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Faith based groups: No proselytizing with tax-dollars

obama_portrait_President Obama is a person of faith; he recognizes the strength (spiritual) that is released in his personal life as he practices daily spiritual exercises.

While on active duty as a U.S. Army Chaplain, I appreciated serving, ministry and  working with chaplains who were also assiociated with the same denomination as President Obama.

Already our new president is strengthening the bonds of religion and society and how government, churches, and religious organizations can work together to better community and country. However, there are guidelines and regulations for each to follow to ensure maximum success.

opinion-081On the campaign trail. President Obama emphasized his Christian faith;  in speeches he connected faith and public policy. For instance, he spoke about the present “faith-based” initiatives. He recognized the value of a partnership between government and religious faith organizations dedicated to improving communities. He is already pledging  and committing to expanding and renaming the faith-based office.

During the campaign, the Montgomery County Democratic Party established a list of 12 goals to be enacted by Obama should he be elected. First on the list was to rebuild the military. Second, to reform the faith-based office and its mission: he’s already discussing its mission.

Here is what we can glean from his present statements: “He explicitly rejects taxpayer-funded evangelism and religiously-based hiring discrimination with public funds.” This gives us reassurance that our tax dollars will not finance specific evangelistic efforts  to save souls.  That’s the mission of donations by church members in offering plates. Proselytizing on our tax dollars is forbidden.

church-and-statePresident Obama succintly gives insight into his policy when he says:

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to those programs that actually work.

I give kudos to faith groups who are dedicated to such principles. the Catholics and Lutherans set a high standard in public services without proselytizing. Our own Loaves and Fishes, United Way, and Urban Ministries are giving aid to the disenfranchised without requiring any profession of faith.

President Obama and the Obama family are people of faith and support the mission of serving the public. We, too, can assist by requiring inclusivemness and accountability in the use of our tax dollars by religious organizations.

In summary, we can benefit our needy neighbors and fellow Clarksville residents by recognizing and endorsing the following principles for religious groups receiving tax dollars:

  • Groups don’t have a so-called “right” to take in tax money yet still discriminate on religious grounds when hiring staff.
  • Ensure that no denomination uses tax dollars for any form of evangelism or religious education.
  • Religious schools are part of our American fabric and make a significant contribution to the building of moral character. However, such fine educational institutions are not to be funded with tax dollars.

In addition, I request the following in the beginnings of their new administration:

  • Reform of the Justice Department
  • Sever ties between fundamentalism and the military
  • Do not base  public policy on theology
  • Preserve the ban on church politicking

For more information on these issues, read the January edition of “Church and State.”

Rev. Charles Moreland
Rev. Charles Moreland
Rev. Charles Moreland, retired, has lived in Clarksville for seven years and holds great pride in his adopted city and its people. His one objection in Tennessee is the Hall law of taxes on dividends and savings. Charles served in the U.S. Army Chaplaincy from 1966-1986, retiring to serve as a United Methodist pastor near Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He serves on the Boards of Directors for the ARP, Roxy Theater and MCDP. Though retired, he is a regular speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. His five grandchildren, ages two to thirteen years, live in Evansville, Indiana. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and served in Germany and Korea while on active duty.
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