Friday, March 04, 2005

March 3, 2005

Jews Need Not Apply
Thanks to a vote by House Republicans yesterday your tax dollars may soon be going to organizations that discriminate. Yes, discrimination is going to be all the rage, if the Senate approves.

The House on Wednesday approved a job-training bill that would allow faith-based organizations receiving federal funds to consider a person's religious beliefs in making employment decisions. Under current law, religious groups that receive federal money for job-training programs must obey civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring or firing.

Every now and then we get a glimpse behind the fa├žades the right puts up to hide what’s really afoot, and this was one of those times. The vote yesterday was pushed by the Christian right to fix a problem they had with Bush’s faith-based initiative. They were all for getting federal funds flowing to their church-sponsored outreach programs, but they did want to have to comply with the nation’s workplace anti-discrimination laws.

So, after two decades of complaining that government was hostile to religion (to which they mean Christianity) they wanted Congress to let them discriminate against people who do not share their beliefs -- and do it with taxpayer money. And, as the Christian right almost always does now, they got what they wanted out of this administration.

In a statement Wednesday supporting the bill, the White House said;

"Receipt of federal funds should not be conditioned on a faith-based organization's giving up a part of its religious identity and mission."

So what the fig does that mean? It means that a Christian group looking to hire people to run their taxpayer-funded job training program could turn away Jews, just because they are Jews.

And this business about a church charity not having to “give up its religious identity,” is particularly troubling. What if a taxpayer-funded charity is affiliated with an Islamic mosque whose “religious identity” includes the belief that non-Muslims are infidels so, of course, they can't hire "infidels?" Or how about a White Supremacist church that believes black folk are inferior, so they're out?

Or a fundamentalist Christian sect that teaches homosexuality is a sin, gays need not apply? No doctors or nurses need apply at a Christian Science charity either. Just how crazy does it have to get before we get the point? My guess is, pretty crazy.

I don’t want a dime of my tax money going to anyone who discriminates on race, religion or what a person does behind closed doors with their private parts.

Holy moly, what’s next? Charter schools in pricey neighborhoods turning away minorities because “they” do not reflect the “community identity?” It is not much of a stretch if the House measure on faith-based charities becomes law.

Understand this: the Christian right firmly believes America is a Christ
ian nation, and any pussyfooting around that by them is just that, disengenuous pussyfooting. Yesterday they were at the Supreme Court arguing in favor of allowing monuments of the Ten Commandments on public property. Do you believe for one second the Christian right would have been there defending the right of Buddhist group to place a granite statue of Buddha on the lawn at the Texas State Capitol? Not a chance baby. Not a chance. In fact, you can bet that any non-Christian monument placed where the Ten Commandments are now would be vandalized beyond recognition within days – by Christian vandals – just as the Taliban blew up those giant Buddhist statues, and for the same reasons.

"The provision allowing consideration of religious beliefs is equivalent to turning the clock back on civil rights. Faith-based institutions should be required to adhere to basic civil rights laws. This provision is offensive, it is ugly, it is wrong, and beyond that, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is unconstitutional. It is important that we oppose discrimination at every turn.” Rep. James P. McGovern, D. Mass

At the very moment McGovern was uttering those words on the House floor, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia was across the street lambasting lawyers arguing against the display of the Ten Commandments on at the Texas Capitol.

Scalia called the Ten Commandments "a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God," adding, "That seems to me an appropriate symbol to put on government grounds……(because) ……'Our laws come from God.'

So, you see, you have been lied to your whole life. You were taught that, in America, the elected representatives of the people create laws. Now we learn from Scalia that God actually wrote them. Is He still at it? If so then it would follow that God also wrote the law the House passed yesterday – the one that allows churches to discriminate.

And – here’s the kicker – if Scalia is right, then God has a twisted sense of humor. Because, in this law Jews and Muslims who pay taxes that fund, say a Christian charity, could be legally discriminated against by that charity. Man, that's a scream!

Seriously, this whole faith-based business is the slipperiest of slippery slopes. A Pandora’s box of interfaith trouble that should never have been pried open in the first place. Government and religion are each unstable chemicals that should never be allowed to mix. Because, when they do, it always creates an explosion, often literally.

If Congress insists on indulging the Christian right by approving federal funds to religious charities the LEAST it should do is insist those groups comply with the same anti-discrimination laws everyone else has to follow.

Yikes. What I just wrote amazes and shames me. At this point in our nation’s history we should not even be discussing something as shocking as government-sanctioned workplace discrimination.

But we are. And that’s amazing, tragic and so terribly dangerous.

Earth to Weird Al. Come in.
Alan Greenspan apparently woke up yesterday morning and discovered the federal deficit. After months of happy talk about the economy and more recently throwing his support behind Bush’s $2 trillion Social Security private accounts idea, Greenspan noticed a problem.

“Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned on Wednesday that the federal budget deficits were "unsustainable," and he urged Congress to scrutinize both spending and taxes to solve the problem. "It's the principle that I think is involved here, namely that you cannot continuously introduce legislation which tends to expand the budget deficit," Mr. Greenspan said.’

Duh. No shit, Al! Just where did you think Bush was going to get all that money to fund his Social Security private accounts? He was going to borrow it, that’s where.

While Wierd Al is having epiphanies he might want to have one about the Bush tax cuts too. Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would be nothing short of fiscal suicide. Doing so would add at least another $1.8 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years. And that’s on top of a rapid escalation in the federal debt from $3.4 trillion to $4.3 trillion since Bush took office.

Is it just me or is it ironic that Congress has just passed tougher personal bankruptcy laws that benefit credit (crack) card companies? The new law will make much harder for working class Americans to get their debts discharged.

Republicans argued in favor of the changes waxed eloquently about how people need to be held responsible for profligate spending habits. These are the very same Republicans who continue to raise our nation’s debt ceiling to allow the Bush administration to borrow yet more money from America's biggest lender, China.

I hope that during the 2006 mid-term elections voters apply the same standard of personal responsibility to those Republican representatives and senators as they just imposed on the rest of us.

By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

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