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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The New Cycle of Dependency

An op-ed from the Baltimore Sun by Robert Koulish, the France-Merrick professor of service learning at Goucher College, found its way into my local paper.

The Bush administration's proposed 2008 budget, which threatens elimination of 141 programs, is a reminder of another war - the one against nonprofits.

Since 9/11, nonprofits have been financially starved, privatized out of business and even criminalized, under the "material aid" provisions of the Patriot Act. The Bush budget attempts to escalate this low-intensity conflict against nonprofits.

The seeds for the war on nonprofits lay in the 1971 "Powell Memo" penned by corporate lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell. The memo instructed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to confront nonprofit critics of the business community, personified by Ralph Nader and the American Civil Liberties Union. It urged forming right-wing think tanks and philanthropies, hiring intellectuals and confronting progressives.

The Powell Memo has been credited with providing a blueprint for conservative dominance after the 1978 midterm elections as well as the surge in right-wing think tanks and civic organizations, and the "K Street Project" for conservative domination of lobbying firms.

The Bush administration has taken the Powell Memo one step further and uses the strategy to punish non-profits that aren't run by conservative christians. A quick check shows that Bush has proposed a $28 million increase for faith-based 'abstinence-only' programs, while no increase is proposed for other family planning measures.

In fact, in providing services to communities, the Bush administration always prefers 'faith-based' programs. And no group other than christian groups have ever gotten any of this money.

Esther Kaplan (emphasis the author's):

Bush's faith-based initiative also privileges Christianity above all other religions. After sifting through every grant announcement I could get my hands on from Bush's faith-based offices, I couldn't find a single grant issued to a religious charity that wasn't Christian — no Jewish charities, no Muslim charities, nothing. And when I spoke with Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he confirmed that no direct federal grants from his program had gone to a non-Christian religious group. This kind of religious favoritism is exactly what the Constitution's establishment clause was put in place to prevent

The purpose here is clear -- to make the face of aid a christian face. If you're homeless, talk to a christian. Got an unexpected pregnancy? Talk to a christian. In prison? Talk to a christian. Just out of prison? Talk to a christian. Got a drug or alcohol problem? Talk to a christian. Need extra help at your school? Talk to a christian.

In every situation where you might turn to a charity, the idea is that you'll wind up dealing with a christian. And now they're putting competing charities out of business to make sure that happens.

And, in the case of many of these programs, a system that actually works is being replaced with BS that doesn't. To go back to abstinence only programs, study after study shows they're crap and just make problems worse.


A recent review of program evaluations in 11 states (AZ, CA FL, IA, MD, MN, MO, NE, OR, PA, WA) indicates that after participating in abstinence-only programs, teens are less willing to use contraception, including condoms. And in only one state, did any program demonstrate any success in delaying the initiation of sex.


Many abstinence programs include "Virginity Pledges," whereby teens sign cards promising to remain virgins until they are married. While data suggests that under limited circumstances, teens who sign a pledge may delay sexual intercourse, 88 percent still have sex before marriage. Recent research also shows that pledgers' rate of STDs does not differ from the rate of nonpledgers because pledgers are less likely to use condoms at first intercourse or to be tested for STDs.

So, the purpose of abstinence only programs isn't to affect teen sexual activity -- if it were, it'd be adjusted to actually address its own failings. It's snake oil and the only purpose it serves is to instill 'christian values' in teens. When the program fails you, you've got something to pray to. And, of course, you enter into the next faith based program in the chain -- this one for young parents or people with STDs.

Is there a reason why all these 'faith based' programs seem to fail? I'm tempted to think that it's designed to keep people in trouble and in the system, dependent on christian charity and talking to christian evangelists as often as possible. Whether or not that's the purpose, that is the result. And removing other charities from the system only reinforces this cycle of failure and aid.

Add to this school voucher programs which pay for tuition to religious schools and you've got people in a sphere of entirely christian experience, from cradle to grave. Conservatives like to say the United States is a christian nation. They're working to make that rhetorical statement a factual one.


Technorati tags: ; ; ; ; ; ; when the program you're in fails, you can go right to another faith-based program