Archive for the ‘Faith-based’ Category

stop-hate-crimeThe Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is slowing working its way through Congress. It’s been ten years since hate crimes legislation was first introduced; it’s been a slow, painful process even suffering a veteo at the hand of Bush (the lesser). This year with a majority in Congress and a supportive President, we have a real chance of passing a fully-inclusive hate crimes bill.

If you haven’t contacted your members of Congress asking them to support the bill, please do so. The Human Rights Campaign has put together a tool that makes it easy to send a message to lawmakers in support of the bill.

It’s rare that I republish material from other venues, particularly since I also did yesterday, but there is an excellent op-ed piece in the “On Faith” section of today’s Washington Post.

Hate Crimes are Message Crimes
By Steve Gutow, Michel Kinnamon and Sayyid M. Syeed

The American experience of a pluralistic democracy is unique in the human story and the source of our nation’s strength. The unprecedented freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy make the United States the world’s most dynamic and diverse society. Many of our family members came from disparate parts of the globe to make America their home. Many sought a life free from the shackles of oppression. Many fled intolerance. For too many however, the promise of America has been tarnished by hate and bias. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the case of hate crimes. These horrific and degrading acts are anathema to the principles on which our country was founded. Our national hate crimes laws should be improved so they can to more effectively deter hate crimes and protect vulnerable populations.

As people of faith and as Americans committed to social justice, we know that hate crimes are message crimes. They send the message not only to the victim, but to entire communities that they are neither welcome nor safe. This impact is felt beyond political lines and geographic boundaries.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a crucially important piece of legislation. This bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to include crimes targeted at people on the basis of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability – categories not covered under current law. It would also remove restrictive provisions that allow federal action only if the hate crime victim was engaged in a narrow range of federally protected acts.

Today, the Department of Justice is too often prevented from providing necessary assistance in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. If local authorities are unwilling or unable to provide an effective investigation or prosecute these alarming crimes, it is critical that the federal government be empowered to assist local jurisdictions and independently pursue justice.

In too many cases, victims of a felonious hate crime witness their attacker’s offense reduced to a minor misdemeanor charge, resulting in a mere slap on the wrist with no prison time. And far too often, local law enforcement officials lack the ability to prosecute hate crimes as hate crimes, even when the evidence overwhelmingly suggests the crime was motivated solely by bias against a group in which the victim is believed to belong. Violent hate crimes create fear among members of a particular group in our society, something that no American deserves.

Take, for instance, the murder of 18-year old Scotty Joe Weaver. In 2004, he was robbed, beaten, stabbed, strangled, partially decapitated, and set on fire in a manner described by the local prosecutor as being “suggestive of overkill, which is not something you see in a regular robbery and murder.” The Alabama District Attorney added that there was “no doubt in my mind” the murder was motivated by Weaver’s sexual orientation. However, because of the structure of Alabama’s law, this act could not be tried as hate crime. In 2003, Billy Ray Johnson, a mentally disabled man, was ridiculed, assaulted and left for dead on a desolate country road in Texas. Johnson’s assailants received only misdemeanor charges. In both cases, the federal government was prevented from investigating and prosecuting these horrific crimes. It’s no surprise that virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country and state attorneys general support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

A nation’s laws are a reflection of its social contract with all of its citizens. Effective enforcement of strong laws addressing crimes based on prejudice will send a powerful message. Hate-based violence is an anathema to the principles of freedom and equality, which form the cornerstone of our American democracy. Now we have a historic opportunity to make this legislation law. We need to build a society, government, and justice system that reflect our best values – freedom, pluralism, the rule of law, and justice.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is the president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Rev. Dr. Michel Kinnamon is the general secretary of the National Council of Churches; and Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed is the national director of the Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America.

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editorialIn today’s Washington Blade, I published an editorial critical of the appointment of the Human Rights Campaign’s Rev. Henry Knox to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The council is not only a continuation but and expansion of the previous administration’s federal faith-based initiative protections. The program ignores hiring protections and is assault on the essential separation of church and state. The article is as follows:

Re: “Gay man joins Obama’s faith-based council”

In this article, the Blade’s Chris Johnson announced the appointment of HRC’s Rev. Henry Knox to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships. This is not good news for our community.

I believe that I have a relevant perspective. From 2003 to 2006, I was the knowledge manager and nonprofit subject matter expert for President Bush’s federal faith-based initiative as an employee of the federal contractor tasked with managing the program’s technical resource center. We were the lead organization providing management assistance to all organizations that received grants through the program.

During this three-year period, I witnessed tax-funded technical assistance provided by government employees — including the White House through its legal council — to grantees on how they could legally discriminate in hiring based on their particular religious predilections. I heard grantees forcefully announce that they would never hire known gay and lesbian people and have that bigotry supported by leadership at the highest levels of government. My strenuous objections to the federal project officer were ignored.

In addition to the hiring issue, the program is a clear violation of the vital separation of church and state, certainly not an afterthought by the framers of the Constitution. Instead of respecting the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, it was mocked as an irrelevant and unnecessary nuisance that could be finessed with a “wink and a nod.”

I am absolutely amazed that President Obama has not only chosen to continue the program but expand it given these very concerns about the program made by candidate Obama. I am disturbed that the president has agreed to allow federally funded religious organizations to continue discriminatory hiring on “a case by case basis.” This baits the question, “Is there ever a ‘good case’ for discrimination?”

I am amazed that President Obama has appointed 26-year-old Rev. Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister, as the program’s new director. Rev. Dubois was candidate Obama’s point person for religious outreach. Newsweek columnist Sally Quinn says that DuBois was “the person who first floated Rick Warren’s name as a possible inaugural speaker.” During the campaign, he put together the program that featured Donnie McClurkin, an “ex-gay” gospel singer who has said that “homosexuality is a curse.” This is the person that now leads this massive federal program. Sorry, but this isn’t change I can believe in!

I am perplexed that Rev. Knox would accept an appointment to the advisory council given a membership that includes such anti-gays as Frank Page, past president of the socially conservative Southern Baptist Convention, which has close ties to Exodus International — an organization that attempts to “free” gays from “homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” I am very concerned that Rev. Knox cannot help but be, and remain, a marginalized voice without any ability to impact the direction of this office. While Rev. Knox is clearly a talented and committed community member, unfortunately I see his presence as empty tokenism.

Arlington, Va.

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shame1The AP reported yesterday that the bodies of two gay men have been found in Baghdad’s Shiite slum of Sadr City after a leading cleric repeatedly condemned homosexuality, an Iraqi police official said Saturday.

The killings come after Shiite cleric Sattar al-Battat repeatedly condemned homosexuality during recent Friday prayers, saying Islam prohibits homosexuality. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to seven years in prison in Iraq.

The two men were believed killed Thursday by relatives who were shamed by their behavior, said the official. Police said they suspected the killings were at the hands of family members because no one has claimed the bodies or called for an investigation.

This is horrible! Such a hateful religion. Beheading women for “family honor” and now continued violence against gays. We need a coordinated response from the U.N.

I am reminded of the words of Paschal,

“Men never do evil so gleefully as when they do it in the name of religion.”

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editorialThis term, I am teaching MBA students in Florida every other weekend. This requires a two night stay-over at a hotel. Last Saturday night I was channel surfing and came across a fascinating interview of Frank Schaeffer by D.L. Hughley. Frank Schaeffer was the son of Francis Schaeffer, arguably the founder of the Religous Right.

The younger Schaeffer is author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back). In the book (and in the Hughley interview below), he talks about the hijacking of the Evangelical movement from a focus on faith to that of a political movement that become destructive, judgmental, and myopic. I found the interview phenomenal and have started reading the book.

To provide a flow for the book, here in a March 1, 2009 Huffington Post blog, Schaeffer stated:

The Republican base in now made up of religious and neoconservative ideologues, and the uneducated white underclass with a token person of color or two upfront . . . on the TV to obscure the all-white, all-reactionary, all-backward — there-is-no-global warming — rube reality. Actual conservatives, let along the educated classes, have long since fled.

You can read his “Open Letter” and view the Hughley eight-minute interview: here.

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church-state3As the Senate passes the stimulus package tonight , let’s be real clear that $500 million was included to fund faith-based initiatives and $400 million to fund HIV prevention was eliminated.  

Yup, the crazies get a half a billion in taxpayer dollars to proselytize and “legally” discriminate in hiring. And desperately needed funds to fight the epidemic of our lifetime — to prevent more people from becoming infected — are slashed from the bill in the final hours of deliberation.

This is “change you can believe in?” Hell, this is just a continuation of the previous eight tortuous years of the Bushies.

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editorial1The proposed economic stimulus bill that is being bantered in Congress includes a provision of $100 million for grants to faith-based organizations.  This is contained in HR 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 at pg. 141.   These funds would be made available through the Compassion Capital Fund, the HHS funding vehilce established by the Bush administration for religious organizations.

I find this very disturbing.  In addition to the funding of divisive, sectarian initiatives, as I stated in my post of January 30, 2008, this funding clearly does not address the objectives of the bill — “job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization.”

This is nothing more than special interest pork — a  give away to programs outside the scope of what is constitutionally allowable. What is so difficult in understanding that we don’t use taxpayer dollars to support religious initiatives? I am fearful that this is an omen of Obama’s continuation of Bush’s misguided support of a christian minority.

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Yesterday, President Obama named Joshua DuBois, the 26-year-old who ran religious outreach for his presidential campaign, to head the White House’s new office of faith-based programs.  I think this should cause some pause.

During the previous administration, I worked for Dare Mighty Things, the federal contractor that provided technical support for the faith-based initiative known as the Compassion Capital Fund. Much was made about the Bush Administration’s innovativeness in providing public dollars to support the work of faith-based organizations. This was inaccurate. Government support through a network of grants and contracts has been provided to religious organizations for non-sectarian social services for the past 50 years. 

What was new was allowing federal funds to be used to support religious and quasi-religious activities under the guise of social services. This happened with a wink and a nod through the Capital Compassion Fund and related faith-based initiatives. This cannot be allowed to continue in the Obama Administration. 

Additionally, I witnessed first hand, technical assistance training on how CCF grantees could legally discriminate against people they didn’t want to hire based on religious predilections. As an American, I was and continue to be offended that taxpayer dollars would be used to exclude any group of people. This, as well, cannot be allowed to continue. 

Yet, beyond these challenges, there is the wider, Constitutional issue of the separation of church and state. The previous administration – certainly not the most respectful of the Constitution in general – somehow believed that the separation clause was up for grabs. It is not.

We are all diminished when government can use its substantial weight to assault the Constitution by funding the peculiarities of religious entities. Let’s hope that President Obama, as a constitutional scholar, will safeguard these vital protections by curtailing the errors of the past faith-based initiative.


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As Congress last week considered extending tax incentives for charitable giving, it received new information that the federal government is increasingly relying on charities to deliver health care, education and human services in America. That increase was reflected in more federal money to nonprofit organizations and a growth in the number of public charities, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.

Researchers estimated that federal money to nonprofit organizations increased more than 230 percent from 1980 to 2004, when adjusted for inflation. And the number of registered public charities has grown more than 30 percent since 2000 from about 646,000 to 851,000.

The report said the growing number of charities was the result of a decades-long shift away from government directly providing services, the elimination of large public care facilities in favor of smaller community-based organizations, and a trend in programs like welfare away from federal control and toward more local autonomy. Those changes resulted in a greater role and presence for nonprofit organizations delivering services traditionally provided by the government.

The GAO study, Nonprofit Sector: Increasing Numbers and the Key Rle in Delivering Fedeeral Servces can be found: here.

Need help positioning your organization to partner with government in providing mission-based services? Let us here you. See your services: here.

Source: The Roundtable on Religion & Social Welfare Policy. The Roundtable is a program of the Rockefeller Institute of Government, State University of New York.

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dollarThe Office of Community Services (OCS) is now accepting applications for funding from the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) Communities Empowering Youth (CEY) program. To view the full program announcement, please click here.

The CEY program seeks to build the organizational capacity, sustainability, and effectiveness of experienced organizations working through community collaborations to reduce gang involvement, youth violence, and child abuse and neglect. OCS will award funds to build the organizational capacity of the lead organizations, their collaborating faith-based and/or community partners, and the resulting community collaborations to address issues facing America’s disadvantaged youth and promote positive youth development.

OCS anticipates making thirty awards of up to $250,000 each per year for a total of approximately $7.5 million. CEY projects last thirty-six months with three twelve-month budget periods.

More information on who may apply, how to apply, and details regarding CEY grant requirements is contained in the program announcement.

The application deadline is July 10, 2007.

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editorialI don’t care a fig about our next president’s personal religious views. The candidate can worship the Great Pumpkin, for all I care, as long as he or she doesn’t assume that the rest of us do too, and that the Great Pumpkin told him to do things such as, to take a case at random, invade Iraq.

But I certainly want to know what any presidential candidate thinks government should and should not do to protect freedom of religion and freedom from religion. The candidate may be a person of deep faith or a godless atheist, but what matters to me is the candidate’s willingness, and ability, to ensure that the law protects the rights of other people to have their own deep faith or godless atheism, and keep them from messing with one another.

I pledge allegiance to the first amendment, which I interpret to mean that government shouldn’t traffic with religion—neither promote it nor persecute it—and this means that, in the public arena, the candidate should not use religious rhetoric, which does nothing but harm, fogging over the clear lines of argument on the issues and eliciting irrelevant and irrational choices in the electorate.

As someone once said of objectivity in science, just because we cannot produce a perfectly sterile environment is no reason to perform surgery in a sewer. In the context of the presidential elections, this would mean that the candidates should debate the issues entirely on their own merits, not with reference to whatever religious (or other) feelings or beliefs may have brought them to their conclusions.

Of course religious (or non-religious) beliefs will play an important part in their judgments about such matters as abortion and euthanasia and stem cell research and the rights of gay and lesbian people to marry, and a less obvious part in judgments about poverty, war, justice, and even about health care, the homeless, and global warming. But those judgments must stand, and be judged, on their own merits, regardless of what beliefs underlie them.

I don’t care how they got to where they stand; I care about where they stand.

This is what I think should happen. What will actually happen is, alas, just the opposite. But let’s try to keep the surgery as far out of the sewer as we can manage.

Source: The Great Pumpkin Goes to Washington, By Wendy Doniger, Professor, History of Religions, University of Chicago, Divinity School. January 30, 2007

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