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Trump’s faith-based initiative guts key protection

President Trump signs the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative executive order during a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 3, 2018, in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

The White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, President Trump’s revival of the faith-based office created and continued by his two predecessors, is supposedly all about advancing the cause of religious freedom.

“President Donald J. Trump Stands Up For Religious Freedom In The United States” goes the headline on the press release announcing Thursday’s signing of the executive order establishing the office. And sure enough, the “initiative” is ordered to report to the Attorney General “any failures of the executive branch to comply with protections of Federal law for religious liberty” outlined in the Attorney General’s memorandum of last October.

But you don’t need a special office in the White House to receive complaints and pass them on to the Justice Department.

No, religious freedom is the mask worn by Faith-Based 3.0. What’s going on behind the mask is actually the opposite.

Here’s how that goes down. (Pay attention, because there will be a question on this on the final.)

Section  2(b) of Trump’s executive order reads as follows: “Executive Order 13279, as amended, is further amended by striking section 2(h) and redesignating sections 2(i) and 2(j) as sections 2(h) and 2(i), respectively.”

Now, “Executive Order 13279, as amended” is in fact Executive Order 13559—President Obama’s establishment of rules governing provision of services by faith-based organizations. In line with his belief in “all hands on deck,” Obama wanted faith-based providers to be able to receive public monies to do their thing, but he also wanted to ensure that those who didn’t want any part of their thing had somewhere else to go.

Ergo, Section 2(h), which reads, in part: “If a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary of a social service program supported by Federal financial assistance objects to the religious character of an organization that provides services under the program, that organization shall, within a reasonable time after the date of the objection, refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider.”

By removing Section 2(h), Trump’s executive order removes this requirement. So now, if a beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization providing her with services, the organization can tell her to like it or lump it.

What the new Initiative does, in short, is allow faith-based social service providers to use government funds to impose their religious mission on recipients who want no part of it. Where Obama ensured religious freedom, Trump creates religious establishments.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


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  • This executive order needs to be read side by side with the words of Fuller Seminary president Dr. Mark Labberton in his statement on 16 April entitled “Political Dealing: The Crisis of Evangelicalism.” He states,

    Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves. We are not naïve in our doctrine of sin that prefers self over all, but we have failed to recognize our own guilt in it.

    Our professed trust in Jesus has not led evangelicals to die to ourselves, but often to justify our own self-assertion—even when that means complicity in the suffering and death of others. The scandal associated today with the evangelical gospel is not the scandal of the Cross of Christ, crucified for the salvation of the world. Rather it is the scandal of our own arrogance, unconfessed before the Cross, revealing a hypocritical superiority that we dare to associate with the God who died to save the weak and the lost. . . .

    In much of the last century, American evangelicalism has had a complex relationship with power. On one hand, it has felt itself marginalized and repudiated, defeated and silenced. On the other, it has often seemed to seek—even fawn over—worldly power, mimicking in the church forms of power evident in our culture. (I remember being at a conference where it was announced we should all be back after dinner for “an evening of star-studded worship.”) An evangelical dance with political power has been going on from the time of Billy Graham, through the Moral Majority and the religious right, to the Tea Party, and most recently with the white evangelical vote—the result being, as honorary Chairman of the Lausanne Movement Doug Birdsall has said, “When you Google ‘evangelical,’ you get Trump.”

  • “The scandal associated today with the evangelical gospel is not the scandal of the Cross of Christ, crucified for the salvation of the world.”

    It is also not the scandals the Black religious leaders accused the Democratic Party of:

    “Secretary Clinton, we are also very concerned about your position regarding unborn children and the black church’s commitment to defend them. In April 2015 in a speech before the National Organization of Women you stated “Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth… Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed…” For political leaders to call for changes in citizens’ beliefs is reminiscent of totalitarianism. In our view, such a proposal constitutes a denial of our religious freedom.”

    “The vast majority of black churches hold biblical teaching, which is eternal, as authoritative for doctrine and practice. Abortion is the deliberate destruction of a human life in its most vulnerable state. Biblical principle and natural law, both of which prohibit the taking of innocent human life, compel our concern about the increasing moral complicity with abortion. For the same reasons that we as black Christian leaders oppose racism, unjust wars, capital punishment and euthanasia, we oppose the violent denial of life to the unborn through abortion. It is our view that human life is a gift of God that we are called upon to protect, nurture and sustain, because we are created in God’s image. Therefore, our opposition to abortion is a logical outgrowth of our view that there must be justice for all. Particularly relevant is the innocence of the unborn child. The Bible places an extremely high value on human life and particularly on the lives of the innocent who are under the special protection of God. Those who take the life of the innocent violate a key biblical principle as well as a fundamental principle of natural justice.”

    “Religious freedom is a precious right that we, as the leaders of the Black Church, must defend vigorously. While our society benefits in immeasurable ways from the principled and kindly lives of Christians and other people of faith, in particular as they serve the vulnerable in our midst, clearly our faith also brings us into conflict with secular society. It is at this very point that the brilliance of the framers of the United States constitution is evident, because they designed a system that guarantees people of every faith, as well as those of no faith at all, the right to follow their conscience. The highest courts in this land have gone on to defend the right of people of faith to honor the dictates of their religion unless there is a pressing need on the part of the state to intervene. The religious freedom laws currently in force ensure the right of the Black Church to fulfill its calling to faithful observance of our sacred texts, and the right of all other people of faith to do likewise. At the same time, they protect the rights of atheists, agnostics and indeed, people with every possible position on religion.”

    “Yet in this very nation demagogues have dared to accuse people of faith of promoting Jim Crow laws when they seek to safeguard their freedom to obey their conscience and follow the teachings of their sacred texts. There is no analogy between the apartheid of Jim Crow and the religious freedom laws in force across this country. It is the very same faith that is protected by religious freedom laws that inspired our black ancestors to lead the movement for the abolition of slavery and the end of Jim Crow apartheid in the American South. It is absurd to demean the defense of this faith as the equivalent of the injustices that we have fought and overcome.”

    “The drive to normalize immoral sexual behavior has inspired some to dishonor the memory of courageous blacks who experienced the unique horrors of white supremacy, slavery, rape, terrorism and apartheid in the U.S. Their argument that religious freedom laws are historically and existentially equivalent to Jim Crow laws rests on false assertions. Partisans who make these arguments have declared war on the truth of the black experience as well as on the freedom of faithful Americans to follow their consciences.”

    These concerns SHOULD be the concerns of Dr. Mark Labberton and yourself, but they are not.

    They ARE however shared with white evangelicals.

  • How interesting. I had no idea that the Seymour Institute spoke for ALL African-American Christians.

    I think Anita Little, who is herself an African-American Christian who decidedly does NOT think the Seymour Institute speaks for her and many other African-American Christians, hits the nail on the head:

    A look at the list of signatories at the bottom shows it’s virtually all black male clergy. Some of them have curious backgrounds, like Bishop James W.E. Dixon who was arrested a few years back on domestic violence charges, or Rev. Jamal “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” Bryant who likes using his pulpit to police black women’s sexuality despite his own well-publicized dalliances.

    Though they all claim to be Democrats or Independents, the signatories sure do have a lot in common with the staunch conservatives who would turn a blind eye to (valid) issues the letter addresses, like poverty and violence. That might be because the missive was spearheaded by the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, which is housed by the ultra-conservative think tank, the Witherspoon Institute.

    What’s frustrating about the letter more than the content, which I found unsurprising, is how it’s being misrepresented in media as the legitimate concerns of the black church. It’s demeaning to the countless clergy, scholars and activists who make the black church community so overwhelmingly diverse and nuanced. To present this group of 25 clergy as a microcosm of what black America wants and thinks is lazy and dangerous. It galvanizes other demographics that draw glee from the oppression of women of color and LGBT people.

    Throughout the letter, they repeatedly refer to themselves as the black church. Do they speak for black women clergy like Yolanda Pierce or Pamela Lightsey or Faye London? They speak only for themselves, and their need to make black America great again by rolling back abortion rights and the rights of the LGBT community. As we’re on the eve of this historic election, this letter only reminds us that clergy like these represent the vestiges of a black church that is withering away to make room for new traditions, new practices, and new theologies that are both inclusive and uplifting.

  • The Seymour Institute did not speak for anyone.

    The twenty six signatories spoke as leaders of the major bodies of African-American Christians. 10.30.pdf

    Did Dr. Mark Labberton speak for anyone but himself?

    I see your citation from Religion Dispatches predates its severance from the University of Southern California when it was brought to the attention of the President and Counsel of the University that it was regularly featuring Patricia Miller’s anti-Catholic articles.

    Which denomination does Ms. Anita Little head?

  • Yup, malice and greed are the sole drivers of the Trump presidency and its supporters. The entire purpose of this is to allow Bible thumping grifters to steal taxpayer funds and attack civil liberties. Two goals which “values voters” undoubtedly love.

  • People who support Trump initiatives are craven, hypocritical and malicious?

    I am shocked!
    OK not shocked.
    OK not even mildly surprised.

  • Yup, when I am looking for malice and greed in public life and service, the very last place I look is the Clintons.

  • Re: “So now, if a beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization providing her with services, the organization can tell her to like it or lump it.”  

    Well, sure. I mean, what good is it to be given money to provide services to people, if you don’t also have the power to control them, or if unable to do so, let them rot?  

  • What a disappointing and misleading article – from the headline to the last sentence. The purpose of a faith-based program is to incorporate to some extent the faith/values of those managing/running the program to the recipients. The government partners with all types of non-governmantal organizations because they have the ability to provide goods/services more effectively than government; or to a targeted group of individuals via a different distribution channel.
    The author implies that a “key protection” has been gutted. I read the executive order and nowhere does it state that an organization can refuse goods/services based upon the recipients religious or other beliefs – so what protection is lost? Oh, the fact that a religious organization cannot tell the recipient that they are a religious organization…
    The author also throws around the term “religious freedom” – like this executive order and this governmantal program is an assult on religious freedom. The founders were against a state-sponsored religion; or the government persecuting citizens by for practicing their faith. Their intent was not the perverted belief that exists today to eradicate religion from society. The author descretely implies that freedom of religion is actually freedom FROM religion. Its unfortunate that most Americans cannt distingusih between the two.
    A special “hat-tip” to the dishonesty of the author for using the word “her” in the example of someone being refused services by a religious organization; thus implying that “she” would like contraception or abortion services – and is being refused services by the evil religious organization because it contridicts their belief system.
    If we are going to discuss our differences of opinion – can we at least be honest?

  • Don’t worry. If your left wing nut job president gets elected he will undue Trump’s executive orders.

  • The wall of separation between church and state, as Jefferson explained it, and was discussed and favored by those who supported the first amendment, was to insure that individuals had freedom of conscious. The freedom to believe what you will and to express that belief is a basic human right. Without this we are not free.

    This executive order requires people in need of services to accept them from an organization that may be promoting a particular religion. They would not even be prevented form having to endure prayer meetings or religious instruction as part of their program.

    Beyond this, all taxpayers are required to support organizations controlled by personnel of a religious organization whose values may be in opposition to their own. We can assume that this administration will favor “faith organizations” selected by Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and Dominionists.

    Our president claims all Americans have the same values. This is another of his often repeated lies. The religious right is trying to change the effect of the First Amendment to support freedom for their religions to control the values of this society. This destroys freedom of conscious.

  • There are, for example, Orthodox Jews who will not enter a Christian church as a matter of religious principle. Under Obama’s executive order, a federally funded faith-based social service provider located in a church would have to refer them to an alternative provider. Under Trump’s, that’s no longer necessary. Religious freedom entails not being compelled to do something that violates your religious convictions, or being disfavored by the government for maintaining them. It will be interesting to see if someone challenged Trump’s order under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

  • I’d like to know what services are being referred too; abortion maybe?
    It’s interesting that the Obama Adminstration forced Christian hospitals to offer contraception as a result of the ACA; yet their religious freedom was never considered important.
    The fact of the matter is, religious organizations in the United States provide numerous valuable services: homeless shelters, soup kitchens, disaster recovery support, etc. To the best of my knowledge, I have not heard of, nor seen, in any of these types of situations a religious organization turn their backs on the need of the people. If they have the ability, and will, to deliver the services to those in need, then let them be. If the opposing sides want to battle over there philosophical view of the world; let them do that in the courts-and keep it away from the front lines where good work is actually being done.
    I would also say that anybody that would refuse to walk into a soup kitchen because of the providers religious beliefs or denomination cannot be very hungry or in need.

  • Your premise implies that there is only one place to receive services which is factually incorrect. As I mentioned in some previous comments, this is one distribution channel to provide goods and services to those in need. If you are a hungry atheist and you don’t want to go to a soup kitchen run by the local Christian church, you have the right to then go somewhere else.
    If you have read Jefferson – and it sounds like you have – then you’ll understand that his writings are based upon the existence of God; and that all rights and liberties are provided to us by him. He takes the position that the government should not impose a government sponsored religion on anyone; as well as that those who do practice a religion should be left alone by the government.
    The problem is that people that hold similar views as yours believe that Freedom of Religion means that religion should be completely erased from society.

  • I would also say that anybody that would refuse to walk into a soup kitchen because of the providers religious beliefs or denomination cannot be very hungry or in need.

    You ignore the very example given by the author of the article. Sometimes the hungry or needy person’s own belief forbids that they enter another religions house of worship to receive the aid.

    Earlier, in another comment, you claim that the 1st amendment doesn’t provide freedom from religion. I believe that is the very thing it provides. It provides folks to hold they faith that they choose. It also provides that none of us will have a faith or the tenets of a faith, forced upon us, freedom from religion.

  • Again, if I am offering you food or care – something you are seeking from me; and you refuse my offer because of your beliefs – that is on you. You are making a conscious choice.
    Your argument implies that the recipients beliefs supersede that of the providers beliefs.
    I also said in one of my other comments that Jefferson‘s writings always start with the acceptance and belief in God. He continues by stating that freedom of religion means that there shall be no government sponsored religion – and also – that the government shall not prevent or infringe upon anyone else’s right to practice religion.

  • You are just arguing in circles, saying the same thing over and over. You are not addressing anything anyone states. I don’t care what Thomas Jefferson says, I live in 2018, he was dead and gone long, long ago, we are not bound by his beliefs or his intent towards the Constitution. BTW he was a Deist, not a conventional Christian. Look up info about his Bible, he literally cut & pasted the Gospels, leaving out everything that he didn’t believe to be true.

    Yes, the receiver’s beliefs always trump the giver’s. The difference in the Obama order and the Trump order is that under Obama the giver needed to refer the receiver to another source if the receiver couldn’t in good faith receive from the giver. Under Trump, the giver can just say take it or leave it.

    I don’t see anyone arguing for the suppression of someone’s religion, just that we don’t want taxpayer monies used to fund a religion over everyone else’s beliefs.

  • I was not implying that there would be only one place to receive services. At least not initially. The federal support of faith based services would, under this Administration, likely be at the expense of funding for secular services. Persons with differing beliefs would have fewer opportunities and have more difficult transportation problems. The hungry atheist may not have the ability to reach his meal.

    I don’t believe that freedom of religion should be erased from society. It is a necessary part of the freedom of conscious and is a human right. For example Evangelicals have the right to be against homosexuality, abortion, Gay marriage and what they consider to be unholy sexual activity. This is the right to hold these beliefs express them and advocate them to others. They do not have the right to support government action to enforce the implementation of their beliefs on others. This would be an assault on the freedom of conscious of others. They also should not discriminate against those with differing beliefs. I am taking this opinion from a moral position and support it regardless of the legal arguments.

    Because these services are financed with government funds they should be provided by secular institutions staffed with secular professionals. Because they would be working with government funds, these social service providers would not express religious opinions to their clients. This would prevent the government from favoring any religion or belief.

    Since I believe you have read Jefferson, I assume you understand that he studied the Christian Bible and had no use for it or Christianity. Like many Deists he believed in an intelligent Creator because at that time the complexity of life and nature could not be otherwise explained. At the end of his life he wrote about his beliefs in a letter to a long time friend and neighbor in Virginia. He explained that he was a follower of the teachings of Epicurus. Epicurus’s position on God was that he had no further interest in His creation. Jefferson’s admiration for Epicurus could explain why he replaced Locke’s “property” with “pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration. For Epicurus happiness was not property or consumption, but a meaningful life.

    In better than two centuries we have gained much knowledge through science and experience. We now know that an intelligent creator is not necessary for the wonderful diversity and complexity of nature. It is quite likely that our creator is natural selection. This does not negate the fact that we have the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I expect that if he had known this, Jefferson would be pleased and amazed.

  • “I also said in one of my other comments that Jefferson‘s writings always start with the acceptance and belief in God. ”

    Which is entirely fictional given his lack of respect for how religion was practiced and believed in his day. Dominionists like to use Jefferson as an example primarily by ignoring or editing his words and actions which were critical to an uncritical acceptance and belief in god.

    ” there shall be no government sponsored religion”

    Religious groups operating with government subsidy and without regard for the beliefs of the general IS government sponsored religion.

    Lets be honest here, you only support this measure because your own faith is given priority and privileged status under the current president. If this were done to favor minority faiths such as Mosques

    “that the government shall not prevent or infringe upon anyone else’s right to practice religion.”

    Which can’t be done if people seeking government services are compelled to follow religious dictates of other faiths to receive them.

    You can’t argue for a narrow view of the separation of church and state without attacking the right of free exercise of religion. You clearly have little regard for beliefs other than your own and are small minded enough to invite government endorsement. You cheapen both religion and government with such views.

  • I disagree – put Jefferson aside; I was responding to another post. My point is simply this – there are religious groups who provide services to people under the banner of XYZ church, etc. (as an example); they provide value in the distribution of goods and services that people need (food, shelter, clothing). As long as they do not discriminate or cause harm to those they are serving (whatever faith (or not)) – then let them identify as being part of XYZ church.

  • You invoked Jefferson and misrepresented his well documented beliefs. Jefferson has been recently invoked by Dominionist liars in order to support attacks on religious freedom. It was not an honest mistake or coincidence you did so as well.

    “As long as they do not discriminate or cause harm to those they are serving (whatever faith (or not)) – then let them identify as being partof XYZ church.”

    Except the entire point of Trump’s effort is to excuse or even promote harm to those they are serving. So your condition is not only failing to be met here, it is being attacked by both the Administration and its church supporters.

  • So, “the entire point of Trump’s effort is to excuse or even promote harm to those they are serving” because Mark Silk said so?

    If Mark Silk said to jump of a bridge, would you do it – a second time?

  • Deflecting to the Clintons has become the Trump apologist’s version of “sez you.” It’s what they say when they know they don’t have a case.

    I can’t recall any other presidency where the default defense was to constantly reference the losing candidate. Not once did I hear an Obama defender mention John McCain, nor a Bush fan bring up John Kerry. But, for some reason, all the Trump defenders can come up with is “Clinton would have been worse.”

    It’s truly pathetic when your guy is such an obvious moral train wreck that he has no virtue or actual accomplishment to point to. All you’re then left with is the “at least he isn’t…” defense — the weakest defense there is.

  • I can’t recall any other presidency where a defense was necessary due to the losing candidate being unable to shut her trap, and a Greek chorus of her sycophants singing “Russian, whore, nasty, narcissistic, blah, blah, blah”.

    Many people held their noses and voted for Trump because Clinton would have been worse, much much worse.

    It’s truly pathetic when your attack on a seated president consists of “he is an obvious moral train wreck” and “that he has no …. actual accomplishment to point to” when your own party’s heroes were such obvious fornicating deceitful adulterous moral bankrupts and he’s already got the economy in better shape then any time in the last decade an a half, has a summit going on North Korea, and black unemployment is at its lowest in three decades.

    Yes, there probably could a more useful debate if the losing party would stop the “moral train wreck” posing, figure out why its self-destructive candidate lost, shut the h-ll up about impeachment, and super glue a rather large sock in Maxine Waters’ mouth.

    But I don’t see it happening because all they have is the losing program from 2016 – identity politics, more free stuff for everyone, and run around with their hands in the air yelling “Al Gore was right, the world is about to come to an end!”

    That really worked well in 2016 … in California.

  • Sorry, Chief. Not a Democrat and didn’t vote for Clinton. But I do have sense enough to let the past go. And, yes, Trump is a moral train wreck. That has nothing to do with partisan politics.

  • I have enough sense to let the past go.

    I have enough moxie, however, to kick those bringing it up in the side of the head as hard as I can.

    I have no idea whether Trump is a “moral train wreck”.

    He was elected to be Commander-In-Chief, not Preacher-In-Chief. We’ve a couple of those and it did not turn out well.

    If it is relevant now, it is relevant historically to put matters in perspective.

    So, it strikes me you have a choice of either dropping it or hearing about it.

  • Posting on blogs has nothing to do with moxie or with kicking people in the head. If you fancy yourself as some sort of bold, brave advocate for truth, think again. And if you’re serious about not living in the past, quit referencing Clinton and let Trump stand or fall on his own.

  • I don’t think you have much of a point at all, particularly as the author of “And, yes, Trump is a moral train wreck.”, which has nothing to do with partisan politics only if the man is not President of the United States and the line is not a mantra of his opponents.

    If you’re serious about not getting blocked, I would drop it.

  • Do you really think I care whether or not you block me? You overestimate yourself. And let me make this clear. Trump is bad for this country. He is dishonest, uncivil, a terrible moral example, incompetent, impulsive, undisciplined and motivated solely by self-interest. He is easily the least qualified president of my lifetime and I was born during the Eisenhower administration.

  • I am glad to know when I’ve had enough of this juvenile tantrum, and block you, you’ll be good with it.

    But, since YOU think it is somehow important enough to keep repeating, despite first telling me that rebutting it was somehow inappropriate, let’s proceed.

    1 – Why specifically should I care about your assessment of Trump?

    2 – Explain how his alleged “dishonest(y), uncivil(ity), … terrible moral example, incompeten(ce), impulsiv(ivity), undisciplined(ness?) and motivat(ation) solely by self-interest” is worse or better than his predecessors, and how this impacts me personally as a citizen.

    3 – Explain how it is “bad for this country”.

    4 – Explain how he is less competent than Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Lyndon B. Johnson, and John F. Kennedy with specifics.

    I am looking at our performance in worlds affairs, including winding down some losing inherited propositions, and the economy, and so far he’s exceeding expectations.

    Other than his incessant tweeting he reminds me of Richard Nixon in some ways and Andrew Johnson in others.

    Make me care what you think.

    Or can it.

  • Again, you overestimate yourself. I don’t care about proving anything to you, nor do I post just for the benefit of one person. Block me or not. I don’t care.

  • That makes us even. I didn’t care about your original complaint, and with your two responses care even less.

    If it wasn’t a big deal to you would have never made the first post, and then having doubled-down with your own allegation, this ridiculous “response” makes it clear that your non-partisan pose was just that – a pose.

  • You got me. I’m a secret operative for the Democrats. Much as I’m enjoying this silly little exchange., I’m moving on. Have a nice evening.

  • No, you made a stupid post and then doubled down on it.

    I am not enjoying it since I began with a higher opinion of you than I am leaving it with.

  • Your comment suggests (apart from the sense, or lack thereof, of the President’s action) that “Bible thumping grifters” are the only class of faith based organizations who would benefit from said action. I am wounded to the heart. 😉 I proclaim this lightly, even as I would argue that there are effective, efficient, and sincere, faith based “bible thumping” organizations that do fine charitable works, even as those works are served up with a dose of scripture.

  • Well, the Clinton’s had “their” presidency, so in some respects Trump apologists’ are not referencing a loser.

  • Bottom line: they deflect because they know that by any objective standard Trump is indefensible.

  • Yes, but for historical perspective, is he the least qualified chief executive in our history? Time will tell. Granted, we live in the now and not the past, but I’m prepared to ride the thing out and let future historians grade Trump’s presidency. While I would agree that the President is juvenile which covers the bulk of your criticisms, his competency is yet to be measured.

  • Apart from your critique of the Seymour Institute, do you dismiss African American clergy who are not suspect or complicit in the arena of sexism who nonetheless declaim against abortion and the embrace of homosexuality, particularly as it applies to the Body of Christ?

  • How can you argue that the receiver’s beliefs outweigh the giver’s? That in itself demonstrates a bias toward the supplicant…and in a sense destroys the spirit of gratitude. I don’t discount the notion that giver and receiver should meet on equal footing, but how is that even possible today in a world that is so completely polarized. Even if the receiver grudgingly and graciously bears with the giver’s potential admonition, there is always going to be some buttinsky 3rd party prepared to gum up the transaction to appease his/her own self righteous indignation. BTW, who is “everyone else?” You, your best friend, all those that agree with you? It is this all or nothing approach that is balkanizing our society and none of us benefit from it.

  • The answer is easy. When it’s with public money appropriated for social service provision, it’s the receiver’s beliefs that matter. And that’s what we’re talking about here.

  • I believe that the Gospel demonstrates a bias toward the supplicant. Shouldn’t Christian-based services be founded in being the servant?

  • No, the receiver’s beliefs do not always trump the giver’s.

    The state authorizes a list of providers for any given service, and the receiver can choose any provider.

    The difference between the administrations can be illustrated by the consolidated case that went before the SCOTUS (SCOTUS), Zubik v. Burwell.

    On May 16, 2016, the SCOTUS vacated the Court of Appeals ruling in Zubik v. Burwell and the six cases it had consolidated under that title and returned them to their respective courts of appeals. There have been quietly dismissed.

    In 1993 Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), requiring strict scrutiny when a neutral law of general applicability “substantially burden[s] a person’s[b] exercise of religion”.

    In 2010, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act providing that the HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) specify what kinds of preventive care for women should be covered in certain employer-based health plans. The HRSA decided that all twenty contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be covered. Employers that refuse can be fined $100 per individual per day.

    HHS exempted churches (including houses of worship, such as synagogues and mosques) and their integrated auxiliaries, associations of churches, and any religious order that engages exclusively in religious activity.

    As a result of the Hobby Lobby case, in which the SCOTUS found that this approach violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a scheme was devised in which the employer would send an EBSA Form 700 to its insurance issuer, which would pay for the contraception.

    The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic religious order, runs over 25 homes for low-income elderly in the United States and therefore was not automatically exempt from the contraceptive mandate. It objected to filing a Form 700 because it believed that doing would make them complicit in providing contraception, a sin under Roman Catholic doctrine.

    The Obama administration, in this case under the aegis and signature of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, took the position that it could not provide the insurance without the Form 700.

    Seven basically identical cases – Zubik v. Burwell, Geneva College v. Burwell, East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell, Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged v. Burwell, Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell, Priests for Life v. Burwell, and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington v. Burwell were consolidated for hearing before the SCOTUS.

    The justices, for whom this was not their first rodeo, ordered supplementary briefs by both the government and the plaintiffs. In particular they were interested in why the plaintiffs had to sign a Form 700.

    The government returned with its brief and the short story in the long story of their tapdance was that the government could provide the mandated insurance all on its own without the Form 700.

    So the SCOTUS ordered all the cases back to their respective district courts where they were never heard from again (except quiet dismissals of the government’s case), and the insurance is being provided sans Form 700.

    And that is the difference between this Administration and the preceding one.

    The previous administration believed, as do you and Mr. Silk, that religious beliefs belong in houses of worship, such as churches, synagogues and mosques, and their integrated auxiliaries, associations of churches, and any religious order that engages exclusively in religious activity.

    The law and this Administration believe that those with religious beliefs belong in the public square just like everyone else.

    People with religious beliefs are also taxpayers, and the law says we don’t want taxpayer monies used to disadvantage religion to accommodate anyone else’s disbeliefs.

  • They are the only ones invited to supervise the Trump initiative, so it is natural to claim that their input is the only one which will be considered. Also the point of it was to weaken anti-discrimination measures. To make it easier for faith based groups to discriminate against the public, using taxpayer resources.

    Plus Trump has made a pattern of buying loyalty by setting up cronies into positions from which they can abuse and rob public resources. So not only is it meant to cater to a specific sectarian Christian fundamentalist agenda, but also is a payoff.

  • Lacking any reliable standard by which to compare this era to the past, I withhold judgment on whether or not Trump is the least qualified president in U.S. history. I will say that we’ve had some particularly poor ones, like Pierce, Harding, Grant, et al.

    I measure competency partly by how well one manages one’s own areas of weakness, each of us having them. Wise presidents, first, surround themselves with qualified counselors (cabinet officers, military advisers, etc.) and, second, pay attention to what they say. Trump appears to do neither of those things, preferring his own counsel. That strikes me as a potentially dangerous incompetency.

    Truly, I bear Trump no personal ill will. I just think he’s in way over his head and lacks the personal character to admit it. My hope is that the country doesn’t end up paying a high price for his hubris.

  • “What the new Initiative does, in short, is allow faith-based social service providers to use government funds to impose their religious mission on recipients who want no part of it. Where Obama ensured religious freedom, Trump creates religious establishments.” Both sentences are incorrect.

    First, no one is forcing a person to receive the services from a particular agency when they disagree with that agency. They can choose to go to a different agency. It may not be as convenient, but it is their freedom to balance their convenience with their beliefs.

    Second, President Obama forced faith-based providers to refer people to organizations who were against their deeply held religious convictions. Now, those agencies have the freedom to make referrals to other agencies (who agree or disagree with them). I can refer to someone who I don’t like, but I don’t want the government forcing me to do so. Either way, the person needing the referral will get the service they need. In this age of google and others, it is much easier to find a way to meet your need.

    Third, this change says an agency can say “no, we will not refer to someone who provides a particular service because we find that practice morally objectionable”. That does not establish any particular religious establishment. It does promote a particular religious view, but it does not establish a religious entity.

    Therefore, overall freedom of religious expression is increased. The recipient’s religious views stay the same, but the agencies increase.

  • Jefferson called himself an Epicurean. He also called himself a Christian. He called himself a lot of things. While he considered Epicurus to represent the best of what the ancient philosophers had to offer, he considered the Christian moral system to be far superior in terms of how it directs one to relate to others. And rightly so, for the pre-Christian world was an ugly place and what’s worse, few saw anything wrong with that.

    As for natural selection, it does not mandate inalienable rights in any way. Jefferson himself premised your freedom of “conscious” [sic] upon Almighty God having created the mind free (as per Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom) and recognized that it could of course be taken away — but only in violation of God’s natural law.

  • It’s true that Jefferson had great respect for Jesus. He says that He created outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man. Jefferson says His systems were misconstrued by His pretended votaries, (The Four Evangelists?) artificial systems. In a note he describes these systems.

    e.g the immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection & visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election orders of Hierarchy etc.

    What modern Christian would, like Jefferson. not accept these systems?

    Letter: Thomas Jefferson to William Short October 31, 1819

    Natural selection is instrumental in enabling us to mandate human rights. It is because of natural selection that we have empathy, and compassion for each other. Babies of a few months have been shown to have a sense of fairness. With our intelligence and reason we can determine what rights are just. Natural selection is an unconscious force which has no intelligence or purpose. However it’s creations are wonders. We, humans are both the object and source of moral values. Moral laws could only be developed by dialog and agreement.
    Our evolved human nature will guide us in this project.

  • LOL! How funny that we saw precious little of this natural inborn “empathy” in the pre-Christian world and its customs. Or even in the modern world — wherever Christianity had not yet spread and made its influence felt. Funny how such major leaps in human “evolution” were accomplished in only a couple of millennia and ONLY in the predominantly Christian west.

    Jefferson noted that, too.

    Did you learn all this in California’s wonderful and affordable junior college system that told you about freedom of “conscious” and that a country can afford free health care, free college, open borders and universal basic income all at the same time?

  • Prior to Christianity Buddhism developed a moral and very compassionate society. This also developed in other pre-Christian societies. Some without the Xenophobia of the Christians who support this government.

    Natural selection took many millennia to create the basics of human nature. In the last ten we utilized this to created the ability to live together morally.

    If you ignore evidence based reality you will help to cause the end times soon without any participation from God or Jesus. There will not be any Rapture or Resurrection.

  • You advocate using hunger to get them to participate in faith based service?

  • If you are participating in a government supported faith based program you are likely getting paid to provide government funded food or care to the client. The government should not be funding your faith based organization.

    If your faith based organisation funds its own program that would be acceptable and you could choose your clients.

  • A government funded social service agency should be required to accept clients regardless of their beliefs and be required to not present religious opinions or religious services for those clients. Being funded by the government requires these restrictions to prevent the government from supporting a particular religion. Secular social service agency’s should have equal access to this government funding.

  • “I have no idea whether Trump is a “moral train wreck”.

    then you were not paying attention to the 2016 election and the coverage that trump got .

    it not just the access hollywood tape . it is also a candidate making fun of person wheel chair bound . it is also a candidate suggesting that the audience beat up a protester and that he would pay legal bills . it is also a candidate who insulted and belittled anyone in his way . it is a candidate who had a record of not paying for work he had done–not bargaining ahead of time for the best deal, but refusing to pay afterwards until the other party, desperate, would settle for much less simply to survive .

    trump was and is a trip . one nasty trip . enjoy .

  • I understand you dislike the man.

    Because I do not live under a rock, I have access to all the material – true and untrue – you relate and more.

    I have the same on his predecessors and competitors.

    What I don’t have is any sense, other than you disliked the outcome of the last election, the significance of all this.

    Does any of this impact his performance in his job?

    Does it render the loser in the last election superior in some way?

    Does it render him impotent in dealing with Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin?

    I thought the whining after Al Gore’s loss was bad, and grew tired of the eight years of nonsense regarding Barack Obama, but this Greek chorus of whining puts both to shame.

  • Oh yes, Asia is quite the standard-bearer for human rights…not.

    Actually, Buddhism’s strongholds have been — and are — at the bottom of the heap as far as “compassionate societies” go.

    I think we’re done here.

  • Yes, I’m through too. You obviously don’t have knowledge of Buddhism or Asian religion of culture. I can’t deal with your alternative facts.

  • Thank you for your respectful reply. I have some agreement but some disagreement with your comment.

    Accepting clients regardless of their beliefs is not the issue. Religious discrimination should not occur. I have helped with several (both formally and short-term informally) faith based agencies. They have caring hearts and genuinely want to help people regardless of pretty much any way you want to group people (beliefs, gender, ethnic group, and pretty much any other socio-economic consideration). I’m sure there are exceptions, but I don’t have personal experience with any. The religious beliefs of a client should be irrelevant in most cases. However, there is a potential for overlap. If you are going to a Mosque or Synagogue to get help with food assistance, don’t expect them to provide pork or pork products.

    “Being funded by the government requires these restrictions to prevent the government from supporting a particular religion.”
    No, it shouldn’t. Some schools have taken up the challenge of “latchkey kids” who are going home to an empty house, no parental guidance, and no means of getting food. It is particularly prevalent in poor neighborhoods. However, not all schools can do this. Programs like this run on volunteers and food/snacks from federal programs. In a neighborhood without a participating school, a Church will often take the place. The Church that provides meals and activities after school to kids should be able to receive the same funding as the schools. They should have to meet the same safety/quality standards. But they should not be required to cover up any and all references, pictures, etc that have to do with their Church. There are those who would want us to hang a drape over every cross, picture, etc in the building while the services are ongoing. They should be allowed to provide a multitude of activities, and morality based teaching should not be precluded. Eg, blind-folded “steal the bacon” is a fun game that also teaches kids to give good instructions, follow instructions, play fair, and become more aware of the difficulties that blind kids face every day. Teaching them to follow the golden rule is consistent with good ethics and religious instruction. But including that golden rule does not mean the government is establishing that particular Churches’s belief or preferring it just because the government HELPed fund a portion of the food.

    Presenting one’s religious beliefs is essential to some services. Eg., ABC services provides family planning services. They provide free educational services to all people regardless of their religious beliefs or any other grouping of individuals. They never even ask about someone’s beliefs. They provide prophylactics (and education on how to use them), pregnancy testing, referrals to OBGyn’s for birth, parenting classes, infant/toddler CPR classes, adoption services, well-baby checks, diapers, formula, etc. However, if a person comes in wanting an abortion, ABC should be able to say we don’t provide those services. We will help with all other aspects around pregnancy, but not abortions. They should not be forced to provide education on or support of abortions. They should not be required to provide referrals to abortion providers. I personally think it would be wise for them to develop a referral list of community sources that could help with abortions because they could be steered to safer providers. But they should not be required to do so because it is such an insult to their beliefs.

    “Secular social service agency’s should have equal access to this government funding.” They do. The problem was that faith-based programs were being forbidden to have any access to public funds just because they were faith-based. That should never have been a consideration. If a group is effective in providing the service, and the people who receive the service are satisfied, that should be the biggest consideration.

    Sorry for the length. It is much easier to voice a problem than to describe the solution.

  • Why if he’s not Preacher in Chief does he constatly promote Christianity even though I doubt he knows much about it. It would take several lines to list his moral failures. I like the expression moral train wreck.

  • Besides being XYZ church they are also USA government if that’s where funding is coming from. If churches wish to provide social services they should do it as a charity. I don’t want as a taxpayer to support a Chrisian charity. The government should contract with non-profit secular organizations or create an its own agency to provide them, Another discriminatory aspect is that the government could finance salaries. It is most likely that religion of the proper type would be a qualification. One service that Dominionists would want are adoption agency’s, They can then select for the proper faith of the couples that adopt. This is to build their “kingdom” to control us all.

  • i don’t know the man so it is impossible for me to like or dislike .

    i do dislike the actions and the statements i saw or heard on the tapes . you say you know of them but you then seem to suggest you are not sure they are real . they are .

    do you need links ?

    your whining about hillary or al is funny . supporters of trump seem to suggest that any real criticism is whining as they then whine about that criticism .

  • Some of them are real, some of them are out of context, and some of them are fake.

    What I don’t understand is its significance.

    Does any of this impact his performance in his job?

    Does it render him impotent in dealing with Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin?

    He seems overall to be the equivalent morally of some of the folks who’ve held the same office in the past, so it’s not as though this is new ground.

  • Note that the gun supporter, deluded Christian nutcase, bigot, and NRA shill presenting himself in this thread as “Bob Arnzen” variously and dishonestly uses a variety of names on RNS such as Bob Arnzen, José Carioca, and others. However, there is actually no real Bob Arnzen, and there is no real José Carioca.

    It is recommended that you refer to him and reply to him using his name as “Bobosé”, “BobbyJoe”, or just “snowflake”.

    The José Carioca account for this present post is used as a parody of “Bob Arnzen”.

  • what i gave you are all real, in context .

    do you need the links to see what’s what ?

  • But doesn’t servanthood elevate the servant in the eye of God? The text does say it’s more blessed to give than to receive. At the same time, if the supplicant’s request violates God’s best for them (as the giver understands it), that, by your logic puts the giver in a heckuva a spot in terms of a violated conscience and proper servanthood. Whom does such a one serve first, God or the supplicant? Because surely there ARE cases where what the supplicant desires is not proper. But I’m getting far afield. Of course, the best way to eliminate this conundrum is for faith based agencies to refuse government subsidies, trust God, and persuade their professing fellows, congregants, and fellow travelers to pony up more at the expense of the superfluous selfish materialism that plagues most American Christians of means today.

  • I’m afraid that I disagree with your premise. Either position can be argued as subjective, rather than solely or even primarily objective. It is a matter of interpretation. However, there is always reference to the courts if someone chooses to challenge the President on the legal merits of his decision, but a judicial finding, though binding, is not always the proper moral or spiritual finding.

  • When what the giver thinks is best for the receiver before they are allowed to eat is a long sermon trying to convince the receiver of their sin while their stomach is growling because they haven’t eaten in a day and a half, I can’t see that elevating the giver in God’s eyes.

  • The Gospel doesn’t have a bias toward the poor, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, etc?

  • What the heck does an employee’s health benefits under the ACA have to do with adoption services, psychological counseling, job training & prep, food banks, meal services, etc?

    Apples and oranges. Employers, to my knowledge, are not being doled out federal funds to provide their employees with healthcare benefits.

    I think that in these long useless diatribes of yours, that you hope that we will become confused and forget what the real topic of discussion is on the table.

  • The quicker the better. Hopefully they will be prepared to do the job the moment that they hit the ground. Get us back to sanity in barely a week.

    Is that your husband in the photo Jeffrey?

  • More importantly, what the heck does the service provider’s religious beliefs have to do with adoption services?

    As Zubik v Burwell illustrated, those who wanted contraception obtained it without the cooperation of the Sisters and others.

    There is no government purpose accomplished by compelling people to act contrary to their religious beliefs.

    Same sex couples who wish to adopt have a wide range of agencies who will work with them.

    Of course “psychological counseling, job training & prep, food banks, meal services, etc” was completely gratuitous.

    I think that in the long useless diatribes of yours, the real concern becomes clear – the previously “inevitable” conquest of public life by those that agree with you is faltering and beginning to fail.

  • To what purpose?

    I don’t have an interest in tsk-tsking and rubbing my hands together obsessively with the superannuated ladies at the card club over the latest salacious revelation.

    Now, if you happen to have something relevant to a citizen interested in the performance of his government and which is actionable, I am all ears.

  • Unless you are aware of a religious organization which does this as a condition of implementing a government paid-for meals program, let’s all note the example is silly.

  • There isn’t anything silly about it. The Salvation Army in the US has been documented countless times doing just this for not only its food access program, but also sheltering. All SA programs receive federal contributions except the dependency program which is support by the SA Thrift Stores.

  • The solution, if your facts are correct, is for a complaint and if necessary a lawsuit.

    A quick search turns up neither.

    I worked with the Salvation Army for years when I was a volunteer on the Allocations Committee with a United Appeal in a reasonably large city.

    Frankly I cannot believe that SA would ever knowingly violate a law or regulation.

  • If nothing else it may teach both patience and forbearance, which are always worthwhile character traits.

  • Typical first world response! It’s actually insulting.

    You’ve never been homeless or hungry.

  • How would you know that? That is presumption which does not dignify a further answer whether true or not.

  • I agree (in essence) with your last sentence “Secular social service agency’s should have equal access to this government funding.” If we are going to be using our tax dollars to support social causes, then the philosophical leanings of the institution shouldn’t be the driving reason someone does or does not get the funds. Instead, we should be considering the history of the institution or officers related to the social issue, the success or lack thereof in dealing with the issue, the other options available in the community, the innovative potentials of the institution, etc. Their philosophical and/or world views should be considered only in light of how they will affect the effectiveness of their mission.

  • I worked for several years for a Presbyterian organization in caring for “difficult youth” that were removed from their parents home by the state. The state did not allow discrimination in hiring or in practices with the youth. I and my wife ran a community group home. It was acceptable that we were non-believers. We were in no way allowed to encourage or discourage the faith of the children. I transported those that asked to the religious church or temple they requested. This is the sense in which I would agree with you.

    I would strongly object to government financed faith based organizations that discriminate in employment. Also if they would attempt to support, affect or change the faith of their clients.