Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 19, 2006
By: Amy Sullivan

FAITH-BASED VACUUM...Less noticed during all the comings and goings over at the White House this week was the resignation of Jim Towey, who has run the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for the past five years. Towey is a good man--he is perhaps one of the only people in government, Democrat or Republican, who passionately cares about the fact that there are very few ways to track whether programs that receive federal funds actually accomplish anything, making it impossible to tell whether an organization like Head Start, for instance, is meeting the educational goals set out for it or whether faith-based programs are as effective as secular ones.

But Towey also chose to mouth the Bush administration's fiction that government discriminated against faith-based groups until George W. Bush came to save them. And he stayed in his position long after it was clear to most observers that the faith-based office was little more than a political showpiece for the White House. On that score, it may turn out to be very difficult to replace him.

The first director of the faith-based office, John DiIulio, left after just six months in the position and later blasted the White House for using the office as a political tool. DiIulio's deputy, David Kuo, said much the same thing after he left the office. It took Bush six months to find someone willing to fill the position after DiIulio left, and when Towey accepted the job, it was in February of 2002, too early to know for sure (although surely early enough to guess) that the entire operation was a religious PR stunt. Now, with even the most loyal congressional supporters of the faith-based initiative calling the effort a sham, it will be nearly impossible for the president to find a Democrat willing to take the job.

And that's a problem for the White House. At the White House's faith-based conference in March, Bush and a handful of cabinet members received polite applause from the (mostly minority) crowd, but Towey got boisterous cheers. He has been one of the only factors keeping those religious supporters in Bush's camp. His depature shifts focus to the White House's actual faith-based accomplishments, which are few and far between.

P.S. That record gets worse as Bush threatens to eliminate part of Americorp--one of the original community initiatives--because it has supposedly been deemed "ineffective." Much better to shift the money to a faith-based program that will never be examined for efficacy. Or, more likely, to funnel those funds into a tax cut and do away with pesky social spending altogether.

Amy Sullivan 5:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

I assume that all this does not change your previous eloquently expressed and frequent opinions that charged the Democrats with being AWOL on the issue of religion.

Posted by: nut on April 19, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Whether or not faith-based programs are as effective as "secular" ones is beside the point. The point is that the government should not be funding faith-based programs (or providing vouchers for religious schools) in the first place. Period.

Posted by: athos on April 19, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

"His departure shifts focus to the White House's actual faith-based accomplishments, which are few and far between."

Well, I don't know. They had faith in tax cuts and they accomplished the destruction of our economic future. They had faith in the neo-cons and they accomplished the dismantling of Iraq and the demolition of America's good name. They had faith in fossil fuel and they melted the glaciers. They had faith in missile defense and they let the terrorists fly in under the radar. They had faith that there's a sucker born every minute, and I doubt that has been shaken just yet. Above all, they had faith that no matter how much damage they did to everyone and everything else, they and their cronies would salt so much away that they'll never feel the heat. I don't have a lot of faith, but I do have faith in that last one.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on April 19, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

He has been one of the only factors keeping those religious supporters in Bush's camp.

Him, and the millions of dollars in handouts.

Heh.

While this guy may have appealed to the actual Christians in these faith-based orgs, most of the dobson's & wildmon's are going to stick around for the dough & the political pull they've "earned" with the current crop of repubs.

If the honest Christians pull out because of this guy's leaving, it's only going to give more power to the real crazies that are "left behind."

Double-heh.

Posted by: GMF on April 19, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Your P.S., of course, is one of the reasons that many of us opposed giving money to faith-based services to begin with -- and were called anti-religious demagogues for our troubles.

As a VISTA/Americorps alumn, it's disgusting, but hardly surprising that the Bushistas would target one of the few efficient federal programs that are designed to build communities and help the poor without strings attached.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f. on April 19, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

I still haven't got around to applying for that federal grant for my "Wittle Wiccans day care" program for children abused by catholic priests.

Posted by: B on April 19, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Towey is a good man...But Towey also chose to mouth the Bush administration's fiction that government discriminated against faith-based groups until George W. Bush came to save them.

It is very difficult for a puppet to be a good boy, let alone become a good man. Perhaps he must become an ass first. An opportunity Bush has so kindly provided.

Posted by: Hostile on April 19, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

or my "Wahhabi soup kitchen for disgruntled army vets" and my "successful satanist seven step sauce rehabilitation" program.

Do scientologists get many of these faith based grants?

Posted by: B on April 19, 2006 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Do scientologists get many of these faith based grants?

Dunno, but I applied for one on their behalf. It promised millions if Tom Cruise would stay completely silent during the Tomkitten's birth and for 20 years thereafter.

Posted by: shortstop on April 19, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: ..Bush threatens to eliminate part of Americorp..

Is Americorps 'ineffective' because it:

A) Hasn't actually done any useful community service?
B) Is another example of a successful government program sponsored by the Clinton administration?
C) Is a natural outgrowth of the 'drown the government in the bathtub' philosophy of neoconservative stalwarts like Grover Norquist?

I'm going for B and C...

What a freakin' disappointment.

Posted by: grape_crush on April 19, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

That whole post was not clearly written or was trying to obfuscate something.

Posted by: David in NY on April 19, 2006 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

"that the entire operation was a religious PR stunt."

Ah, yep, I would say that that would sum up the whole Bush tenure.
Oh wait, we're talking about the faith based thingy, sorry, thought we were talking about Bush personal beliefs and how his beliefs actually affected his decision making process.
My bad.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on April 19, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing like reading tired, Amy bashing posts.

Posted by: gq on April 19, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going for B and C...

It could be
D) It hasn't lined the pockets of Republican party contributors or operatives.

Posted by: C on April 19, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing like reading tired, Amy bashing posts.

I only see one direct reference to Amy. The rest appear to concern faith based programs.

Posted by: toast on April 19, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of No Child Left Behind. They came up with a name that included 'Left Behind' just to sucker the religious crowd, then figured out a fraud to apply it to.

Posted by: cld on April 19, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have much faith that the government make great initiatives. Most likely all of them will rob our checkbooks and accomplish little.

But, it is true, we all sit here, like dumplings, and demand more and greater governmnet initiatives, as if we are too stupid to spend our own money appropriately.

Posted by: Matt on April 19, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Say what?

There is something called the "Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives"?

Holy stinking Jesus Batman.

Suggestion:

Let's get real and call it something appropriate like:

The Office of Faith-Based and Community Bullshit.

Man... this country is in la-la land...

Posted by: koreyel on April 19, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Did anybody actually read David Kuo's article?

Posted by: tbrosz on April 19, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

This is a warning.

This fall's election's will be more about "faith" than politics.

Moral values will trump liberal theology.

Media will pay more attention to who goes to what church than actual voting records.

Faith-Based drivel is here to stay.

Why not? Don't we now have a government for the rich and nothing but the rich so help us god?

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 19, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

I keep hoping craigie will nail it!

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on April 19, 2006 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Why not? Don't we now have a government for the rich and nothing but the rich so help us god?

Absolument mon ami...

And even more repugnant is the fact that poverty breeds more God-worship noise.

That's true both in Islam-land as it is in Al-abama land.

Poverty=Desperation=God's boot's a'marchin'

Suggestion:
What you can't beat... make a profit off of.

In other words... there is money to be made on all this Christian shit.

In other words good son: Don't drink the koolaid...drink the holy water.

Cha-ching.

Praise the Lord Jesus!
Praise him!
Praise him!

Cha-ching
Cha-ching
Cha-ching

Posted by: koreyel on April 19, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

"But no president before Bush has allowed the press to disclose, through a close friend, his startling belief that he was ordained by God to lead the country. The White House's sectarian positions -- over stem-cell research, the teaching of pseudoscientific "intelligent design," global population control, the Terri Schiavo spectacle and more -- have led some to conclude that Bush has promoted the transformation of the GOP into what former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips calls "the first religious party in U.S. history."

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/profile/story/9961300/the_worst_president_in_history?rnd=1145468541266&has-player=true&version=6.0.8.1024

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 19, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to come to Towey's defense on this one.

The position that he left to fulfill was something completely unrelated to his performance at the White House, namely the Presidency at my Alma Mater, Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Despite its very conservative Roman Catholic leanings as the oldest Benedictine Monastary in America, the college itself has undergone a radical transformation that I believe benefits both students and alumni alike.

I spoke with a couple of people after the announcement and was actually aware of his candidacy long before this most recent White House shakeup. He has "good man" crediblity, working as a hands-on missionary in Mexico for a year with an organization connected to Mother Theresa. He also served as her US legal counsel for a decade.

Say what you will about the Faith-Based Initiative -- I'm sure I've said it too -- but the fact remains that he is a good man and I feel very fortunate to have him leading our college. We've been fortunate to have him as an advocate in the past, and I'm very excited about what he will bring in his new leadership position.

Posted by: albert on April 19, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ignorance breeds superstition. Superstition often promotes ignorance. Faith based programs, well intentioned, are jsut another way of promoting ignorance, which will then promote more religion. Wonderful. The way to break the cycle is to educate people, truly and goodly. Look at the levels of education in the recent publications. Education, and high levels of it, correlates closely with "blue state" status, (with the excception of Austin, which is imprisoned in a red state). Blue States tend to have fewer religious and church attending people. I'm not directly going to say ergo. But, it is a compelling issue. Too bad it is easier and cheaper to breed ignorance than education. Republicans take the easy way out on this one every time.

Posted by: chris on April 19, 2006 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

So let me get this straight.

When someone claims to "know" that God exists, that Jesus rose from the dead, etc. on the basis of their faith, we're supposed to respect those statements because faith is "another way of knowing." Faith is reliable and trustworthy and a valid source of knowledge.

But when it comes to "faith-based" government programs, faith is unreliable and untrustworthy and not a valid source of knowledge.

Which is it?

Posted by: e1 on April 19, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, with even the most loyal congressional supporters of the faith-based initiative calling the effort a sham, it will be nearly impossible for the president to find a Democrat willing to take the job."

Im not following you here. Did you mean "Republican" or has Bush implied that he is planning on finding a Democrat willing to take the job? I would think it wouldnt be that hard to find a Republican to take the job, so long as you dont sweat integrity or credibility as criteria for hiring. But that doesnt seem to be an issue for this administration.

Posted by: Catch22 on April 19, 2006 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Towey is a good man--he is perhaps one of the only people in government, Democrat or Republican, who passionately cares about the fact that there are very few ways to track whether programs that receive federal funds actually accomplish anything..."

This is just an ignorant thing to say. There are hundreds if not thousands of career Federal employees -- at GAO, OMB, and CRS in particular, but in each of the program agencies as well -- who work on this stuff daily. It's harder than journalism.

"Sullivan is a good writer -- perhaps the only journalist writing about basketball today." Sounds silly, doesn't it?

Posted by: Monkey Daddy on April 19, 2006 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

If these so-called "faith-based" initiatives get Bush, Cheney and the boys to actually read Jesus words, like "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "When a man asks for your robe, give him your cloak also", then I am all for them!!!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on April 19, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I assume that all this does not change your previous eloquently expressed and frequent opinions that charged the Democrats with being AWOL on the issue of religion.
Posted by: nut on April 19, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats just dont air their Religious Laundry
as the Republicans do. Their are no more or less Religious People in either Party. The Southern Bush Dominionists seem to have a way of Shrieking in a paranoid frenzy about every trivial issue and then using ONE PERSON to make it appear as if they Represent and speak for the Entire other HALF of the Nation.
You seem to believe that one form of christianity os more moral than another, and thats your right, many of my "Democratic" family has fought in many wars, Patriotism is not Relgion nor Party.
Get that thru your Head.
Political Parties are not Religion
People have Religion.
Churches have Religion.
I have Religion. Do not purporte to tell me what I do and do not Believe, I do not force my beliefs upon you, your beliefs are not more moral than mine, Party Affiliation has nothing to do with Personal or Religious Morals, as YOU can surely SEE that Political Corruption is Widespread.
If you WERE a True Christiam I would think you ALSO would be trying to stop this Corrupt Political System and stop trying to proseltyze to a country thats ALREADY 85% Christian..
Jeez man Get a GRIP.

It is a Clever, Yet Old, PR Tactic. Now he who squeals the loudest

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 19, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

The Polls show this to be the most corrupt congress in History. Bushs' Ratings have tanked.

Somehow I dont think this will be a 'FAITH' Based issue, due to corruption, though they are trying to make it into one.
People, no matter what "FAITH" can only take so much corruption and gerrymandering. Unless your a enzo driver perhaps. The Republicans have found the proverbial straw of the packiderms back.

Posted by: one eye buck tooth [X^B on April 19, 2006 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Amy, I think that what most of these commenters are telling you is that your job is based on a false premise. Faith issues have no place in politics -- therefore, there's no need for a faith-based political commentary.

Strap on your collar and move along now. There's probably a place for you somewhere else.

Posted by: Libby Sosume's faithless, wicked self on April 19, 2006 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

"If these so-called "faith-based" initiatives get Bush, Cheney and the boys to actually read Jesus words, like "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "When a man asks for your robe, give him your cloak also", then I am all for them!!!"

How about:

Matthew 10:34. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Or:

Matthew 5:32. "but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."


Posted by: e1 on April 19, 2006 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

ignorance fosters religion. religion breeds ignorance.

Posted by: chris on April 20, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

ignorance fosters religion. religion breeds ignorance.

In some senses that is no doubt true, But...

It is possible to interpret the Bible, and Christianity generally, as spiritual and moral advice.

Rather than as contenders for scientific truth.

It is beneficial to all concerned that we loosen our hostility to religion.

Posted by: obscure on April 20, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

This must be the first White House in history that people are going to leave off of their resumes. Better to say you spent 6 years in Margaritaville than to admit you had any part of this catastrophe.

Posted by: craigie on April 20, 2006 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Republican - Born Again marriage is due for a breakup.

One eye buck tooth, you're one right-on dude.

Posted by: joey giraud on April 20, 2006 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

e1 - And your point is???

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on April 20, 2006 at 6:05 AM | PERMALINK

And then we have this bit of hoo-ha from November 2003 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20031126.html):

"Colby, from Centralia MO writes:
Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

Jim Towey
I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it."

So no, you'll not see me sorry that Mr. Towey resigned. Apparently one must be a Christian to have a loving heart, in his world.

Posted by: Bob on April 20, 2006 at 6:40 AM | PERMALINK

I do not want my tax money going to tell teenagers not to screw. I think that's what they mean by faith based initiatives.

Posted by: merlallen on April 20, 2006 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

Better to say you spent 6 years in Margaritaville than to admit you had any part of this catastrophe.

Based on some of these peeps' behavior, I'm guessing the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Posted by: shortstop on April 20, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Amy: "Towey is a good man--he is perhaps one of the only people in government, Democrat or Republican, who passionately cares about the fact that there are very few ways to track whether programs that receive federal funds actually accomplish anything, making it impossible to tell whether an organization like Head Start, for instance, is meeting the educational goals set out for it or whether faith-based programs are as effective as secular ones."

Amy, the very next paragraph: "But Towey also chose to mouth the Bush administration's fiction that government discriminated against faith-based groups until George W. Bush came to save them. "

These two paragraphs contradict each other, Amy. Are you shooting for a Washington Post job?

That's harsh of me, but after your repeated slanders of Democrats, and your dishonest apologies, it's no harsher than you deserve.

Amy, how do you expect us to accept your religious beliefs, if they are manifested in obvious lies?

Amy, concluding the second paragraph: "And he stayed in his position long after it was clear to most observers that the faith-based office was little more than a political showpiece for the White House. On that score, it may turn out to be very difficult to replace him."

Are you saying that the Bush administration has run out of liars?

Posted by: Barry on April 20, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

It is beneficial to all concerned that we loosen our hostility to religion.

Posted by: obscure on April 20, 2006 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not hostile to religion. I'm hostile to ignorance.

Posted by: chris on April 20, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Did anybody actually read David Kuo's article?

Yes. I don't agree that the concept would ever work though. Keep people from being discriminated against for their religion is fine. Federal funding of religious organizations with little or no effective oversight? Not so fine.

You pour money into any distributed poorly regulated beaurocracy and you will get crap. If faith based programs have worked better in the past it is in large part because the people that donated time and effort are local and serve as an efficient oversight of the charity. If they don't think their money is going to a good cause they will stop giving.

Politicians giving tax dollars to look religious? No effective feedback.

Posted by: toast on April 20, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not hostile to religion. I'm hostile to ignorance.

Why?

Ignorance affects everyone. It is part of being human. A good cure for ignorance is paying attention.

I'm no saint myself. But the more I understand about how average Christians think the more sympathy I have for them. And the less I'm distracted by the people at the extremes, who have a tendency to preoccupy us.

Posted by: obscure on April 20, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think there is a lesson to be learned about how politics and evangelicalism have joined together to create a money machine. I read recently that Trinity Broadcasting makes up to $500 Million during its semi-annual fund raisers. I have always said that when I become tired of contributing to our society and only want to beomce an exploiter of it I would turn to religion. It seems my esteemed Republican colleagues have beaten me to the punch and have now included tax payers in the religious con game. It is time to quit serving capital, learn to worship Mammon and start soliciting for money based on some type of Christian voodoo from the American dumbfounded masses.

Last year I went with a friend to an AA meeting and participated in the round table reading of the Book. Afterwards, two people asked me if I was a member of the clergy. I need to start using that false impression people have of me and begin soliciting donations, for Christ, of course, so I can ditch this median wage lifestyle and attempt to earn as much money as Rick Warren. Not only do the religious (scum) make a lot of money, I also observe a lot of women are attracted to them. Its all good: money, chicks, fucking over dumb shit Americans. Look for me on the Daystar Television Network. Maybe Paula White will be attracted to my 'message.' Paula, bleat for me!

Posted by: Hostile on April 20, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile,

I know you are being sarcastic but you are also speaking the truth.

Religion is one of the few legal means left of scamming Americans. Most every other con runs the risk of a fraud investigation.

You'd have to give up your soul to do it, though, and you'd have to live with the fact that you are further sullying the good names of the truly religious among us.

But realistically I can't think of any other legal method of getting so much money without having luck or talent of some kind.

Posted by: Tripp on April 20, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think our economy encourages many to give up their souls for financial reward, and not just for religion. Exploiting peoples' beliefs is a lot less immoral than paying low wages to people to do hazardous work, for instance. I have worked in manufacturing where the labor force is exposed to all kinds of toxic chemicals. I think the managers and engineers who set these laborers (and their supervisors) up for exposure have jeapordized their souls, too.

Of course, one can lose one's soul doing mundane tasks for a lifetime in order to survive, which kind of echoes Thoreau's observaton that most of us live lives of quiet desperation. Better to live a life of desperate hostility, while dining at five star restaurants and being addressed as reverend.

Posted by: The Reverend Hostile on April 20, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

"It is beneficial to all concerned that we loosen our hostility to religion."

No it isn't. Religion is destructive.

Posted by: e1 on April 20, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Amy, I think that what most of these commenters are telling you is that your job is based on a false premise. Faith issues have no place in politics -- therefore, there's no need for a faith-based political commentary.

This kind of bullshit comment is why Dems will lose again in 2006/2008, unfortunately. Keep it to yourself

Posted by: kgb on April 20, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Whether Towey is a "good man" is between him and God - but I doubt I'm the only person who found his holier-than-thou attitude and willingness to shill for the Bush Administration more hypocritical than good. I have heard him decry policies that hurt the poor, war spending, etc. and exhort others to speak up about them. Funny, seems to me he was in a unique position to do that himself. If he didn't he really is a hypocrite - if he did, he is either completely ineffective or knows he was just window dressing.

Posted by: WDC on April 20, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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