[Buddha-l] Faith-based initiatives - phase 2

Curt Steinmetz curt at cola.iges.org
Fri Sep 26 15:59:11 MDT 2008

Faith and Foreign Aid Fun Facts:

Of US foreign aid money that goes directly to religious groups, 98.3% 
goes to Christian groups - the two largest recipients are World Vision 
(an Evangelical Protestant group) and Catholic Relief Services.

 From 2001 to 2005 Andrew Natsios headed USAID (which distributes 
taxpayer-funded assistance overseas). Natsios' political career started 
in 1975 when he was first elected to the Massachusetts state legislature 
(as a Republican). Then in 1989 Natsios went to work at USAID, and in 
1993 went directly from USAID to the vice-presidency of World Vision - 
and then became head of of USAID in 2001.

During Natsios' tenure at USAID, the percentage of it's budget going 
directly to religious organizations *doubled* , and during the same time 
many previous restrictions designed to keep the US government out of the 
proselytizing business were scrapped by executive order.

While an increasing amount of US foreign aid money goes to religious 
groups, non-religious international charities have faced a coordinated 
campaign of political attacks from the American far right. Rick 
Santorum, for example, has gone after CARE, one of the largest 
humanitarian organizations in the world, as "anti-american" and even 

On the Boards of Directors of the 55 largest INGO's (international 
non-governmental organizations) involved in "relief work" only 6% of the 
members are from developing countries - the other 94% are from "donor" 

The CEO of World Vision in India is a member of Parliament from Orissa - 
an area of intense (although mostly unsuccessful) Christian missionary 

Historically (going back over 500 years) Christian missionary activity 
has been intimately associated with European colonialism. For example, a 
direct consequence of China's decisive defeat by England and France in 
the Second Opium War in 1860 was to allow Christian missionary activity 
in China (as part of the Chinese surrender terms in the Treaties of 

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries - and continuing into the 21st 
century - many missionary organizations developed close ties with the 
intelligence agencies of western nations, as well as with far-right 
political groups based in the US. Prominent examples include the 
"Wycliffe Bible Translators" activities in Latin America, "Christian 
Solidarity International" in Africa, and the "Christian and Missionary 
Alliance" in Asia.

Suggestions for further reading:

October 2006 Boston Globe four part series on "faith" and foreign aid:

A Paris Declaration for International NGO's?:

Biography of Andrew Natsios at usaid.gov:

"God and the CIA" (book review about missionaries and spooks):

"Imperfect Instrument" (obituary of World Vision founder Bob Pierce):

History of Hindu Christian Encounters by Sita Ram Goel:

Curt Steinmetz

Dan Lusthaus wrote:
> While we sometimes hear calls for a more politically engaged Buddhism, and
> this list has its fair share of political positioning, here is the next
> phase unleashed by the Bush-Cheney Faith-based initiatives. In the US,
> Churches, etc., can currently receive federal tax dollars for a range of
> programs and activities while remaining tax-free organizations, based on
> being religious organizations. Receiving such funds is a relatively recent
> development, challenged at the time as a violation of the separation of
> Church and State mandated by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
> Treating religious organizations such as churches as tax-free institutions
> has a much longer history. The current thrust by the right-wing churches is
> to further obscure such distinctions. Now the right-wing church
> beneficiaries want to destroy what's left of the wall separating church and
> state, and do so while retaining their tax-free status. These sorts of
> "grass roots" plans, which are well organized and strategically astute, have
> in the past proven very persistent and effective, so this is not to be taken
> as an insignificant backpage item, but one we will be wrestling with for
> some time to come.
> Dan
> From today's LA Times:
> http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pulpit25-2008sep25,0,5235934.story
> Pastors plan to defy IRS ban on political speech
> Ministers will intentionally violate ban on campaigning by nonprofits in
> hopes of generating a test case.
> By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
> September 25, 2008
> Setting the stage for a collision of religion and politics, Christian
> ministers from California and 21 other states will use their pulpits Sunday
> to deliver political sermons or endorse presidential candidates -- defying a
> federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups.
> The pastors' advocacy could violate the Internal Revenue Service's rules
> against political speech with the purpose of triggering IRS investigations.
> That would allow their patron, the conservative legal group Alliance Defense
> Fund, to challenge the IRS' rules, a risky strategy that one defense fund
> attorney acknowledges could cost the churches their tax-exempt status.
> Congress made it illegal in 1954 for tax-exempt groups to publicly support
> or oppose political candidates.
> "I'm going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes.
> Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him," said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake
> of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. "We may not be politically
> correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for
> those who follow the Bible."
> Drake was the target of a recent IRS investigation into his endorsement last
> year of former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike
> Huckabee. In the end, Drake was cleared.
> Drake and 32 other pastors who have signed on to the "pulpit initiative"
> have sparked loud condemnations by fellow clergy and advocates of the
> separation of church and state.
> These critics, such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State,
> argue that Sunday's sermons at churches in Oregon, Texas, New Mexico,
> Pennsylvania and other states will violate federal tax law by politicizing
> the pulpit. That, they believe, will undercut the independence churches have
> long enjoyed to speak out about moral and ethical issues in American life,
> including women's suffrage, child labor and civil rights.
> "The integrity of the religious community is at stake when religion and
> politics become entangled," said the Rev. Eric Williams of the North
> Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio.
> Williams was recruited for the defense fund but instead joined with 54 other
> Christian and Jewish clergy members to file a complaint against the
> initiative with the IRS.
> The religious leaders asked the agency to stop the Arizona-based defense
> fund from recruiting churches and to investigate whether its efforts may
> jeopardize its own tax-exempt status.
> Representing the religious leaders are three Washington attorneys, all
> former IRS officials, who also filed a complaint accusing defense fund
> attorneys of violating IRS rules by helping the churches break federal law.
> Meanwhile, a separate group of 180 ministers, rabbis and imams also has
> sought to counter the "pulpit initiative."
> Members of the Interfaith Alliance -- which includes the nation's top
> Episcopal bishop -- have signed a pledge to refrain from electioneering in
> their houses of worship.
> "Political activity and political expressions are very important, but
> partisan politics are . . . . a death knell to the prophetic freedom that
> any religious organization must protect," said the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of
> All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, who signed the pledge.
> All Saints survived a nearly two-year IRS investigation after former Rector
> George Regas spoke out against the Iraq war on the eve of the 2004
> presidential election. Bacon repeatedly said the church did not engage in
> campaigning.
> The IRS dropped the case last year even though agency officials indicated
> that they still considered the sermon to be illegal.
> All Saints leaders voiced frustration Wednesday at pulpit initiative backers
> for using the Pasadena church's fight with the IRS as fodder for their
> cause.
> "These people are wanting to promote one candidate over another and that's a
> huge difference," Bacon said.
> At the heart of the controversy is the Johnson amendment, named after former
> President Lyndon Johnson, a senator from Texas when it was enacted in 1954.
> The measure stated that nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations cannot
> participate in political campaigns for or against candidates for public
> office.
> Many churches have appeared to step over the line, but legal scholars could
> recall only one church that lost its tax-exempt status -- a congregation in
> New York that urged voters not to vote for Bill Clinton in the 1992
> presidential race.
> The defense fund said churches targeted by the IRS would serve as clients
> for lawsuits against the agency in federal court.
> The defense fund issued seemingly contradictory statements about the
> initiative. On one hand, it insists pastors will not endorse candidates and
> will simply exercise their constitutional rights by addressing "the
> differing positions of the presidential candidates in light of Scripture."
> On the other hand, the defense fund describes its efforts as a "strategic
> litigation plan" that seeks to "restore the right of each pastor to speak
> scriptural truth from the pulpit" without losing a church's tax-exempt
> status.
> "The bottom line is that churches and pastors have a right to speak freely
> from the pulpit," said Dale Schowengerdt, a defense fund attorney working on
> the project. "They should not be intimidated into silence by
> unconstitutional IRS regulations or rules."
> Still, recognizing the confrontational nature of their strategy and wary of
> protests, the defense fund released the name of only one pastor ahead of
> Sunday -- the Rev. Gus Booth of the Warroad Community Church in rural
> Minnesota, who already is the subject of a complaint filed with the IRS over
> a May sermon in which he urged congregants to oppose Obama and Democratic
> New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton because of their positions on abortion.
> "There is nobody who will ever tell me what I can and cannot say from behind
> my pulpit," Booth said, "except the spirit of God or the word of God."
> duke.helfand at latimes.com
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