are not discriminated against, and that these small community groups are able to compete. A lot of times the grants go to the best-connected organizations or to the ones with the best written application. President Bush wants to put the focus on effectiveness. He charged me with continuing to go out there and welcome people of faith in the public square and let them know the dos and don'ts. Some organizations say, look, we want to proselytize. So they can't get job training money to do that. But, for example, Operation Blessing received a grant. It has done great work on hunger in America. So these are the kind of partnerships President Bush wants me to go and encourage, and further. I am the luckiest guy in the world to have this job. (emphasis mine: Harriet Miers, is that you?)

ROBERTSON: If there is a faith-based organization -- we broadcast to a million people, and a lot of them have contacts with faith-based initiatives across the nation. If they don't have the expertise on how to apply for this kind of money, how can they get it and where should they go?

TOWEY: Well, a couple of things come to mind. I would direct them, if they have access to the Internet, to go to the Web site, which is FBCI.gov. That is faith-based community initiative FBCI.gov. Don't go to fbi.gov. That is a whole different world there. You will get a lot of -- that will direct you to a lot of information. If you don't have access to the Internet, we urge you to call the mayor or governor's office in your state. We have about 21 governors with faith-based offices. We would like to see them in all 50 states. (emphasis mine) We also would encourage them to attend a White House conference. We have 16 regional. They are free. First come, first serve. You would be surprised how well the word is getting out now, on the initiative, and I think when you see President Bush's resolve, he campaigned on it and said, if I get reelected, I will press ahead. And he's going to keep his word.

ROBERTSON: Jim, do you have a ballpark on the amount of money that is going to be available for this kind of grant?

TOWEY: In terms of discretionary grants at the federal level, in 2004, we put out about $15 billion in grants. In 2003, over $1.1 billion went to faith-based groups. And at HHS, the Department of Health and Human Services, in the Housing agency, that was a $150 million increase. So I think that is an impressive showing that, when faith-based groups are allowed to compete on a level-playing field, they can compete effectively. And they have good programs. I think President Bush did a lot to change the discrimination they were facing.

ROBERTSON: OK, Jim, thank you for being with us.

TOWEY: My pleasure. God bless you.

So Mr. Towey is pleased with the work of these organizations and wants to give more money to them. In October, 2004, Amy Sullivan published an expose in the effectiveness of these groups in Washington Monthly.

This rhetoric matched the administration's focus in other policy areas--like education--on accountability. Conservatives traditionally criticize government programs for throwing good money after bad, rewarding those who have not proven themselves effective with hard numbers like higher test scores, lower poverty rates, or reduced recidivism. Mel Martinez, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, echoed the results-oriented sentiment in December 2002, telling an audience that "faith-based organizations should be judged on one central question: Do they work?" Conservatives thought they already knew the answer. "The fact is, we don't just suspect that faith-based programs work best," said Tucker Carlson on "Crossfire", "we know it."

Actually, we knew no such thing. But now we've had four years to measure results and reach a conclusion. Unfortunately, in the midst of all of the instructions included in the various executive orders, it turns out that the Bush administration forgot to require evaluation of organizations that receive government grants. According to a study released by the Pew-funded Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy in August 2004, "while more elaborate scientific studies are underway, the White House has relied on largely anecdotal evidence to support the view that faith-based approaches produce better long-term results." The accountability president has chosen not to direct any money toward figuring out whether faith-based approaches really work.


And, again, as Sullivan notes, Georgie Boy is in charge:

On the third night of the Republican convention, one of the many gauzy "W." video-mercials that appeared on giant screens in the middle of Madison Square Garden during slow stretches featured images of Bush surrounded by people of color, while in a voiceover the president reminded viewers, "I rallied the armies of compassion." More than with any other piece of his domestic policy agenda, Bush has linked himself personally to the faith-based initiative. During a campaign stop in March, he told a crowd of religious leaders that he--and he alone--was responsible for the changes that have taken place. "Congress wouldn't act," Bush said, "so I signed an executive order--that means I did it on my own."

And so he did. Bush alone is responsible for supporting the distribution of taxpayer dollars without requiring proof that the funding produces results, for establishing a new government bureaucracy to give special help to a "discriminated" community that has always been on equal footing with everyone else, and for encouraging religious organizations to rely on government funding instead of encouraging private donations. It turns out that a "compassionate conservative" is a different kind of Republican after all. Just not the kind we expected.

 As the Abramoff scandal illustrates, the idea that money is given without strings attached, is bullshit.  George gives out our money to these groups and they reward him with unquestioning loyalty.  This buys him defenders when he breaks the law and he's banking on these blind followers to keep Congress muzzled.  And Bush is quite crafty in that he's built his "army of God" strategically, using state-level faith based initiative offices.

Getting back to Rev. Lusk ...

Mr. Lusk said he would await the confirmation process to determine whether his support for Judge Alito was justified. "I may be wrong on Alito, I don't know that, but I know I'm right on George W.," he said. "He's always done what he's told me he would do."

Well, Rev. Lusk, as a man of the cloth, one would assume that you'd have a great capacity for faith, it's true. And you've placed your faith in a man who's a proven liar. As a man of the cloth, you should have compassion for those in pain or need. Tell me, then, how does opposing same-sex marriage, assisted suicide and abortions for minors, and supporting prayer and Christmas celebrations in schools help your flock or those in pain or need? And, finally, as a man of the cloth you should consider yourself a teacher of sorts. And a teacher would do his homework before throwing the church doors open wide to a group of people who have cynically purchased you and your complicity. You've been bought, Mr. Lusk. Shouldn't you be afraid of the time when you could be sold?

Originally posted to tag team on Thu Jan 05, 2006 at 09:08 AM PST.

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