Atheists’ Attacks on Bush Administration’s Faith-Based Initiatives Hurting the Poor

Anti-religious groups claim program is evidence of the establishment of a "theocracy"


By Hilary White

  WASHINGTON, February 23, 2007 ( – The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a lobby group working since 1978 to abolish government-supported expression of religious belief, is preparing to make oral arguments in the Supreme Court for its high-profile lawsuit against the Bush administration’s faith-based social initiatives.

  The Foundation will argue, beginning February 28, that the Administration violated the Establishment Clause by organizing national and regional conferences at which the faith-based organizations were allowed to discuss how they can meet the social needs of their communities. The tone at some of these conferences, the Foundation complains, resembled a “revival” meeting at which typically participants pray and openly acknowledge the existence of God.

  Since their start in 2001, the government’s Faith-Based Community Initiatives have been under steady attack by anti-religious groups who claim that the program is evidence of the establishment of a “theocracy.” The government’s claim, however, is that smaller organizations run by churches and other local religious groups are better placed to help and understand the needs of individuals than are large, top-heavy government bureaucracies.

  Research by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life has found that “a solid majority of Americans (66%) favour allowing churches and other houses of worship to apply, along with other organizations, for government funding to provide social services.”

  The FFRF, a “national association of nontheists,” says its goals are to “promote freethought (sic) and to keep state and church separate.” The group supports a totally secularized public environment as well as euthanasia, under the rubric of “death with dignity,” and unlimited publicly funded abortion.

  The Foundation’s litigation successes in the past have included the abolition of a state Good Friday holiday, the ending of bible instruction in public schools and the removal of Ten Commandments monuments and crosses from public land.

  The results of some of their public interest lawsuits, however, have been decried as a campaign against freedom of religious expression that has backlashed on the poor.

  The Associated Press quotes Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a group filing briefs in support of the government’s initiatives, who said of the group, “They are successful in the sense that they have disrupted government funding for faith-based initiatives. But real people with real problems are no longer getting help because of some of their lawsuits.”

  The suit’s plaintiffs are the group co-founders Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter Annie Laurie Gaylor and the latter’s husband and co-president Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher who abandoned Christianity in 1984.

  The Foundation maintains a sign in the Wisconsin State Capitol during the Christmas season, which reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

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