-By Warner Todd Huston
Widely reviled by the left, Bush’s faith-based initiatives were claimed to be evidence that Bush was a “religious zealot” trying to destroy America with evil Christianity. Now, two years into the Obama administration, we are seeing what Obama intends to do with his continuation of Bush’s faith-based offices: he wants to use them to push the religion of Greenicanism on America’s churches.
The question that immediately comes to mind, of course, is if the left will explode in excoriation of Obama’s faith-based policies as it did with Bush’s?
The left was out of its mind over Bush’s ideas. In 2004, for instance, the website TheocracyWatch.org hyperbolically said, “Under the Bush administration, our country is experiencing a major transformation from a secular to a religious government. The President’s faith-based initiative is central to this transformation and raises serious questions about church-state separation.” This was the left-wing talking points du jour on Bush’s faith-based programs.
It wasn’t just the left, but even from the libertarian side Bush’s ideas were attacked. Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute said that the faith-based initiative was a “direct violation” of the Constitution.
And the media universally hated the idea. Lew Daly of Boston Review magazine tried to color Bush’s program as a “seismic change in American politics,” and for The New York Times Ron Suskind breathlessly burbled that Bush had, “created the faith-based presidency.” And those were what passed for the civil proclamations, others were more nutty by claiming that Bush was a religious zealot that was destroying the country through that evil Christianity stuff.
Candidate Obama was widely expected to dispense with the faith-based office. But in 2008 when the AP reported that Obama intended to leave the Bush faith-based programs in place, the left was apoplectic. Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State criticized Obama over it. “I am disappointed that any presidential candidate would want to continue a failed policy of the Bush administration,” Lynn said. “It ought to be shut down, not continued.”
After the AP’s report candidate Obama himself spun reports as a distortion. In July of 2008, Obama addressed the issue in a speech in Zanesville, Ohio.
“Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea – so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.”
As with most things that Obama says, this claim that was then. While Obama is following the left-wing penchant to eschew actual religiosity, Obama has apparently decided that his own special brand of religion would be what is promulgated with his continuation of Bush’s faith-based policies. The money he’s spending to “proselytize” his green ideas apparently doesn’t strike him as a violation of his 2008 proclamations.
Recently Meghan Clyne wrote an excellent piece in the Weekly Standard that detailed how Obama is using his faith-based program to push global warming, climate change, and green initiatives on America’s churches and he’s doing so by brazenly coupling his faith-based council with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Apparently, the president’s council envisions the “partnership” between government and religious institutions as a means of spreading the administration’s environmental warnings, rather than just a way to help churches feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Faith-based organizations, the report notes, can take “a prominent leadership role in influencing policy, education, and action in those areas.”
…The council hopes the new EPA faith office will also help churches and other nonprofits improve “access to financing,” including “establishing revolving loan programs or working with utility companies to help finance greening building projects.” The ultimate aim of all this government-supported retrofitting is clear: “Regional staff would work to engage local faith-and community-based groups to help meet Obama administration targets for greening buildings and promoting environmental quality.”
So, Obama wants to use federal subsidies offered through he EPA and his faith-based outreach to get churches to promulgate the green faith.
Of course, it’s hard to see Obama’s use of faith-based initiatives to push his environmental message and spending millions of tax dollars to do so differs in any material way when measured by the left’s anti-Bush yard stick when they criticized his policies. The left universally cried that Bush was cynically using religion to further his political policies. No one can look at Obama’s current policies and see any reason to excuse him from being smeared with the same brush the left used to tar Bush.
Clyne also makes a seminal point. “Perhaps it’s only reasonable that global-warming activists would turn to God for help as the scientific case for their position collapses,” Clyne wrote. It’s all as if “Climategate had never happened,” she says.
It is indeed.