CommunityPam's House Blend

Head of Dear Leader's faith-based initiative office resigns

“Jim Towey has waged an unrelenting war against church-state separation. With Towey’s resignation in hand, the president should do the American people a favor and close the misguided faith-based office… the faith-based initiative has always been about funneling public funds to favored political constituencies, not helping the poor.”
— Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of United for Separation of Church and State

It’s a relative revolving door over at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which has been funneling cash to religious organizations ostensibly for social services, but in reality looks a whole lot like pastor political payoffs. H. James Towey, director of the office, resigned on Tuesday.

Amy Sullivan on the honchos who have paraded through, attempting to give the office credibility.

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.

The WaPo recently (March 22) ran a lengthy article on the administration shell-out of cash grants to socially conservative religious organizations and non-profits. The hungry fundie hogs have slopped up $157 million in grants from the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Among other new beneficiaries of federal funding during the Bush years are groups run by Christian conservatives, including those in the African American and Hispanic communities. Many of the leaders have been active Republicans and influential supporters of Bush’s presidential campaigns.

Programs such as the Compassion Capital Fund, under the Health and Human Services, are designed to support religion-based social services, a goal that inevitably funnels money to organizations run by people who share Bush’s conservative cultural agenda.

The article also notes that Crazy Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing took in $23.5 million, and five organizations run by black and Hispanic leaders who endorsed Bush have received more than $2 million each from the administration’s “compassion fund.” The abstinence-ed and anti-choice folks get to belly up to the bar as well.

Towey, in the same article, defended his office saying said politics played no role in grant-making decisions to faith-based organizations.

Right.

Exhibit A: Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, received over $600K in 2003 and $800K in 2004 from the Compassion Capital Fund. And guess what? Daniels was a 2004 Republican National Convention delegate. A little more on how Sedgwick was turned on by Bush cash.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, one of the “city’s most prominent black pastors,” who supported both Bill Clinton and Al Gore in past presidential elections, switched to Bush. His “face appeared on Republican Party fliers in the battleground state of Wisconsin,” and he endorsed President Bush “as the candidate who ‘shares our views.’” Two weeks before the election Bishop Daniels “turned over the pulpit to Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, one of Bush’s most prominent African American advocates.”

“We know what faith-based can do every single day,” Steele told the congregation, drawing head nodding and remarks of “yes” and “Amen” from more than 1,000 in the vast sanctuary.

The Times also reported that Bishop Daniels met “with top administration officials” and also met with “the president himself.” Later, his church received $1.5 million in federal funds through Bush’s faith-based initiative.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding