Faith-based games

President George W. Bush has made many promises and touted many policies to American citizens who have surely noticed his clearly conservative agenda. Yet during his campaign, he tried to give the impression he would serve more than right-wing interests once in office. Recently, however, it seems his true nature is beginning to show. According to a document obtained by The Washington Post, the Salvation Army had been working with the president to secure immunity from state and local discrimination laws regarding homosexuals. In return, the Salvation Army would pour thousands of dollars toward promoting the president’s “faith-based” charity initiative. Although the White House declined the Salvation Army’s request earlier this week, the situation casts doubt on the integrity of the office and the highlights the problems with Bush’s “faith-based” proposal.

Engaging in secret negotiations with an organization like the Salvation Army is a sneaky and unwise move that illustrates the president’s fear of revealing how deeply he holds his conservative beliefs. Covert deals are never wise on the presidential level; they reek of hidden agendas and slimy politics. After denying involvement by any senior officials in the White House, Karl Rove, a senior adviser to Bush, revealed his involvement with the Salvation Army situation. Rove will now become a shield to deflect some criticism away from the president. Clearly, the Salvation Army document raises all of these suspicions about Bush and his aides. It now raises the question of how many other secret dealings he and his underlings might have with other organizations.

Not only is this bad politics, but the possibility that a federally funded organization might be given the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation is extremely frightening. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of America have shown that homosexuals are not welcome in an organization that does receive some funding and other forms of support from the federal government. Allowing a federally funded organization to discriminate should frighten all Americans. Our government serves all citizens and groups that receive federal money should be open to all people. Religious organizations, as focused as they might be on charity, should not be able to circumvent discrimination laws and receive federal funding simultaneously.

Furthermore, this is an example of why the president’s “faith-based” social services initiative is flawed and harmful to both church and state. If such legislation is enacted, either religious organizations are forced to go against their beliefs and give equal consideration to gays and others whose lifestyles they don’t approve of, or else the government is in the uncomfortable position of giving taxpayers’ dollars to an organization that discriminates. Neither option is viable or desirable. Despite the number of religious Americans, there is no need for the federal government to assist religious groups and their frequent proselytizing. Perhaps Mr. Bush needs a review session on the First Amendment as well as a lesson on acceptable presidential dealings.