Wednesday, July 2, 2008

From 'Catholic Online'

Senator Obama - Faith into Action
By Douglas W. Kmiec
Catholic Online

(Catholic Online) - Senator Obama has announced that he intends to create a Council For Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Having been privileged to give some advance guidance for this worthy idea, it is exciting to watch it become part of the public record.

An old idea talked about by George W. Bush and even "his thousand points of light" father?
Well, yes, talked about; but by the writing of Bush's own staff, regrettably, not done. Obama says he's different and this will be a "critical part of his administration." The proof will be in the doing, of course, but this much is plain: Senator Obama has direct experience. He has personally rolled up his sleeves as a community organizer to meet the needs of the unemployed in south Chicago, for example.
The incumbent administration raised expectations only to have them disappointed by tax cuts for the wealthiest families and funding cuts for the poorest; by conducting faith-based conferences that seemed more for friends of the Republican Party than those in need; and by issuing executive orders and directives deliberately calculated to raise unnecessary constitutional clash between church and state.
With great disappointment, the Bush efforts yielded division and acrimony rather than unity and understanding.

Why won't the same happen with Senator Obama?
The answer I believe lies in the Senator's own Christian journey. His is a lived faith that both prays and works - hard. Much depends on Grace, of course, but Obama also understands that neighborhood organizations work because people who live together and worship together not only know each other's needs, but meet them.

When our neighbors commit to help, they are less apt to let us down because, well, we know each other by name.

Catholics call this the principle of subsidiarity -- a principle that reflects that one should never ever take to a higher level that which can be more effectively done below. Churches and synagogues and temples and mosques don't stand apart from life's difficulty, they embrace it with the confidence that says with belief nothing is impossible.

Envying his gift of empathy and oral presentation, Senator McCain is sometimes heard to say that Senator Obama only operates at a high level of generality or in abstraction. There is nothing abstract about his proposed new Council. One of the things the Bush folks never figured out was why their project generated little participation.
In addition to misguided funding priorities that hardly heard "the cry of the poor" generally,somehow Washington didn't notice that poverty was often greatest in rural areas. In addition, small faith-based groups -- whether in city or country town -- simply didn't have the knowledge or wherewithal to know how to navigate the federal bureaucracy.

As a consequence, the principal beneficiaries of federal grants were often the large social service organizations that had always been beneficiaries of federal money.

While Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services, for example, do excellent work they simply are not structured always to reach down and find those individuals who because of illness or disability or intimidation born of a lack of educational opportunity simply do not know the fine work of those major charitable enterprises.

Since even major banks need branch offices and ATM machines to reach customers, logic might have conveyed that those requiring our most basic help are not any different.

Obama intends to take our most capable charitable entities and train them to train, so that a small storefront church or mosque or family support Center will be within reach of those who might otherwise be overlooked. Again, to make use of the Catholic idiom -subsidiarity does not mean big, distant government pats local organizations on the head and just says "good job, keep it up."
Subsidiarity is always twinned with solidarity which reminds us that all of us - regardless of our politics -- are intimately connected. We have an obligation to meet the needs of the "least of these" - the poor, the family displaced from its home, the working person seeking a new skill or opportunity.

There are two other aspects of the Obama program that will make it distinctive. First, Senator Obama is truly dedicated to closing the education gap experienced by the less privileged children of every race and ethnicity. As the senator pointed out, "many children simply can't read or perform math at their grade level" and this problem magnifies during the summer months when children are away from school.

Neighborhood programs are ideal for providing summer learning opportunities, but these too need duplication in remote farming areas as well. Finally, Senator Obama does not view the proposed Council as a covert way for distorting the respect that church and state should have for each other. When faith initiatives are wrongly thought of as a partisan tool, they sometimes end up also having the unseemly partisan objective of advancing a favored faith conception, or worse, playing off one person's religious freedom against another. A President Obama will have none of that, nor should he. It is an unworthy and unnecessary distraction, and it can be easily avoided by simply asking all participants o observe federal, state and local civil rights laws. Now, to be sure, particular difficulties can crop up, and as the founders knew, government must treat religious belief and practice with a gentle hand. Different religious traditions do interact with the larger culture differently. For example, because of the apostolic witness and the teaching of the Church related to it, there is only a male priesthood in the Catholic Church. Does this eliminate Catholic participation? Hardly. Well-settled principles provide for a ministerial exception as part of the civil rights law itself. Only those interested in the partisan purpose of dividing one faith from another would think otherwise. Certainly, this much is true: religious organizations seldom see it as their calling to only serve soup or provide shelter or tutor those who worship in the same pew and in the same congregation. Senator Obama is more interested in helping people of all faiths, and of no faith, be of service to each other. And in that ennobling purpose is a true echo of those words we heard another young man who would be President, this man a Catholic, who said so well and so eloquently that "here on earth, God's work must truly be our own."

Douglas W. Kmiec is the Chair & Professor of Constitutional Law Pepperdine University and Former Dean & St. Thomas More Professor of Law, The Catholic University Of America


Sean said...

I never thought Bush's FBI was a bad idea. I'm glad Obama is moving to expand it.

Max said...


I,ve read that Obama's FBI has a provision that the government will have the power to enforce a “non-discrimination” clause on these organizations.For instance, Catholic and So. Baptist charities could not discriminate based on sexual preference even if it is against the tenants of the faith.

sean said...

Yes, you have read that in some of the inaccurate right wing propaganda that has been circulated.

However, having said that, many would disagree that it is a tenant of the Catholic faith that gay people should be turned away at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Some individual Catholics may believe this, but the Church does not hold it as a tenant.

I'm not as familiar with Southern Baptist theology.

Max said...



I'm not talking about who the charities serve, I'm talking about faith based hiring.

Under Obama's proposal, hiring by religious organizations, cannot be faith based or you won't get any funding. In other words the faith based organization must lose its identity to recieve government funds. You say thats inaccurate. Show me in his proposal where I am wrong.

Max said...


Should've previewed that post before I published.

sean said...


I can't prove a negative. Show me where Senator Obama has asked for any change in the current law and I'll be happy to continue the discussion.

A side matter -- you don't need to respond if you don't want to -- but are you content with the government saying that if a religious charity receives a government grant, it has to feed or shelter gay people as well as any one else, even if the group in question finds that objectionable?

Max said...


Here you go, from the Chrisitan Science Monitor:

He (Obama)emphasized that those receiving funds could not proselytize the people they help nor could they discriminate in hiring practices on the basis of religion. Faith-based groups could only use federal dollars for secular programs. And he committed to ensure that taxpayer dollars would only go to "programs that actually work."

I think you missed my point, I believe Catholic charities should reach out to all people, especially those who are in need and our living an immoral lifestyle. It is a duty to clothe, feed and shelter anyone in need.

My objection is that Obama wants to nueter what makes a faith based charity a faith based charity. A Catholic Charity should be able to hire as a matter of policy committed Catholics as a first preference. Same for Jews, Mormons, ect.

Obama wants to take the faith out of faith based.

Do you consider the Chritian Science Monitor right wing propadanda?

sean said...

Do you consider the Chritian Science Monitor right wing propadanda?

No, I do not.

But I would counsel you to read the article carefully. Senator Obama re-stated what is existing law. he did not make any proposal for any new restriction. That is the ruke today under the Bush Administration and long before Bush. Those receiving funds can not proselytize the people they help nor can they discriminate in hiring practices on the basis of religion. Catholic Charities has done the good work they do operating under these rules with every federal dollar they receive.

I appreciate Senator Obama re-stating this long standing rule for the wacky hyper-secularists who would object and also for more sane and thoughtful people like you who seem to be unaware of this.

Best wishes for the 4th.

sean said...

Let me add, that while Catholic organizations have been fine with the traditional obligations of agencies receiving federal funding and never claimed it interferes with their mission, they and other grantees are not without any rights. Faith based agencies have the right when hiring for policy making positions to consider the applicant's qualifications at supporting the organization's "mission and purpose".

Catholic organizations have generally been happy with this as the employing agency has the upper hand in defining what is a "policy making" position and discerning an applicant's ability to support the "mission and purpose."

It has been suggested (and I agree) that cleaner lines would be better. I would support a rule that if a government grantee believes gay people cannot support the mission and purpose of a soup kitchen; it needs to print on the job announcement "Homosexuals are not eligible to apply for the position of dietitian for the First Baptist Church Feed the Hungry program."

The problems have almost always been when agencies knowingly hired a divorced person and then a new Executive Director decided he didn't want a divorced person. No employee should be fired from a job based on such shifting standards.

kurt said...

this might be of interest

Rustler45 said...

Sean, when you read this line below quoting you realize that you sound like some know-it-all college freshman.

SEAN SAID: Yes, you have read that in some of the inaccurate right wing propaganda that has been circulated.

Yeah, we know Sean. Any expose of your Marxist socialist shenanigans is "right wing" propaganda.

Let's take for example your immoral idea of "taxing the rich." Taxing the rich is one of those things that college kids see as a good and honorable thing. But they should wake up and know something's wrong when Bill Clinton says, (in his stupid drawl) "Yeah, were gonna tax the rich." As if it will affect his lifestyle as well.

Taxing the rich is also a lie that makes "sense" to the ignorant nonthinkers and the poor. Nobody realizes that taxing the rich is a method of keeping the poor and the middle class, especially the upper middle class from getting rich.

It was thought up by the rich to keep themselves rich and to keep us poor. And to keep themselves in power!

I am not going to write a book to explain all this. you're going to have to figure it out on your own. But you won't. You're comfortable thinking what you're thinking and anything contrary to that isn't going to faze you. Thinking is not something you do. You love the party line and the politically correct so much because you don't have to think.

Marie asked a while back as to how it is that Marxism and Catholicism are irreconcilable. Not one of you lamebrains in here could give her an answer. Not one.

You know why that is? It's because you're all a bunch of socialists which has no conflict at all with Marxism. It's all the same.

So Sean, let's hear some more of your stupid ideas.

Rustler45 said...

kurt said...

Probably not, but you're going to have to give us a link that works.

Rustler45 said...

SEAN WISELY COUNSELS MAX: But I would counsel you to read the article carefully.


Sean, next time try your deep instructor voice. And puff on your pipe a few times while trying to appear thoughtful.


Max said...


I read the article again and I stand by what I previously stated. It appears from the article Obama wants to apply new tests to faith based charities. These tests deal with discrimination in hiring and proselytizing.

You stated those rules are already in effect, yet the article quotes Barry Lynn and Marc Stern who say that is precisely thier problem with the current program.

sean said...


well, I think we are pretty down into the weeds on this. perhaps if you could give some actual examples of the situations you think are problematic. I will say I'm personally not ready to endorse evangelization with taxpayer dollars.

Its also a rather academic question for us Catholics, as our social service agencies say they carry out even their privately funded activities without discriminating.