Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Goddamned Podcast #17:
June 5, 2008


THIS WEEK - Theists & Science, Churches & Charities ... and a Lost "Sole"

Evo has a question: Do theists, particularly those on Boards of Education, knowingly use their influence to undermine the teaching of ALL science, not just evolutionary biology? Do they consciously or unconsciously work against the development of a scientific worldview because they realize that it has a tendency to lead to religious decay? Philly thinks Evo may be lost in Conspiracy Land. Others in the Herd support the idea, minus any conspiracy. (0:00)

OG tells us about anti-intellectualism in religious schools. Ex relates a different educational experience. Philly thinks there's so much to teach, so little time. What’s your take? (14:51)

Big surprise! Our federal tax money is being given to churches for charitable work. The Herd, predictably, is pretty united against this, and we spell out why. What really pisses all of us off -- not just Ex -- is that the White House encourages churches to “game the system”. (31:31)

But the Herd, being what it is, can't agree for long. Is it possible that churches actually do use federal funding for charitable work? Some of us say no; others of us think that's an unsupported position. (48:50)

Join a prayer circle and save a woman’s deteriorating family from an ATHEIST ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!! (1:03:47)

Opening Music [00:00]: excerpt from "Another Goddamned Draft"
Bridge Music [14:04]: excerpt from "Heathen Boogie"
Bridge Music [30:15]: excerpt from "Disco is Not Dead"
Bridge Music [48:39]: excerpt from "Arkansas Traveler"
Bridge Music [1:02:52]: excerpt from "Latin Down the Hatches"
Closing Music [1:11:30]: excerpt from "As Jazzy as I Get"
(All music: copyright 2008 by Rachel Murie)

Original audio source

32 comments:

the chaplain said...

Good discussion on Faith-Based Initiatives. As you can guess, given my biography, I am very interested in this topic. Even when I was a Christian, I believed that churches and religious charities should stay away from government funds, for their own good and for the sake of secularism.

Philly's point about the disintegration of oversight is a good one. I know that accountability of government-funded programs was very strict 20 years ago or so.

Ex's point about government funding for charities freeing up church funds for religious activities is also a good one. Needless to say, churches don't see anything wrong with this. The rationale is something like, "We can deliver the services more efficiently and cost-effectively than government, so it makes sense for us to run the programs."

They are also aware that external funding of charities frees up their own internal funds, which is why they often seek government funds, but they just don't see anything wrong with this. They don't see this as subsidization of their churches; in their minds, their churches are still self-funded. This mindset is probably an example of what it's like to hold "religious privilege" in this country (a concept that I've just coined, I'm claiming the trade mark right now!) as analogous to "white privilege."

Theoretically, the government funds could (and probably should) supplement funds the church would be donating to a charity. I suspect that the reality often is that the congregation will kick in less for that program because it's already getting enough money from the government. I think that's a human nature thing rather than an indicator of nefarious intent on the part of Christians.

I admire the idealism I hear from most of you, but I tend to side with Ex on this one.

the chaplain said...

I resent being called "snide." Conniving may be a more accurate term. Or maybe sly. ;)

John Evo said...

Chappy said: I resent being called "snide."

I don't even recall that comment, but it must have been Ex. He's the only one in the Herd that doesn't care for you.

Venjanz said...

I have a question for the chick that does the music.

Is this stuff you have already made, or do you compose new tracks for each podcast?

Ordinary Girl said...

V, the "chick" who does the music, or Babs - you can follow a link to her blog in the sidebar - composed a bunch of songs when we started recording the podcasts and then added many more several weeks later.

Since Babs isn't actively working with the podcast at this time - work is too busy - there haven't been any new songs for a while. I'm sure that Babs would be happy to know though that her music is still noticed and appreciated.

The Herd voted down my inclusion of Kumbaya after I found the worst recording on earth. It's nice to know that reverse psychology still works.

PhillyChief said...

I think if federal money is to go to a charity, it should be in the form of matching funds. In other words, if a charity raises $100k, then they get another $100k from the government, and of course account for the distribution of that now $200k. That does away with the stained glass problem of Ex.

What I didn't get a chance to bring up Chaplain was that argument for giving money to charities because they're better equipped to carry it out. That's been the rationale for decades. Knowing how government is, it's been considered more cost effective to simply give money to an organization that already has a structure and system for identifying who is most in need and of course helping them. Now without oversight, that's going to be abused.

The Exterminator said...

Venjanz, OG:
The Herd voted down my inclusion of Kumbaya after I found the worst recording on earth. It's nice to know that reverse psychology still works.
What OG neglected to mention is that she, herself, is one of the singers on that recording.

Philly:
Knowing how government is, it's been considered more cost effective to simply give money to an organization that already has a structure and system for identifying who is most in need and of course helping them.
So rather than the inefficient and self-serving government running the charities your recourse is to shift the responsibility to the only organizations on Earth that are arguably more inefficient and self-serving?

Ordinary Girl said...

Oh no, Ex. If it had been me on that recording it would have been much, much worse. For the sake of our podcast don't make me prove it.

PhillyChief said...

So rather than the inefficient and self-serving government running the charities your recourse is to shift the responsibility to the only organizations on Earth that are arguably more inefficient and self-serving?

First, that's been the way things have been done and not my plan.
Second, the system used to be both based on merit and relied on oversight, which stood in place to counter your arguable objections. Inefficient and self serving organizations didn't get funds, and ones who got them and then exhibited inefficient and/or self-serving usage of the funds got cut off and perhaps had their feet held to the fire.

The true faith in the faith based initiative is in having faith religious organizations won't be inefficient and self serving, having faith that they're a better option than secular organizations, and having faith that there's no need to have to check that they're in fact living up to their end of the bargain.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
The problem with oversight of religious institutions -- whether they receive government funds or not -- is the First Amendment, as well as the entire concept of Separation of Church & State.

So that's not a good solution, although it is one that was followed historically.

Really, though, the only solution is not to give any public monies to religious organizations whatsoever, no matter what they choose to call themselves. I refer you again to chappy's comment that started this thread.

PhillyChief said...

There is a notion of innocent until proven guilty in this country. If an organization promises to use funds for charitable ends, and has exhibited such a thing, then they should get the funds. Like it or not, that means every yahoo group is eligible if they can exhibit that. The funding is not funding the organization, but the enterprise it's undertaking.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
"Innocent until proven guilty" is a standard under which criminal trials are conducted.

It has nothing to do with disbursing public funds.

PhillyChief said...

It is, in fact, an ideal that permeates every facet of government, not just criminal trials. The alternative, prejudice, is not, and what perpetually has to be extracted, be it prejudice against race, gender, sexual orientation, religious opinion or whatever else.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
It is, in fact, an ideal that permeates every facet of government, not just criminal trials.
Nope. This is silly. Use a different argument for government funding to so-called charitable organizations than "innocent until proven guilty."

PhillyChief said...

No, you're silly. Give a better argument for denying a religious organization a shot at winning funds other than you're prejudiced against religious organizations, ESPECIALLY if there's a system of both oversight and awarding on merit. You cleverly avoid that and simply make appeals of emotion, playing on the clear prejudice present on an atheist blog against religion to carry your point of denying religious organizations the very opportunity of applying. That prejudice is what gives the fucking faith based initiative a leg to stand on, and becomes a ridiculous affirmative action initiative then.

You give them a chance, like everyone else. If they don't live up to the required standards, tough, and then there's no reason for them to cry foul.

IF what you argue is true, THEN they either wouldn't merit the money or they'd get caught during the oversight process, so what's the problem?

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
Well, we're beginning to sound like a Monty Python sketch:
- You're silly.
- No, you're silly.
- And I say you're silly.
- Well, you're so silly you're obviously silly.

Here are four better arguments for denying religious organizations the granting of government funds for charitable work:
1) Separation of Church & State
Madison said, Who does not see that ... the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever? In other words, I, as a citizen, should not have to pay money to a church, synagogue, mosque, or Wiccan clearing in the woods. When the government disburses my money to religious organizations, it violates my rights.

2) Government Oversight is Impossible
In the spirit of the First Amendment's guarantee of Freedom of Religion, the government may not meddle in the workings of religious organizations. It may not ask for any accouting of expenditures. (By the way, this is also why I oppose the idea of granting religious institutions tax-free status.)

3) Institutional Agendas Government-funded charitable institutions should have to show that their agendas are strictly limited to doing charitable works, publicizing those specific works, and seeking assistance from others in doing and/or publicizing those works. Religious institutions can't stand up to that rigorous test.

4) Hidden Selectivity
Religious institutions are implicitly exclusionary, or, at best, selective about those who may receive charity. If the recipient is most likely to find out about the charity through visiting the church in its capacity as a religious institution, the charity isn't really equally available to everyone. It may be so "on paper," but not in practice.

Are those enough reasons for you?

PhillyChief said...

Ok I'll repeat - The funding is not funding the organization, but the enterprise it's undertaking. That directly kills objections 1 & 3.

4 should be weeded out during the initial evaluation of merit, as hidden selectivity is not a vice exclusive to religious organizations.

As for #2, first, where are you getting that from? The government can and does ask for accounting expenditures, or else why would there be a need for services to "help churches to be accountable with financial information such as bookkeeping and tax preparation" since "It is very important that churches are set up to comply with government regulations".
Second, once again, the funding is for an enterprise, not for the organization, so demanding an accounting for the handling of the enterprise would not be not "meddling" into the organization anyway.

Got any more ways to be wrong, or were those four you listed enough for you, ya silly goose?

PhillyChief said...

I'd say what would work would be a return to the old merit and oversight system, and have the funding be a matching fund system. Also, I think I would vote for Ex to be in charge of the oversight committee. :)

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
I accept the nomination.

Obviously, I disagree with your analysis, but you and I have plenty of opportunity to battle this out elsewhere. Maybe the listeners -- or other Herd members -- would like to have us approach this topic again, with a slightly different focus than the one we had in this podcast.

So how about it, all you readers and listeners? Who do you think is right? Or is neither of us right? (Impossible!) Or can't you decide? And do you have any further questions about charitable institutions that you'd like to hear us discuss?

the chaplain said...

Evo said: Chappy said: I resent being called "snide."

I don't even recall that comment, but it must have been Ex. He's the only one in the Herd that doesn't care for you.


Near the end of the podcast, Ex said something about the snide people who vote in the polls. It was a minor comment, easy to overlook.

The Exterminator said...

chappy:

If I were a Christian, I'd ask you to supply proof that you're not snide.

Anyway, coming from me, you can take that word as a compliment.

Venjanz said...

Just to chime in here (I know you were all waiting with bated breath to hear my opinion), I agree with Ex on not allowing any tax dollars going to a religious charity.

My problem with this is not only does this practice seem to violate the 1st Amendment (which makes all subsequent arguments moot IMAO), but just like with everything else, I have no choice in how our tax Dollars are misspent, other than voting for some slick-talking hack seeking office at some level every so often.

We have come a long way since the 18th century, when the fastest way to Washington was a sailing ship or horse and buggy. I am starting to wonder if the HoR in it's current form is even necessary in the Information Age. Just a thought.

John Evo said...

Venjanz said: I agree with Ex on not allowing any tax dollars going to a religious charity.

What? No love for the "liberal"? I do believe I went even further than Ex.

PhillyChief said...

Evo, you're the nuclear option.

PhillyChief said...

Ok, I'm curious where you got this:
"In the spirit of the First Amendment's guarantee of Freedom of Religion, the government may not meddle in the workings of religious organizations. It may not ask for any accouting of expenditures."

Source?

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
Source?

You must think you're debating with one of the idiots you're used to challenging on all points. My source for all comments about the Constitution, unless otherwise noted, is the Constitution.

I'll assume, though, that you're not really asking for my source. What you want is my reasoning. So here it is.

In the First Amendment, the government -- at least the legislative branch -- is expressly forbidden from making any law that prohibits the free exercise of religion.

Now, it so happens that the executive branch is not expressly forbidden from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. I happen to think that this omission is because the founders didn't foresee a day when the government would largely consist of mega-agencies and offices under the executive's control. The founders certainly didn't foresee that these agencies and offices would, essentially, have the power to make laws.

To see what specific powers the founders had in mind for the legislature and the executive, compare Article I with Article II. I'll tell you in advance that you won't find anything anticipating the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.

So what I mean by "the spirit of the First Amendment" is my informed opinion that the founders probably didn't want the government, in any of its branches, to be able to prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Since the government (at least, under any reading of the Constitution, the legislature) may not prohibit the free exercise of religion, it may not control any religious establishment through oversight in any way -- because that, obviously, would interfere with the free exercise of whatever religion the government would be overseeing.

That means, at least if you believe in following the First Amendment and its "spirit" literally (as I do), that the government cannot ask any church for an accounting.

On the other hand, in my reading of the First Amendment, the government is also absolutely forbidden to grant any monies to religious establishments. So, really, oversight shouldn't be necessary.

Venjanz said...

You're right John, sorry about not including you. I actually posted my last comment about a couple of days after I listened.

**Mad props for Mr. Evo.**

PhillyChief said...

You needed all that just to say that's your opinion of how the Constitution should be read? You know those idiots write long posts to say very little, too.

Thankfully, the government doesn't share Ex's informed opinion and they can ask for accounting expenditures.

John Evo said...

Apology accepted - when you vote for Obama in November. Until then, I got you on my radar, mister.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:

Now that last one is a brilliant argument. I'm dazzled by the razor-sharp logic.
Thankfully, the government doesn't share Ex's informed opinion and they can ask for accounting expenditures.

Yeah, our government. Thankfully they don't share my informed opinion about adhering to the Constitution.

Venjanz said...

***spits out drink****

PhillyChief said...

In the interest of being able to make an informed opinion, I thought I should make it clear to whoever wants to weigh in what is fact and what isn't, since it's easy to get confused when someone asserts fictions as facts drowned in a gravy of religious prejudice.

Further clarification: What Ex meant to say last was 'Thankfully they don't adhere to my informed opinion about how the Constitution should be interpreted' because otherwise, the original comment would imply Ex is the infallible interpreter of the Constitution, and surely that couldn't have been what he meant.