Obama's Defense of Religion

Believers have found Barack Obama and his Justice Department to be staunch allies.

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Catholic bishops, evangelical pastors and Republican presidential candidates have been decrying the Obama administration's war on religious liberty. Amid all the uproar, it's easy to overlook something equally important: the administration's many battles for religious liberty.

The president has gotten deserved criticism for trying to force Catholic colleges and hospitals to buy insurance coverage for something they regard as evil: birth control. But that's only part of the story. In other realms, believers have found a Barack Obama and his Justice Department to be staunch allies.

The most conspicuous surprise involves government rules for faith-based organizations that get federal funding for social services. President George W. Bush issued an executive order allowing such groups to hire only people who share their faith—exempting them from the usual ban on religious discrimination. Liberal critics accused him of underwriting "theocracy" and "faith-based coercion."

One of the opponents was Obama. In his presidential campaign, he said his view was simple: "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."

But it hasn't worked out that way. Obama has left Bush's rule in place, infuriating many groups that expected a reversal.

They have repeatedly pressed him to bar these groups from using religious criteria in deciding whom to hire and whom to serve. Last year, the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) wrote the White House complaining that "we have seen no forward movement on this issue."

That's not the sentiment at the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA), which includes such perennial Obama critics as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention. It has taken the uncharacteristic step of siding with the administration.

"We commend your steadfast preservation of federal policies that protect the freedom of religious organizations to consider religion in making employment decisions," it informed Obama last year. "Mr. President, your appreciation for the good that religious organizations contribute on a daily basis to our society is evident."

In this instance, Obama may be accused of ignoring the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which forbids government support of religion. But if so, it's because he has given too much deference to religious freedom rather than too little.

His commitment is also on display in defending churches against municipal governments that would prefer to do without them. Under federal law, houses of worship are assured equitable treatment in land use decisions. But mayors and community groups often tell churches to go to the devil.

When that happens, they often find themselves at odds with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Last year, it forced the town of Schodack, N.Y., to retreat after it barred an evangelical church from renting space in a commercial area where nonreligious meetings were allowed.

It filed a brief in support of a Hasidic Jewish congregation's lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, which had forbidden it to hold services in a private home. A federal court ordered the city to back off.

The administration has also intervened in cases where prisoners are denied religious literature. After a South Carolina sheriff prohibited inmates from getting devotional materials and other publications in the mail, the Justice Department sued. In the end, the county agreed to let inmates receive Bibles, Torahs, Korans and related fare.

In doing all this, the administration isn't simply doing the politically appealing thing. Anything but. Those who endorse letting faith-based groups have a free hand in hiring are mostly religious conservatives who wouldn't vote for Obama if he resurrected the dead.

The congregations victimized by zoning regulations are too small to matter. Prison inmates generally can't vote. There is no detectable political gain in anything Obama is doing here.

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock criticized the contraceptive mandate and opposed the administration in a Supreme Court case involving a teacher fired by a religious school. But on the faith-based hiring issue, he says, Obama has actually been "kind of heroic."

The president's detractors may continue to portray him as a secular fanatic with, as Rick Santorum claims, an "overt hostility to faith in America." Before they do, though, they might want to remember the Ten Commandments—especially the one about bearing false witness.

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53 responses to “Obama's Defense of Religion

  1. But, but this can’t be true. John, WHC and all the other Birchers here say he’s the worst ever. Also, Secret Muslim(tm).

    1. Let me be clear: DIE INFIDEL

      Allah akbar babiee!

      1. Die, Abel, you damned hunter-gatherer!

        ~Cain
        ? Agriculturalist
        ? First Murderer
        ? Father of First City-State Builder
        ? Libertarian (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”)

        1. The Biblical mythology is literarily true to the findings of anthropology and archeology.

          The Mythicist Position | What is Mythicism?
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKW9sbJ3v2w

    2. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking
      for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  2. But on the faith-based hiring issue, he says, Obama has actually been “kind of heroic.”

    Bullshit. He has nothing on me.

  3. I suspect that libertarians care more about the grant money being doled out than whether Obama is a “secular fanatic.” I know that I do.

    The money shouldn’t be handed out, at all. That’s the real problem, here, both for the nation’s economic future, and for the future of freedom of religion.

  4. In my opinion, the only faith-based organization that should receive Federal funds are those that are part of the White Tigress Tradition of Taoism.

    1. Halleluja! I have seen the light and it comes outta my dingle!

      Now where do I find the nearest temple full of hot young priestesses? Is there like a WhiteTigerPriestessFinder.com or something? I’d like to give them a donation! Yeah, “the natural flow of things” and all that.

      1. This page will assist you on your quest, Jade Dragon.

  5. Yep, they want religion to have greater sway in law, until it’s not their religion doing the swaying.

  6. Ban dem mosques!

    1. Officer, am I free to worship?

      1. No, but you’re free to eat buffalo shit.

  7. I never thought the Obamacare’s birth control mandate was the incentive for the law’s invasion into religious rights; It’s was a ‘what’s next’ maneuver

    1. I thought you were banned.
      Or was that another one of John’s crackpot theories gone wrong?

      1. News to me on banning; is John spreading that story? It isn’t the first time he has written falsehoods, after I have repeatedly told him they were not true.

        Where did he say this?

        1. He doesn’t say it. He infers it. That way he’s safe either way.

          1. He had said it; more than once IIRC

      2. How can you be banned on Reason?

        1. I can’t recall why but Jennifer mentioned she was the first female banned, and someone using my name likely had me banned too.

          I couldn’t tell you why; I sometimes don’t post for months, yet manage to make dozens of comment everyday.

          I think someone was for outing someone’s personal information. Reason is only interested in protecting the privacy of those who sue, and their is a case that was settled out of court (IIRC), and Warty + several others were named.

          1. And

            Matt Welch posted this to protect Weigle or Weigel:

            Matt Welch|6.29.10 @ 12:16PM|#
            *I* am the thin-skinned crap weasel. I don’t want people spoofing *anyone* here, but since that’s not going to happen until we waste precious time overhauling the comments process, then the least I will ask, particularly at this sensitive juncture, is to not spoof Weigel, so as to completely eliminate the possibility of people confusing a spoof for something he is written. If you don’t like it, get off my lawn, etc.

        2. If you were, wouldn’t that make you banned with no Reason?

          1. I would say it was unReasonable

  8. Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ “church received more than $15 million in federal grants over the last 15 years. One of those taxpayer-funded programs is the church’s daycare. Sweetness & Light blogger Steve Gilbert dug up the Trinity UCC Child Care Center 990 form stating that it provided daycare and three meals per day for 65 pre-school children. Gross income for Trinity’s daycare was $1,372,959. That’s $21,122 per child.”

    He was not about to dump the Bush initiative

  9. I don’t give a shit what Chapman thinks.

  10. Some of this stuff looks to me like giving somebody an award for turning a found bag of stolen money in to the police.

    I appreciate that it’s great when people do the right thing, and I understand why they give people rewards for that. But if NOT keeping stolen money is reward worthy, what reward do I get for all the people I didn’t murder last week?

    So, you want to give Obama an award for all the religious rights he didn’t violate?

    Isn’t that his job? Why do you want to give a reward to somebody for doing his job properly? If people tend to only focus on the occasions when he isn’t doing his job, that sounds like it’s exactly as it should be.

    1. It’s all libertarians ever want to do anyway. Any excuse to not do the right thing will do.

      1. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics.

        ~Marxism of the Right
        By Robert Locke
        http://www.theamericanconservative.co…../14/00017/

        1. The differences between the two batshit crazy economists are greatly exaggerated.

        2. Fool.

          Empirical evidence for success of liberty can only come from actually applying liberty.

          You have to try something to get data about how it works. But you say the lack of data proves that it shouldn’t be tried. Circular logic. Lack of data only proves that an idea hasn’t been tried yet.

          Your title should be, “Reduce Reason 2 Sentimentalism”

          1. Or true believer libertarian. Can’t hardly tell the difference.

          2. Applied liberty?

            “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land … Any white person who brought the element of civilization had THE RIGHT TO TAKE over this continent.”

            ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy at West Point, March 6, 1974

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSLh7ctcYBk

          3. It will never be applied because the majority of people don’t want it. If it were to be applied you would see the shortcomings, but like die hard communists, you would apply the “no true Scotsman” rule to it. The ideology cannot fail, it can only be failed.

  11. Last year, it forced the town of Schodack, N.Y., to retreat after it barred an evangelical church from renting space in a commercial area where nonreligious meetings were allowed.

    It filed a brief in support of a Hasidic Jewish congregation’s lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, which had forbidden it to hold services in a private home. A federal court ordered the city to back off.

    The administration has also intervened in cases where prisoners are denied religious literature.

    If protecting our rights is the most essential function of government, then why is the president doing his job properly somehow extraordinary?

    Violating Catholic people’s rights–when his job is to protect them? Now that’s extraordinary!

    1. Let’s not confuse the rights of Catholic people with the rights of the Catholic hierarchy. The people now effectively have more freedom.

      Do people really believe that oppression can only come from a government?

  12. President George W. Bush issued an executive order allowing such groups to hire only people who share their faith?exempting them from the usual ban on religious discrimination. Liberal critics accused him of underwriting “theocracy” and “faith-based coercion.”….Obama has left Bush’s rule in place, infuriating many groups that expected a reversal.

    Violating people’s establishment rights is somehow evidence that Obama cares about our First Amendment rights–why?

    1. Ken, you are talking about Chapman here. I suspect that he has some serious blackmail against one of the editors. If he were a clock he would read 32:413, not even right by coincidence. So, yeah, in Chapman’s world, not shitting on someone is heroic.

      1. Just another way to make money.

        Block, Walter. 2001. “Toward a Libertarian Theory of Blackmail,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2, Winter, pp. 55-88.

        Definitely something to move toward. If you think all social life can be reduced to economics, like the Marxists also think.

    2. Help me out here: which is the 1A violation, the ban on religious discrimination (free exercise, free association, anyone?) or the exemption (establishment?).

      Color me confused.

      1. If Chapman is saying that taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund religious activities, if they proselytize, then George Bush’s version of compassionate would seem to violate establishment. If Obama is perpetuating that policy, then he’s hardly a defender of the religious rights per the First Amendment. Looks more like his support of religious freedom is more coincidental than anything else.

        Refusing to allow a church to occupy a commercially zoned property because they don’t generate sales taxes; refusing to allow Jewish people to hold services in their homes; refusing to allow prisoners access to religious texts; those are all free exercise issues in my book.

        1. Throw what he’s doing to Catholics on top of that, and it seems pretty clear to me that Obama seems to support religious freedom if he has to–but only if it doesn’t conflict with his policy goals. Like getting more women free access to birth control. That’s always been his M.O. Rights for everybody–so long as they don’t get in my way.

      2. In more succinct language, forcing the Pilgrims to support the Anglican Church through their taxes was a violation of their establishment rights. And forcing random taxpayers to support the charitable efforts of some religious organization, who uses those charitable efforts to proselytize, is likewise a violation of our establishment rights.

        Establishment means the government can’t force me to support someone else’s religious beliefs. If Bush and Obama both support using taxpayer money to do that, then they were both supporting a violation of our establishment rights in the same way.

  13. What a joke.

    Like all entitlement programs, federal money comes with strings. Obama isn’t trying to help these religious organizations. He’s buying them. Money first, make ’em rely on you, then co-opt them.

    Chapman = naive.

    1. You’ve got land Title from the big government, because you have to pay the piper for the violent Trail of Tears that is the foundation of all disestablishment of Non-State peoples from the land for use by agricultural city-Statists.

  14. Obama fails to deliver on campaign promise. In other news, dog bites man.

    1. …that the free market can buy.

  15. YES! Freedom of religion and freedom FROM religion.

    The definition of a destructive religious cult is like alcoholism-if booze controls you instead of the other way around you are an alcoholic.
    The Watchtower society Jehovah’s Witnesses as an example is not benevolent and won’t let you leave their organization in peace.
    If they try to ruin your reputation and break up your family for trying to get out then they are a cult!
    Whenever you surrender your logic and reason to anyone who asks you to trust them because they know better and to please donate generously, it’s a cult. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck….

    Danny Haszard
    http://www.dannyhaszard.com

  16. I suspect that Obushma supported federal grants to churches in order to bring the churches on board the government’s team – severe risk of co-optation.

    1. A fatal gift!

  17. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Obama has left Bush’s rule in place, infuriating many groups that expected a reversal.

    The failure to do something hardly a supporter makes.

  18. Why do liberals insist on separation of church and state out of the left sides of their mouths, but insist on NO separation out of the other side?

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