The potential abuse of religion

http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/05/07/religion.charities.ap/index.html

The story is about the funding of religions for charitable purposes. It mentions whether or not “non-mainstream” religions should get funds for their organization.

And…

Now, I’ll admit that the idea of getting more charity out to the people who need it is a Good Idea. And using organizations that already have an infrastructure in place to perform charity is also a Good Idea. However, the major flaw with this proposal (giving money to religious groups so that they can give it to people who need it) is this: What, exactly, makes a religion?

Think about it. Sure, Catholicism is a religion. Judaism is a religion. But beyond that, you’ll get arguments over what is and isn’t a religion (“Wicca isn’t a religion! Scientology isn’t a religion!” Etc. etc.). There are two possibilities with this proposal… either treat all religions equally, and provide funding upon request, or don’t provide any funding at all.

The former solution leads to a whole plethora of problems… for example, I could go out and start a religion called “Sizznuo Yammablat Fershnikkan”, and say that I worship phalluses and lima beans, and then go around screaming for cash.

The latter solution avoids that whole barrel o’ problems altogether… but wouldn’t help contribute to charitable purposes.

What say you, Teeming Millions? Which solution should we take? If it’s the first one, what exactly constitutes a religion? If it’s the second one, what other methods can we implement to provide charity 'round the country? And, finally, what other possibilities am I missing, as I post this at 3:00 AM?

(P.S.- Yes, I used to be SPOOFE Bo Diddly. Get over it! :D)

No offense SPOOFE, but I wouldn’t call “Sizznuo Yammablat Fershnikkan” a charitable organisation.

Which organised religions actually play some role in giving charity? I know most Christians do, but I don’t see any Pagans out helping the poor as part of their religion… anyone want to share their knowledge? [sub](any Pagans that want to argue that they do help the poor?)

That’s probably because most Pagan groups don’t have the widespread infrastructure to be effective at it.

The question isn’t whether or not they DO provide charitable services, but whether or not they COULD. And if they COULD, if they’d get Government funds towards this end.

A better example is the Nation of Islam, which is considered to be a less-than-positive group by some, but which would still be able to get funds under the proposed… uh… proposal.

Will our happy Pagan group get enough money to set up this infrastructure?

And are we going to be treated to an explanation of what you intend to do with Sizznuo Yammablat Fershnikkan’s grant money? The public said they were in favour of “charitable” organisations getting money. yet the report then goes to state how they’re not in support of other religions. It could be due to the fact that these religions aren’t as well known for being charitable.

Or it could simply be that the groups aren’t well-known, period.

You’re looking at the wrong side of the process. It’s not “Are these groups charitable?” but rather “COULD these groups be charitable?” Hell, if a group of Satanists wanted to start up a charity organization, there wouldn’t be any way one could Constitutionally stop them.

As with my little religion, SYK, if I were to satisfactorily prove that I was doing charitable works, there wouldn’t be anything the government could Constitutionally do to prevent me from getting funds. And once I get these funds, I can disband my little religion and flee the country.

The whole question is dealing with how the proposal can be abused… hence the thread title.

Well, let’s see… decisions, decisions…

I suppose all the religions that recognize the spiritual authority of the current president and congress would qualify for government funding. Or should that be vice versa?

Separation of Church and State is essential for both the Church, and the State.

Charity is already legal for any private individual, or group.

Social services provided by the Government can be distributed with existing government infrastructure until such time as private charitable works eliminate the need for such services. Those wishing to eliminate Government services could vigorously do charitable works.

I have a friend whose coven is very active in social issues - food shelves, clothing drives, etc. Environmental issues also tend to be big among Pagans.

The LDS Church has been very involved in providing services in Utah for years, tramping all over Church ans State seperation. More mainstream Christains might not be very comfortabling getting a dose of Joseph Smith and Company along with their food stamps. (A co-worker was briefly on welfare in Utah about ten years ago, which is where I heard this).

Unitarian-Universalists have a very strong history (and present) of helping out with social issues. I don’t consider UUs mainstream (I’m not sure if I consider them a religion).

Buddhists also have an obligation to society.

Whoa, wait a minute folks! Do those of you in America actually consider your president a spiritual authority?
This would truly blow my mind.

— G. Raven

I am Christian right down to my toes, and I say: all or none. Either everything that calls itself a religion has the same right to funding that the Catholics do, or cut them all out.

I say this because I am also scared right down to my toes of government making any kind of distinction at all between religions. It’s the old slippery slope argument. If the Scientologists are the bad guys today, who is to say the Baptists are not the bad guys during the next Democratic administration, or the Muslims during the next right wing Republican?

BTW, a lot of the supposed “right-wing” churches are seeing the same gotcha. They are writing Bush saying this program is bad news, and it is making an impact. I think Buch genuinely means well with this, but you know what they say about Hell and good intentions…

**ryoushi wrote:

I know most Christians do, but I don’t see any Pagans out helping the poor as part of their religion… anyone want to share their knowledge? (any Pagans that want to argue that they do help the poor?)**

Spoofe has it right, most Pagan groups are set up so any sort of relief effort wouldn’t be effective. With the infrastructure already in place in many progressive Christian organizations, we prefer to do volunteer work thru them or do volunteer work with secular organizations.

Also, I’d like to point out that modern Paganism is only 50-60 years old. What sort of effective social welfare programs were the Christians running when their religion was only 60 years old?

Also, how long would a Wiccan/Pagan soup kitchen/thrift shop that advertised itself as such be able to stay open against the negative publicity it would get from the local fundamentalist churches?

jayjay

This is the ass-backwards of the school prayer issue, guys. Quite simply, just as the Supreme Court never banned prayer in schools, but simply informed local authorities that it was unconstitutional for a government institution to mandate school prayers, so Mr. Bush is proposing nothing new, but to institutionalize and coordinate something that’s been in place for at least 50 years, and is quite constitutional.

Say you’re a faith-based institution: Doesn’t matter whether you’re the Apostolic Overcoming Holy Tabernacle of Fundalunacy, St. Ansgarius Lutheran Church, the Daibutsu Zen Institute, or the First United Coven of Neopagan Naturists. You decide it would be a good idea to provide food and used clothing to the poor of the community, and GED tutoring to adult highschool dropouts. So you start an outreach center. And you provide material on your faith at this center.

You are permitted to receive public funding or in-kind materials from any government program for which your charitable or civic ministry qualifies. You must keep such funding completely isolated from any funding aimed at proselytization, evangelism, the teaching of the Eightfold Path or the proper way to honor the Great Mother, or whatever your particular religious focus might be. You are entitled to use that funding for the specific purpose it is intended, along with a maximum of the proportion of your facility floor space and staffing that is devoted to that purpose. In other words, if you have a food pantry taking up 30% of the floor space and using 10% of paid staff time, USDA surplus food to stock the pantry is available, and if you can get funding from some program supportive of food pantries, no more than 30% of building costs and no more than 10% of staff salary can be underwritten from it. You must make it very clear in your accounting that those funds were used specifically for the purpose for which they were provided. Likewise, if you employ a tutor for adult education, his salary can be underwritten by a State Education Department grant, unless he spends part of his time counseling in a religious mode, in which case only the time he actively works at the tutoring job, not the counseling function, may be funded.

And separation of church and state is preserved, because only the functions which the government may legally fund are being funded.

If you don’t like this arrangement, you are free to write your Congressman or State Representative to change it. But be aware that carrying out the charitable/civic activities of such a program without the low-cost commitment of the religious group to those purposes is likely to cost you as a taxpayer more than funding through it.

This is the ass-backwards of the school prayer issue, guys. Quite simply, just as the Supreme Court never banned prayer in schools, but simply informed local authorities that it was unconstitutional for a government institution to mandate school prayers, so Mr. Bush is proposing nothing new, but to institutionalize and coordinate something that’s been in place for at least 50 years, and is quite constitutional.

Say you’re a faith-based institution: Doesn’t matter whether you’re the Apostolic Overcoming Holy Tabernacle of Fundalunacy, St. Ansgarius Lutheran Church, the Daibutsu Zen Institute, or the First United Coven of Neopagan Naturists. You decide it would be a good idea to provide food and used clothing to the poor of the community, and GED tutoring to adult highschool dropouts. So you start an outreach center. And you provide material on your faith at this center.

You are permitted to receive public funding or in-kind materials from any government program for which your charitable or civic ministry qualifies. You must keep such funding completely isolated from any funding aimed at proselytization, evangelism, the teaching of the Eightfold Path or the proper way to honor the Great Mother, or whatever your particular religious focus might be. You are entitled to use that funding for the specific purpose it is intended, along with a maximum of the proportion of your facility floor space and staffing that is devoted to that purpose. In other words, if you have a food pantry taking up 30% of the floor space and using 10% of paid staff time, USDA surplus food to stock the pantry is available, and if you can get funding from some program supportive of food pantries, no more than 30% of building costs and no more than 10% of staff salary can be underwritten from it. You must make it very clear in your accounting that those funds were used specifically for the purpose for which they were provided. Likewise, if you employ a tutor for adult education, his salary can be underwritten by a State Education Department grant, unless he spends part of his time counseling in a religious mode, in which case only the time he actively works at the tutoring job, not the counseling function, may be funded.

And separation of church and state is preserved, because only the functions which the government may legally fund are being funded.

If you don’t like this arrangement, you are free to write your Congressman or State Representative to change it. But be aware that carrying out the charitable/civic activities of such a program without the low-cost commitment of the religious group to those purposes is likely to cost you as a taxpayer more than funding through it.

Polycarp, school prayer doesn’t involve Government handouts to private organizations. There’s the difference.

My main concern is that less-than-honest groups could set up a pseudo-religion, get a ton of cash, then skip town with it. That’s the potential for abuse that I’m referring to.

I’m with Libertarian on this one. Regardless of whether or not Bush had any actual noble goal in mind (and more noble than getting the mainstream protestant vote in 2004), the fact is that this isn’t “supporting charitable institutions”. Charity supports charitable institutions. This is the use of compulsorily gathered tax money to support (only) organizations that have specifically asked the government to give them a portion of the people’s compulsorily gathered tax money.

Even if you don’t necessarily find that offensive (and I do, regardless of the worthiness of the cause), the fact is that the SOCAS problems that have already been mentioned are going to rear their head with any arrangement of this nature. If it can’t be done without respecting an establishment of religion, it shouldn’t be done.

erm, I believe they sold their land and posessions to raise money to help not only one another, but the community where they lived (esp widows, orphans and the sick)