Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Columns

March 19, 2009

INSIDE THE FIRST AMENDMENT: With shekels come shackles

When President Obama launched his faith-based initiative at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5, he promised not only to sustain the Bush administration’s signature domestic program — but to expand it.

For religious groups, this means continued access to billions of federal dollars for a wide range of social services — from homeless shelters to drug rehabilitation programs — run by houses of worship across the nation.

Critics of the Bush faith-based initiative have long charged that tax money has flowed to religious groups without sufficient constitutional safeguards against such practices as religious discrimination in hiring and proselytizing in government-funded programs.

In announcing his version of the program, Obama pledged not to blur “the line our founders wisely drew between church and state.” But it remains to be seen exactly where this president intends to draw that line.

Many religious and political conservatives are pressuring the new administration not to place limits on preaching or hiring, arguing that religious groups must be free to carry out their mission in ways authentic to their faith. Meanwhile, many civil libertarians are warning of more political and legal fallout if the proselytizing and employment issues aren’t addressed.

Just this month, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal appeals court to allow taxpayers to challenge public funding of a Baptist childcare agency in Kentucky that Americans United alleges “proselytizes youngsters in its care and discriminates against gay employees who do not share its belief that homosexuality is sinful.”

However Obama resolves this debate — and the betting is that he will side with civil rights groups and church-state watchdogs — houses of worship should think twice about the wisdom of getting into bed with the government in the first place.

During the Bush era, I asked an evangelical leader if he thought sending tax money to religious groups for social services was constitutional. He said yes — but he still advises congregations not to take the money. The government, he said, is like a python: Once you are entangled, you get the life squeezed out of you.

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Columns
  • veteran GARY'S WORLD: Thank our veterans this weekend A tremendous opportunity presents itself in our community this weekend — an opportunity to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. Personally, after attending last year's first Welcome Home celebration, I wouldn't want to miss this. It was an emotional event for both Vietnam veterans and ordinary citizens. It was a great way to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day in Tennessee, March 29.

    March 27, 2009 1 Photo

  • antique RANDOM THOUGHTS: "Antiques Roadshow" comes to Tennessee If you are one of the 10 million who watch each episode of the “Antiques Roadshow” mark your calendar. The three upcoming Mondays, March 30, April 6 and April 13, were all taped in Chattanooga last July.

    March 24, 2009 1 Photo

  • LION AND THE LAMB: An open letter to Sharon Baier I was happy to read your well-written article, printed in last week's Chronicle. It makes a strong case, in the story of Al and Jennifer, that "To make money, you have to spend money." That misguided couple thought that they ought to cut down on their purchase of supplies, to save money. They did so, week after week, until they lost their business.

    March 24, 2009

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Veterans storm the Hill When young men and women risk their lives and sacrifice both physical and mental health for their country, a grateful country should at least provide them with shelter, food, and health care. But there is a lot of hypocrisy between what some windbag says on Veterans Day and what the country actually does for veterans.

    March 24, 2009

  • child crying THEREFORE I AM: Kids stress out parents? Well, duh! This just in: According to an expert, children can add stress and strain to a marriage. In other news, further expert studies have indicated that the sky is in fact blue, Paris Hilton is a tad spoiled, peanut butter and chocolate taste great together, and the Middle East has issues. Thank goodness we have experts to tell us these things.

    March 23, 2009 1 Photo

  • shackles INSIDE THE FIRST AMENDMENT: With shekels come shackles When President Obama launched his faith-based initiative at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5, he promised not only to sustain the Bush administration’s signature domestic program — but to expand it.

    March 19, 2009 1 Photo

  • loneranger THEREFORE I AM: Jim Croce and I will keep you safe and sound My philosophy of life is simple: When in doubt, follow the advice of a dead folk-rock star. I always found Jim Croce to be particularly handy in this capacity. Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. Don’t spit into the wind. Don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and regardless of how badly you may want to, do not, under any circumstances, mess around with Jim.

    March 16, 2009 1 Photo

  • STUMPTALK: Stimulating a war on prosperity and freedom Near Bush’s sunset, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed chairman Bernanke terrified the nation with “the sky’s falling and America is doomed” unless the government steps in with new regulations, institutional takeovers and massive lending.

    March 16, 2009

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Thoughts on bringing a recession to heel Responding to the recent full-throated baying of conservative “economic watchdogs,” I slogged into the swamp of their icon Adam Smith’s murky tome, “The Wealth of Nations,” to see if they had finally treed anything of value.

    March 10, 2009

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Reality Dim blue of early morning shines into the living room

    while you flip through television channels.

    March 10, 2009

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