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Gene C. Gerard Donating Member (21 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:23 AM
Original message
Lawsuit to Force Bush Administration to Recognize the Constitution
Edited on Sun Oct-08-06 09:26 AM by Gene C. Gerard
Since taking office the Bush administration has successfully lobbied Congress to budget $500 million for marriage education programs. Much of this money is slated to go to religious organizations, despite the fact that the First Amendment mandates separation of church and state. A recent lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) against the Department of Health and Human Services aims to force the Bush administration to cease violating the Constitution by funding marriage programs with an overtly religious slant. If successful, this lawsuit would have a profound impact on the ability of the Bush administration to continue funding religious organizations with taxpayer dollars.

The target of the AU lawsuit is the Northwest Marriage Institute, a Washington State organization that provides Bible-based marriage education and counseling services. In 2005 the Department of Health and Human Services distributed almost $100,000 to the institute. The organization describes itself as providing faith-based education in marriage as well as faith-based premarital and marriage counseling. And the organizations goal is to promote successful biblical principles for everyday life. Obviously, this is a Christian organization that espouses a very specific religious viewpoint. All of which begs the question, why does it receive taxpayer dollars?

Only a month after taking office in 2001 President Bush promoted the idea of channeling taxpayer funds to faith-based organizations (FBOs). He even created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to oversee the process. In theory, FBOs provide welfare and community services without proselytizing. Under the rules of how they are required to operate, FBOs must hold religious activities at separate times or in separate locations from the community services they provide, and they must be voluntary.

But a report released this summer by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative office of Congress, found that many FBOs are failing to operate according to the requirements. The report noted that FBOs dont always explain to participants that they have a right not to participate in religious activities. And FBOs did not separate some religious activities from federally funded program services. While the White House is supposedly monitoring FBOs for compliance, the report complained that the Bush administration wasnt obtaining enough information from FBOs to know whether or not they were complying with the requirements.

The federal funding of the Northwest Marriage Institute glaringly indicates just how recklessly the Bush administration has been willing to use taxpayer dollars. The institute doesnt even attempt to disguise itself as offering marital counseling and education programs that are apart from its religious objectives. To the contrary, theyre one and the same. According to the institute, a majority of the residents of Washington do not attend church; therefore, the great need was to take biblical marriage education and biblical counseling to the communities.

The institute is attempting to do this in part by offering something called temperament therapy, which consists of discovering the way God made you. This reportedly helps couples improve their marriage. The organization offers pre-marital and marriage-counseling programs that contain sessions entitled, Gods Plan for a Healthy Marriage. In the programs, couples discover tools, embedded in Gods Word, that can be used in real life to resolve real life problems. This may or may not be true. But what is most certainly true is that American taxpayers shouldnt be promoting it.

The Northwest Marriage Institute is an evangelical Christian organization, and much of its counseling programs appear to be directed at women. According to the institutes literature, women are encouraged to follow the example of the New Testament and influence their husbands by remaining quiet. Women are instructed to remember, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the wife. And the counseling programs advise women that, the Bible says that the wife should submit to the husband.

Conservative groups will no doubt accuse Americans United of attacking Christianity by filing this lawsuit. But the lawsuit was actually filed on behalf of 13 residents of Washington. A number of these individuals have identified themselves as Presbyterian, Protestant, Unitarian, and Baptist. These residents obviously arent anti-Christian, or even anti-religion. Theyre simply pro-Constitution.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. By funding the Northwest Marriage Institute, and other faith-based organizations, the Bush administration is violating the law. But this should come as no surprise, given the willingness of the administration in the last five years to skirt and ignore the Constitution. If successful, this lawsuit will force the Bush administration to uphold one of our core values, something its clearly unwilling to do on its own.

Gene C. Gerard has taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years at several colleges in the Southwest, and is a contributing author to the forthcoming book Americans at War, by Greenwood Press. He writes a political blog for the progressive world news website OrbStandard at
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terip64 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:39 AM
Response to Original message
1. Welcome to DU!
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 09:46 AM
Response to Original message
2. It's sexist, evangelical, and government funded
so you'd think the law suit would be able to shut down the program very quickly. But in today's climate, who knows? I wish Americans United for Separation of Church and State all the best.
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progressoid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 10:41 AM
Response to Original message
3. hooray for AU!
Hope it works.
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Miss Chybil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 12:09 PM
Response to Original message
4. Back in the early days of my single-motherhood I was forced, on
Edited on Sun Oct-08-06 12:11 PM by Miss Chybil
two occasions, to seek help from Catholic Social Services. I'm not a Catholic. In their offices there were no iconographical images. No proselytizing pamphlets. No Bibles. No nuns in habits. The building was downtown, away from the church and they helped me pay my electric bill. No strings attached. I was very grateful for this help and even more so to know it came from the hearts of people in the community. I really don't have a firm position on whether, or not FBOs in this type of set-up should receive government help. I think it would be ok. They could help more people with the temporal things in life. Although, I don't know the Constitutionality of the government funding even this. I also think it would detract from the parishioners feeling of giving aid to the community, if they knew the money was not coming from their own hearts, but from the government and they were merely passing it out.

I don't agree with the operation in this story. The government can help with the electric bill, but not my "religion." I don't have a religion, anyway. If I were in such dire straights again, and the only way to get help was to sit and be cajoled and preached to, I think I'd stay home and sit in the dark. Government money then would be wasted because they would have limited my access to aid by attaching strings to it. Aid is clearly different from religious education which is what this story is about. Maybe, I'm talking apples and oranges. I think there is a good basis for a winnable lawsuit here.
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rodeodance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 04:09 AM
Response to Reply #4
7. thanks for your story. Glad they were there when you needed help. I
think the type you describe is the type that should be help by Fed gov. as needed. but, as you not push the Faith stuff.

What the Bush gov. is doing is wrong. just plain wrong.
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pacalo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:02 AM
Response to Original message
5. $500 million for "marriage education programs"???
$500 million???

Now it's becoming clear to me why these church leaders can turn their backs on the corruption. I always suspected they were getting kickbacks; now I'm certain. $500 million for marriage education. Uh huh.
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pacalo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 02:05 AM
Response to Original message
6. (Self-deleted -- dupe)
Edited on Mon Oct-09-06 02:06 AM by 8_year_nightmare
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carzen Donating Member (112 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-09-06 09:31 AM
Response to Original message
8. Even if he lost in court, shrub would just ignore the decision
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