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Welcome to Morris, Oklahoma, population 1,319, most of whom live in the same square mile. It's the kind of town where the locals tell highway travelers, "Don't blink -- you'll miss it."

You can be forgiven for having never heard of this place, as even most Oklahomans haven't heard of it. It's what I call a "tornado radar town" because it's one of those towns I only see on the Doppler radar broadcasts during a tornado watch.

As you drive through this town along highway 62 -- possibly on the way from Okmulgee to Muskogee --  you pull your car to a stop the town's only traffic light, which hangs from a wire at the intersection of the other highway that makes up Morris' "main drag."

The only evidence of the presence of government that you can see is the public school and the post office. There's a bank too, with an ATM whose installation warranted a story in the town newsletter. And there are seemingly dozens of churches.

The signs welcome you -- a Christian church, a Baptist church, a United Methodist church, a Pentecostal church, another Baptist church, an Assembly of God church, a Church of Christ church, and yet another Baptist church.

The median income in Morris is less than $30,000 a year -- about $18,000 less than the national average. This isn't to say its people are poor. They aren't any worse off than anyone else in another of Oklahoma's small towns. They have suffered no recent natural disasters, and no big manufacturing plants or factories have packed up and left because there were none around to begin with.

No, Morris, OK is an unassuming, thoroughly average place that is not remarkable at all among the tens of thousands of tiny towns that dot the pages of road atlases stowed in the glove boxes of American drivers. Most people have visited a place like it, and a good amount of people still call them home.

But see, the difference is this. When someone in Morris, OK has a problem that they can't fix themselves -- a bankruptcy, a car accident, a house fire, a struggle with alcoholism, an illness in the family that prevents someone from earning and working -- help is further away for them than it is for many others.

Not only do many people fall through the cracks by making just a little too much money to qualify for aide programs, but in small places like Morris, the near-total lack of government presence means that help is a distant thing.

What is much closer is those churches I mentioned earlier. Not only are they physically closer, but they are filled with people that you know if you're from there. They're neighbors. And when you have a problem that you can't fix yourself, sometimes help from someone who knows your situation is easier to accept than help from a government entity.

And from the perspective of government, it would use up a lot less taxpayer resources to fund an outreach program at one of those churches than it would be to come to Morris, OK and build one. It's a more efficient use of taxpayer money to use a system that is already in place -- those churches.

In an interview with "Christianity Today" magazine, Obama criticised the way George W. Bush ran his Office of Faith-Based Initiatives:

"There's always a danger in those situations that money is being allocating based on politics, as opposed to merit and substance. That doesn't just compromise government. More importantly, it compromises potentially our religious institutions."

In short, if a place of worship has a worthy program, then under Obama's plan they should be eligible for federal assistance related to that program whether they are Anglicans or Zoroastrians.

It's not an election-year pander. It's not "reaching out to evangelicals." It's something that Barack Obama has talked about doing for a long time, mentioning it in his book, "The Audacity of Hope."

In April 13, 2008's "Compassion Forum," Obama had this to say about faith-based initiatives:

"I want to keep the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives open, but I want to make sure that its mission is clear. It's not to -- it's not to simply build a particular faith community, the faith-based initiatives should be targeted specifically at the issue of poverty and how to lift people up."

"And partnering with faith communities, I think we can achieve that as long as it's within the requirements of our Constitution. We make sure that it's open to everybody. It's not simply the federal government funding certain groups to be able to evangelize."

Jim Wallis, an activist, blogger and author of "The Great Awakening" once worked for George W. Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, eventually cutting his ties with the administration over the Iraq War. He writes, "Obama's proposals also contain necessary protections for religious liberty, pluralism, and constitutional safeguards."

In a July 1 speech in Zainesville, Ohio, Obama provided a short history of faith-based programs:

"What I'm saying is that we all have to work together - Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim; believer and non-believer alike - to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

"Now, I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square. But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups."

"President Clinton signed legislation that opened the door for faith-based groups to play a role in a number of areas, including helping people move from welfare to work."

"Al Gore proposed a partnership between Washington and faith-based groups to provide more support for the least of these."

"And President Bush came into office with a promise to 'rally the armies of compassion,' establishing a new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. But what we saw instead was that the Office never fulfilled its promise."

Obama realizes that, under Bush, Faith-Based Initiatives were misused for partisan purposes. Instead of being a "photo-op" program, Obama said, his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be "a critical part" of the Obama administration.

In the same speech, Obama described how his program would guard against abuses and waste:

"Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea - so long as we follow a few basic principles."

"First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

"Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work."

NOTE: This is contrary to some Associated Press reports yesterday that claimed Obama's plan would allow religious groups to discriminate on the grounds of a person's faith. These reports were and are, completely false.

I myself, and my family as well, have relied upon the help of religious charities at several points in our lives -- including once quite recently. A charity called Angel Food Ministries, which ships inexpensive grocery items to churches around the country, helped us support ourselves during some difficult times.

Now that we have a baby, a local church is helping us with child care as my wife works. And of course, the string of apartments and rent houses we lived in during and after college would have been bare of furniture without the Salvation Army.

My family has worked on the other end of charity as well, when my Dad donated his time as a doctor to a church-run free clinic. He helped people who, for whatever reason, lacked access to health care -- people who were poor, disabled, elderly, and all of the above.

None of this is life-or-death stuff. It just made things easier on us when we wouldn't have otherwise had help made available to us. When we made about $300 too much every month to qualify for food stamps, a church program was there -- they didn't ask any nosy questions and they didn't try to drag us into a church service.

I know the relationship between religious people and the Democratic Party isn't always as harmonious as it could be. But here on Daily Kos, you'll meet liberals who are faithful, and who love to give and help people who need it.

I realize that many churches can be havens for intolerance and inflammatory political rhetoric, but these kinds of churches usually aren't the ones with outstanding charity programs that help non-churchgoers.

Helping people who need help is what the Democratic Party is all about. Need knows no religious denomination or political affiliation -- it can strike any one of us. It can even strike those of us who live in places where government assistance isn't easy to come by.

That is why I support the idea of helping religious institutions serve people who need that help -- without judgment, without strings attached, and without religious harassment or proselytization. And if a church doesn't feel like it can abide by these rules, then they would either not apply for funding or lose their funding after breaking them.

And of course this isn't an either-or proposition. We can also repair and bolster our country's secular charities and rebuild the federal aide programs that have languished under years of Republican rule. But in some areas of the country, it's more practical and less expensive to work through religious institutions.

There will always be abuses in any large system. We can't expect that Obama's revamped Office of Faith-Based Initiatives will be perfect. But what it does have is the potential to help a lot of people who might not otherwise find the assistance they need -- while at the same time keeping an eye on the potential for abuses within the system.

There are tens of thousands of places like Morris, Oklahoma, and millions of people who fall into the cracks of our federal aide programs. A revamped and reimagined Office of Faith-Based Initiatives could be one way to reach more of them. It's a bottom-up approach that can and will work.

Originally posted to droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:01 AM PDT.

Poll

Do you support Obama's concept of faith-based community initiatives?

30%32 votes
22%24 votes
18%20 votes
7%8 votes
16%17 votes
3%4 votes
0%1 votes

| 106 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for helping people (55+ / 0-)

    I know this is a controversial subject here, but I hope you'll read my diary thoughtfully. It's the best argument I could come up with.

    The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

    by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:03:16 AM PDT

  •  Right: (6+ / 0-)

    without judgment, without strings attached, and without religious harassment or proselytization.

    And I've got a deal for you too. I'll let my friends from Nigeria explain it an email.

    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

    by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:09:27 AM PDT

    •  It hasn't been tried before, melvin. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shortgirl, KentuckyKat

      We should at least give it a try, and see what the impact is.

      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:10:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not buying. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NonnyO, KentuckyKat

        Of course it might have a little bit of impact. Big fucking deal, it is still a disgrace.

        Incrementally less bad than the Bush fiasco is still plenty bad.

        What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

        by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:12:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  asdf (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mr Bula, MsWings, shortgirl, KentuckyKat

          What is your main objection to this idea? Is it constitutional, or philosophical, or political? Help me understand.

          The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

          by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:14:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Constitutional is the big one. (5+ / 0-)

            Civil life is a wonderful thing, including all the churches. Let it and them flourish on their own.

            I object to public money - my money, extracted from me - being used to subsidize churches, period.

            What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

            by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:16:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The idea is to subsidize (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              droogie6655321, KentuckyKat

              people - with public money - through programs that may (or may not) be run by religious organizations. It's not to divert public money to support religious organizations. Oversight is needed, no doubt, but rejecting the idea without really exploring it isn't heling anyone.

              "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

              by MsWings on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:26:49 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, the idea is to support people, (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                peteri2, melvin, MsWings, KentuckyKat

                Not prop up churches. But at the same time, that money is fungible.

                Money not used for charities is money that the church can use in other areas.

                So it's important to consider the entire religious institution, not just its charity programs.

                The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

                by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:29:15 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Fungible, yes. But also limited. (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Catte Nappe, droogie6655321, MsWings

                  A church that gets a grant to fund a food bank may not have the funds to do it alone.  It is not a question of allocation of resources in many cases, but of lack of resources.

                  The foundation I am involved with insists that grants be made to organizations that can show compelling need, present detailed budgets, sign agreements to spend as stated in their budgets, and provide follow-up documentation proving that they did what they said they would do.  If government funding of church charities followed the same rules that apply to 501c(3)s, I would not have a problem with it.

                  •  Good! (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    2laneIA, MsWings

                    I was hoping it would be possible to include really thorough budgeting as a part of this plan, but I didn't know how much of a logistical nightmare this would be to enforce.

                    Anyway, thanks for dropping by. Your input is very helpful.

                    The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

                    by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:55:55 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  There is also the good faith requirement (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      droogie6655321

                      Clearly Bush's initiative was lacking in this requirement.  Someone called it walking around money for your friends on the news last night, I forget who.  

                      If Obama manages this effort the way his campaign has been managed, I suspect we will not be reading exposes by his version of David Kuo in five years.

              •  My assertion is that a group whose (4+ / 0-)

                primary purpose is religious indoctrination and proselytization should not receive public money, regardless of how much good they might do. And that we should err on the side of withholding the money.

                What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

                by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:32:05 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's a good argument (5+ / 0-)

                  But it's where we disagree.

                  There are plenty of religious institutions that do not regularly proselytize. I think I read once, for example, that rabbis are taught to turn away prospective converts to Judaism three times before they will agree to talk to them about it.

                  The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

                  by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:38:37 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well Judaism in general has never been (4+ / 0-)

                    big on proselytizing, nor are some other groups.

                    But at the bottom of this I don't see why religious groups should be advantaged over the chess club, or a film buff's society. It is granting them moral authority, advancing their claim on moral authority, and that should not be the function of the state.

                    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

                    by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:42:50 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Well, I dunno (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MsWings

                      I mean, in theory I guess an organization like the YMCA could have a chess club or something.

                      Anyway, I don't think it's about moral authority. It's about charity. And we have hundreds of thousands of religious institutions throughout the country that are already set up and equipped to do charity work.

                      To me it's better to support them in their efforts rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel through another government program.

                      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

                      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:45:35 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  btw, (0+ / 0-)

                      I could more likely see this in a monoglot, monocultural society. But here it just seems to open such a can of worms.

                      What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

                      by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:52:51 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  Not in the last 1700 years or so. But (0+ / 0-)

                      before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, followed by the outlawing of non-Christian proselytism, Jews did proselytize.

                    •  In my experience (0+ / 0-)

                      There haven't been any chess clubs or film buff societies clamoring for an opportunity to serve their fellow man via a food pantry or homeless shelter. It's the sort of activity that churches seem drawn to. And, actually, most (at least pre-Bush initiative) are drawn to it because they see a need to "walk their talk" by helping the poor and not because they seek a captive audience to proselytize. (Before the Bush initiative they weren't allowed to proselytize, so there wouldn't have been much point if that were their motivation.)

                      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Sen Carl Schurz 1872

                      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 11:56:30 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

        •  The Lesser of Two (0+ / 0-)

          weevils.

          They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

          by Limelite on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:19:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary (9+ / 0-)

    I'm still not sure about this program. I see the pros and I see the cons, and neither one outweighs the other in my mind. But you did a great job of outlining the pros.

  •  It puts in clear perspective (7+ / 0-)

    why assistance to church-based initiatives may be a good idea.  Still, I voted "maybe" in your poll, because I'm just not a fan of churches getting tax dollars when they are tax-exempt.

    Thanks for a thoughtful argument.

  •  You rock, droogie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    droogie6655321, shortgirl

    Jim Thompson, of whom the title of this post reminded me, also rocks.

    Obama, I have to admit, rocks on this issue.

  •  Why not just help your neighbor? Why do you need (6+ / 0-)

    the church? Not that faith-based help per se is bad, you shouldn't need Jesus to know that helping your neighbor is a good idea. Non-religious people do it too. And non-christians.

    •  Because places of worship help... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      askew, Catte Nappe, soonerhq, MsWings

      ... they help you organize, and find others who want to help.

      It's a strength in numbers thing. Individuals can do a lot of good on their own, but when they join up with others, the impact is magnified.

      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:31:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which neighbor needs my help? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      askew, droogie6655321

      Which neighbor can help me? Programs that connect people with needs with people who can tend to those needs are essential in a society where we generally don't know our neighbors. If those programs are run by a religious organization it doesn't nullify or weaken the help being provided.

      "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

      by MsWings on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:36:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is similar to asking why we need (4+ / 0-)

      the government for social programs and taxation when we could just give to charity. Sometimes it is an issue of willingness, sometimes it is an issue of infrastructure. Either way, it is not getting done as it is.

      Most people actually doing the good works (see Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day) could care less about the dogma. They chose their religion because it matched their sense of humanity, and they could care less about collecting souls for the lord. At least that has been my experience working with local charities.

      You both seem to prefer a universe in which the other person hasn't magically disappeared. I think we have a framework for peace. -Jimmy Carter, as himself

      by sanglug on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:42:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't be ridiculous. Your neighbors can't (0+ / 0-)

        guarantee your student loans. They can't set up single-payer medical coverage for you. That's what the government is in business to do. Everything those local churches do in a town of 1000, the neighbors could, do without the middleman.

        Don't get me wrong, churches have a role. They should shake down the rich to help the poor (they can do it more effectively than government, if they are honest about it). They can redistribute resources from wealthy areas to non-wealthy ones. But how many of them do?

        •  What do you do when the town is not wealthy? n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          droogie6655321

          You both seem to prefer a universe in which the other person hasn't magically disappeared. I think we have a framework for peace. -Jimmy Carter, as himself

          by sanglug on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:52:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Then the churches should be in the wealthy towns, (0+ / 0-)

            not in the poor ones, don't you think? Yet that isn't really the case. I actually think that there may be some causation between being poor and having a church every 50-100 people, don't you think?

            •  Heh, perhaps they cling. ;-) n/t (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Catte Nappe

              You both seem to prefer a universe in which the other person hasn't magically disappeared. I think we have a framework for peace. -Jimmy Carter, as himself

              by sanglug on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:00:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  so poor people (0+ / 0-)

              don't deserve to have their own places of worship?  That's nice.  With the price of gas being so high, do you also think the rich people should go pick them up and drive them to these mythical "wealthy towns" so they can go to their worship services and all the other fellowship gatherings, like the church suppers and stuff?  I'm sure that would be no problem at all - the rich people will just love to chauffer all those poor people around in their fancy cars with them.  While they're at it, they might as well take them to their doctor and dentist appointments, and pick up the school supplies for the kids... because, you know, the rich folks have no idea what to do with their time or their money, so why not?  Hey, I've got an idea - the rich folks could just invite the poor ones to MOVE IN WITH THEM - and then they wouldn't have to be poor any more!  Brilliant!

              I can definitely see that happening.

              \snark

              'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

              by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:11:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  How terrible would it be to have to worship with (0+ / 0-)

                your whole town together instead of your 50 friends...!

                It's incredible how one's words get twisted so that you can remain comfortably in your ignorance.

                Rich people driving poor people around? If you asked Christ, YES, he would said pretty much, drive them around, and pay for the fuel, and STFU. As, do others who are worshipped by non-Christians.

                If there is somebody who needs to hear the word of god day in, day out it's the wealthy. The miserable and the afflicted are already near god. Nothing wrong with helping your neighbor even if you are poor, but then again, it would be a good idea to worship together with your neighbor, too.

                Paraphrasing Christ, of course, but I'm pretty sure I'm closer to the substance than a 9 or 10 of those 12 preachers, and I am just as entitled to do it.

                •  well in lots of places (0+ / 0-)
                  the town is so small that that's how they do it... but your comment was that poor towns shouldn't have churches - that only the wealthy towns should have them.  So y'know it wouldn't be worshipping with your whole town - in your scenario it would be not having place in your town to worship at all because you had committed the hideous offense of being poor.  Or, having to travel however far you had to travel to get to one of those blessed, "wealthy towns" that were worthy (in your scenario) of having their own church.

                  I don't go to church myself, but I understand that those who do often derive great comfort from it in times of trouble - or at least some of them do.  I would think that economic stress (otherwise known as being poor) would be one of those times it would be nice to have a the comfort of people IN YOUR OWN COMMUNITY that you know and know you can rely on to be there for you when the going gets tough.  I don't think one's economic status in the community or the community's economic viability ought to be the determining factor for whether or not consenting people get together to do whatever it is they do when they worship whomever or whatever they worship - and whatever other activities they do together, because from what I understand, living as I do in the so-called bible belt - when you belong to a church, there are a lot of other activities that go on there besides just showing up on Saturday or Sunday for an hour.

                  'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

                  by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 11:21:20 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm going to see this only once: (0+ / 0-)

                    Stop trolling for an argument by putting words like 'worthy' in my mouth and twisting what I said into something that is completely the opposite.

                    You can make your other points without that, but frankly, I have no desire to read on past the first paragraph of your post as it is. You can try again if you want.

        •  in towns that small (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, sanglug, allep10

          the churches are the organizing bodies for the community - the social network.  It's just easier to organize a food pantry for hungry folks using the church network as a starting point than it is to start from scratch.

          And just an observation on this comment:  

          Don't get me wrong, churches have a role. They should shake down the rich to help the poor

          in my experience, it's usually the people who have the least to give who are the most generous - in church or outside of it.  Possibly because they know what it's like to need to ask for help.

          'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

          by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:00:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Do you know the meaning of the word SHOULD? (0+ / 0-)

            If the rich were giving readily and without some prodding (1) they wouldn't be rich; (2) there wouldn't be a need for churches and other charities to convince them, no?

            Instead the poor sure do give, hey they even give to maintain 10-11 extra parasite preachers in a town of 1300...

            •  Well yes, actually I do (0+ / 1-)
              Recommended by:
              Hidden by:
              power2truth

              because I went to Yale, and we learned even more complicated things than the definition of the word "should" while I was there - amazing isn't it?  

              As for the rest of your comment, your incredible disdain for poor people disgusts me.

              Have a lovely day.

              'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

              by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 11:36:50 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I suggest you take your last paragraph back now. (0+ / 0-)

                It brings shame on you, and your alma mater too, since you had the crassness to bring it up and pretty much call me an elitist in the same breath.

                I know a few people from Yale, and it would baffle me that winning arguments by making up a fake strawman of the other's point was part of the curriculum. But of course, it isn't.

  •  Bad Idea (5+ / 0-)

    The Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions can follow their own precepts regarding faith-based initiatives without my tax dollars, thank you very much.

    As for getting government involved in getting them to co-operate with one another. Feh.

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:18:49 AM PDT

  •  Secularism will not defeat bad religion (5+ / 0-)

    good religion is the way to defeat bad religion.

    The social phenomenon, not the punk band.

  •  Angel Food Ministries is an awesome organization. (6+ / 0-)

    I had heard of this through several people so we tried it out in May to check quality.  I was so impressed.  This is a great way to donate to the local food bank.  You can contribute $60 of food for $30.  I will be ordering several packages this month to donate to our local food bank.  I worry about the kids who are out of school now and having enough quality food to eat.

    I encourage everyone to check out if they this organization is in your area and donate an order to your local food bank.  

    "Think. It ain't illegal yet." - George Clinton

    by shortgirl on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:23:51 AM PDT

    •  I think Angel Food... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MsWings, shortgirl, mamamorgaine

      ... uses connections with supermarket food distributors, not individuals.

      Of course, just about every community of moderate size has a food bank that needs individual donations. Clean out those pantries, get a box and make a donation!

      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:33:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wish list... (3+ / 0-)

        as someone who has to rely on a food bank now and then, allow me to put in a plug for good things to donate!

        1. Peanut Butter
        1. Canned Tuna/salmon/chicken/pork, etc.
        1. Dried Fruit & Nuts
        1. Baking Staples (flours, sugar, butter, etc.)
        1. Juice in any form
        1. Toilet Paper
        1. Cheese
        1. Fresh fruit/veggies (if your local foodbank has the 'frig space)
        1. Things to flavor things with (rice and beans get awfully boring after a while; condensed soups, BBQ sauce, salsa, dressing mixes, etc. can jazz up humble ingredients)

        And if your local foodbank doesn't have a 'frig or freezer...I'm sure they'd love to have one donated if you happen to be upgrading from yours!

        Peace and good eats!

        •  the gal who used to run the food pantry (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Catte Nappe, shortgirl, mamamorgaine

          near us, used to say "any kind of cleaning product - if it can clean your dishes, your clothes, your floor, your teeth or your child - we need it, and we need it every day."  I always donate toilet paper - it's not something most people think of, but of course it's always needed.

          'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

          by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:16:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  the food pantries in our area (4+ / 0-)

      are organized geographically (by county I think)by all the surrouding religious/faith organizations.  I believe they also get some support from the county - not sure exactly how it works, but it seems to be a cooperative approach.  I believe they are organized as non-profits so that they are separate entities.

      'The votes are in, and we won.' - Jim Webb, 11/07/2006

      by lcork on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 10:14:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary! (7+ / 0-)

    My first reaction yesterday upon hearing Obama's proposal was overwhelmingly negative... I thought it was an obvious pander to the evangelical right.

    But life's rarely black and white, and perspective and context help form a more informed opinion.  You've provided some excellent perspective here.

    Can't say I'm entirely sold on the program yet, but you've given me a lot to think about.  Thanks.

    Walnuts McSame -- Just like Bush. Only a lot older.

    by That Anonymous Guy on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:25:58 AM PDT

  •  My final fallback argument for Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO

    has always been the spectre of Supreme Court appointments.

    Based on the bullshit he's been dishing out the last couple weeks, I am abandoning that as an argument.

    I no longer see much reason to believe that his appointments would be any better than McCain's, other than the blind faith advocated by so many here.

    Just believe. Right.

    Troll rate at will, but it is my true opinion.

    What's so hard about Peace, Love, and Truth and Progress?

    by melvin on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:26:09 AM PDT

  •  I think this is a great diary. (6+ / 0-)

    I guess I understand why people get uptight about this issue, but I don't see the difference between a faith-based institution getting funding to help with day care or your local YMCA (or other non faith-based org).  

    It seems to me that with the economic challenges we are facing as a nation, we need to be getting out the needles and thread and patching together whatever kind of "safety quilt" we can.

    I drive an '86 Volvo, I like lattes but can't afford them, I have a college degree but I'm being murdered by student loans & I need OBAMA to be my President

    by ayanna a kazana on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:28:23 AM PDT

    •  the reality is that the US is very churchy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      droogie6655321, MsWings, shortgirl

      I was going to say "deeply religious" but that may be bullshit.

      The reality is that churches are an important part of society in a huge portion of the US. Maybe a more secular society would be desirable, but I see Obama's proposal as dealing with the country such as it is.

    •  Umm... Young Men's Christian Association (5+ / 0-)

      think they might not be atheists...

      There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those that understand binary, and those that don't. -8.25, -6.21

      by Jacques on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:32:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, MsWings, shortgirl

      YMCA falls neatly into the category of a faith-based organization that runs excellent secular programs.

      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:35:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  YMCA History (0+ / 0-)

      The Young Men's Christian Association ("YMCA" or "the Y") was founded on June 6, 1844 in London, England by a young man named George Williams. At the time, the organization was dedicated to putting Christian principles into practice, as taught by Jesus Christ. Young men who came to London for work were often living in squalid and unsafe conditions, and the YMCA was dedicated to replacing life on the streets with prayer and bible study.

      And today:

      The national YMCA federation in the United States expresses its mission:

      To put Christian principles in to practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:15:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for proving my point... (0+ / 0-)

        The YMCA receives government funding (at all levels) for all types of programs from gang prevention, housing & rehab to child care and education.  Many of the programs are not so secular, ie Raggers, Bible study, Yoga & Tai Chi(yes, I included these because there is a spiritual basis) and prayer groups.

        I'll throw YMHA's, the Salvation Army, yada yada yada, into the mix as well.  I guess my point is that faith based orgs, with guidelines, can administer non-religious programming in communities where there is an absence of such support.

        I drive an '86 Volvo, I like lattes but can't afford them, I have a college degree but I'm being murdered by student loans & I need OBAMA to be my President

        by ayanna a kazana on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 10:51:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hell, I'll be the asshole to say it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NonnyO

    The town has 1300 people and 8 churches? Maybe it's a poor town for a reason...

  •  Nice to see this issue from another perspective. (6+ / 0-)

    Well done, droogie. I love your writing.:-)

    "It does not require many words to speak the truth." -- Chief Joseph, native American leader (1840-1904)

    by highfive on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:37:14 AM PDT

  •  I live in a town of 326 in Iowa... (6+ / 0-)

    ...at the intersection of two-lane blacktops.  Thus the handle.  I am not a churchgoer, but I have deep respect for Jim Wallis, and for Obama, and think they may be right.

    We have two churches in town, Lutheran and Methodist.  The Catholics have a country church about 10 miles from here.  Most good things that happen here are courtesy of the same group of citizens.  Their instruments are the three churches and the Lions Club. In smaller communities there is not a big selection of such instruments for good.

    I also participate on the board of a county community foundation.  In giving out grants, we have to comply with the rules applicable to 501c(3) organizations.  Grants to churches have to be for nonreligious purposes.  Churches in our county have asked for, and received, grants for fixing a playground used by all the children in a neighborhood, for a new food bank that serves all comers, and a program to provide winter coats to poor children, among other projects.  

    If you live in a rural area, you have to be creative with what you have.

    •  Yup (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2laneIA, shortgirl

      As I said, there are literally tens of thousands of similar communities from coast to coast.

      People who live in large cities are used to government services being nearby, but it's not that way for millions of Americans.

      The shortest complete sentence in the English language is a raised middle finger, aimed at the appropriate party.

      by droogie6655321 on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:50:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The program simply MUST be renamed. (5+ / 0-)

    "Office of Faith-Based Initiatives" should become "Office of Charity-Based Initiatives", or somesuch.  If these resources are to be allocated, they should go where they do the most good, and that might not always be a "Faith-Based" organization.  Such a renaming would make it more inclusive rather than exclusive when considering what pre-exsiting assistance structures to fund.

  •  Discrimination (6+ / 0-)

    God help any gay people who need help since it's a safe bet they won't get it from the churches you listed.  

    I'm adamantly opposed to public funding of religious organizations precisely because these organizations will inevitably discrimination against groups based on irrational religious prejudice.  Services must be available to everyone, without forced compliance with religious dogma and without forced propagandizing by the churches.  

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke

    by mathGuyNTulsa on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 09:57:45 AM PDT

    •  The plan includes... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      askew, shortgirl, smellybeast

      ... a requirement of compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws. If the churches don't feel they can serve everyone, then they will get no federal money to serve anyone.

      •  Doesn't work now, though (3+ / 0-)

        I love your diary and it has really given me pause for thought, but I have to support mathGuyNTulsa on this one. I know for a fact that a local food bank, that happens to be located in a church and staffed by church volunteers, will actively discourage any person that they know is gay or that they think appears gay from accessing their services. The staffers quiz these folks with more and more intrusive questions before they'll allow a food pick-up. The income cap seems to be different if you are gay, as well. They also restrict the quality and amount of food in comparison to those who are straight.

        Complaints to the state Food Bank that coordinates with this church have not produced any change in this behavior. How are the safeguards that Obama is proposing any different than what exists and how are they going to be enforced? Remember the "all politics is local" phenomen works against rooting out these attitudes/actions.

    •  You might be surprised (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      askew

      A faith based facility was the first homeless shelter in my city to do in-depth AIDS/HIV education; and to admit anyone with that diagnoses (and without segregation or differences in services available). That was back in the early 80's when it was still a widely held belief that only gay men were susceptible. Even earlier than that I knew of a shelter program whose lead manager was an out lesbian.

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:24:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actually (3+ / 0-)

    I'd be surprised if it did help him with Evangelicals because of the stipulations he puts on the aid.

    Besides the "I think intertwining religion and politics doesn't make politics more moral but makes religion less", I don't have a problem with an organization that is associated with a religious group to provide services and receive Government aid for that. As long as...the cash is separate. Not a fan of funding fire and brimstone preachers who denounce the actions of the 'liberal' Government and the evil left on Sunday and then pick up a check on Monday and use it to expand ye olde Megachurch...

  •  That's some metropolis! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, shortgirl

    Living in a town of 300, that seems like a lot of people!  But we're similar.  After contact with nature, the best thing about living here is neighborliness.  We take care of each other and no-one falls through the cracks.  Our one church plays an active role, running the local food pantry among other things.
    Often I think this is the real America and all that other stuff is just some kind of Disneyland. But then I do a double take and think We are the theme park, maintained just so tourists can come and gawk at a cow or a silo. I'm afraid the numbers are on the side of that other world being the real America.  What % of Americans live in towns like this or on farms? 5%?  Thus I have to question how faith based programs would work out in suburbs or cities.
       Another thing.  Twice in my life I've seen wonderful flourishing charitable programs destroyed by goverment help. The original volunteers just give up since their efforts look puny compared to what the government can offer. Currently I'm fighting against our community center accepting a big grant. Right now we have a lot of volunteer enthusiasm which helps bind and build the community. Not easy in the times of TV. If we take the grant everyone will give up and drift away.  They aren't needed any more.
        All that said, I'm in favor of Obama's idea. It's a way of bringing us together.

  •  Good diary, but can't completely agree (0+ / 0-)

    I do think Obama's embrace of this program has a lot to do with reaching out to evangelicals.  It makes sense that he would do so.  I can only hope that under his administration the program would be evaluated a little better than it is now.

    There was a diary yesterday talking about this same topic, and someone in the comments is actually a grant reviewer for this program.  She states that there is basically no record keeping of demographic information about who participates and is approved.  That is disturbing to me on many levels.

    Also, there is a clear bias towards larger organizations.  God help you if you belong to a "fringe group", where the door is basically closed to you before you even get off the ground.  Jim Towey, the Director of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, is actually on the record stating a bias against pagans.  From http://www.whitehouse.gov/... which apparently is a transcript from a Q&A session:

    Colby, from Centralia MO writes:
    Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

    Jim Towey
    I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.

    -8.25, -6.25 "War: a massacre of people who don't know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don't massacre each other." -Paul Valéry

    by smellybeast on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:22:48 PM PDT

    •  Reaching out to evangelicals - or others? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smellybeast

      Perhaps because some of them can be so loud and noisy "evangelical" seems to get applied as an equivalent term to "Christian" or "religious". It's not. Far more Americans claim to be religious than claim to be evangelical; and even among evangelical faiths many are not of the stereotypical "right wing fundie" in belief or practice.

      "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Sen Carl Schurz 1872

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 12:32:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not trying to stereotype or lump people together (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe

        I do mean evangelicals.  They seem to be more obviously focused on community outreach and hence would probably be more of a target for these kinds of programs.  It helps Obama build his base with this demographic.

        My problem is that the program seems to be currently administered in a way that escapes scrutiny and promotes certain organizations over others, and I hope he would change that.  I will be a difficult task to accomplish.  

        -8.25, -6.25 "War: a massacre of people who don't know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don't massacre each other." -Paul Valéry

        by smellybeast on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 01:28:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  ha.. typo (0+ / 0-)

          That should be "It will be a difficult task to accomplish."

          -8.25, -6.25 "War: a massacre of people who don't know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don't massacre each other." -Paul Valéry

          by smellybeast on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 01:40:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This makes me nuts!! (0+ / 0-)

    While Medicare twists in the wind and the manufacturing jobs we have shipped to China  pollute the air with energy derived from oil, thus putting Americans out of work, unable to drive, and choking, what the heck is Obama talking about a "faith based" anything.

    Bring back nice, non-discriminatory Welfare. At least it didn't pretend to save your soul.

    "Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six." Leo Tolstoy

    by Miss Pip on Wed Jul 02, 2008 at 03:49:19 PM PDT

  •  We have the same string of churches here (0+ / 0-)

    Milton, Florida has 29 churches and you're talking about some wild sh*t in some of these churches.  Milton has the highest rate of spousal abuse in Florida.  They hate Democrats and love everything about RUSH.   I drove past a well lettered sign in January: DON'T VOTE FOR HILARY SHE'LL TAKE OUR GUNS AWAY.

    Several of the churches conspired with the abortion shooters in the 1990s.  They would ride across the bridge into Pensacola 25 miles away and shoot doctors who performed abortions.  They also shot escorts at one clinic.

    Read this story about how Michael Griffen and Paul Hill shot and killed doctors in Pensacola.

    Or read about John Burt, a Milton product and former KKK member convicted of many crimes as well as promoting violence in Pensacola.

    Then there were the abortion bombers from the Assembly of God church on Bayou Blvd in Pensacola.  They helped run the youth program at the church.  At nights, with their  wives, they conspired and blew up abortion facilities in Pensacola.

    So do I want to support these churches with Faith-based malarkey by Bush or Obama?   HELL NO !

  •  Thanks for making me look at this differently (0+ / 0-)

    Another insightful diary from an Oklahoma netroots treasure.

    Sorry I missed this the other day, Droog.

    Okie? Join Sooner Kos. | Why Obama? Because we've never had a president whose name started with O.

    by gypsy on Fri Jul 04, 2008 at 08:33:43 PM PDT

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