Carl Help us all...
This make anyone else want to cry?
THE PERFECT STORM -- NEW HURRICANE SEASON,
RECORD PUSH FOR FAITH-BASED EMERGENCY PROGRAMS,
FUNDING FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS
Web Posted: June 27, 2006
The warnings are dire.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting that as many as 16 named storms -- weather systems forming in the Atlantic Ocean with winds hitting 39 miles per hour -- could menace the coastal U.S. this summer. Up to ten may become hurricanes, and six could evolve into serious storms with winds of at least 111 mph.
It's bad news for those living on the Gulf of Mexico and portions of Florida and the Southeast coastal U.S. Four major storm systems battered those areas last year, including Hurricane Katrina which inundated New Orleans and the central Gulf region, inflicting over $80 billion in property damage and claiming 1,600 lives. Scientists say that 2006 may be less severe, but add that above-average hurricane activity will continue as part of a cycle for at least the next twenty years.
Along with heightened emergency planning, though, is a profound shift in public policy.
Religious groups, once perceived at best as an unofficial auxiliary in the government-orchestrated response to natural disasters and other calamities, are now being considered key "first responders." The Bush administration which launched its controversial federal faith-based initiative in January, 2001 as part of a sweeping welfare reform effort, is now working to funnel record amounts of public money to churches and other religion-affiliated groups as part of the national emergency response.
Ironically, this comes amidst changes at the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and renewed calls that the federal program be suspended.
And despite the fact that billions of taxpayer dollars are a stake, the U.S., Congress has not voted on a single major funding plank for the faith-based initiative. Every major federal department, however, now has a special "faith-based liaison office" reaching out to religious groups to encourage their involvement in a myriad of social services. Over 15 individual states and a growing number of counties and local municipalities have followed suit in order to disburse public funds to religious organizations.
Now, the government is forging links with faith groups to operate emergency services, including the reconstruction of communities severely affected by Katrina's havoc.
? No sooner had Hurricane Katrina dissipated than the Bush
White House began trying to capitalize on the haphazard response of government departments including the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Seeking to take command of a crisis that has drained his political capital and severely damaged his presidency, President Bush is using the Hurricane Katrina disaster as a demonstration of one of his core beliefs about government: private charities and faith-based groups can deliver some types of aid better than a big federal program," noted Boston Globe staffer Susan Mulligan ("Bush rallies faith-based groups, charities for aid," 9/7/05).
Bush's remarks about the need to encourage faith-based groups for emergency preparedness and response came after revelations that a FEMA list of recommended charitable organizations for those wishing to contribute to hurricane victims included Operation Blessing, a program operated by controversial TV evangelist Pat Robertson.
Critics pointed out that despite good intentions and a flock of private relief groups operating in the disaster left behind by Katrina, the government was irreplaceable in taking on large-scale rescue efforts. And the head of the secular relief group Operation USA criticized Bush for not sending more help in a timely fashion into the devastated areas following Hurricane Katrina. Richard Walden said that the Bush philosophy was "just decentralize, and let the government handle the military side -- come in and restore order. But he wants companies and churches and the Red Cross to bear the major brunt of this."
Arnold Howitt, director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University said that while there was a "role" for private relief agencies including churches, "these organizations don't have the capacity to deal with very large-scale disasters."
Pat Robertson, however, praised Mr. Bush for wanting to place more emphasis on the role of faith-based emergency service providers. A spokesperson for Operation Blessing declared openly that the disaster in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region presented "a great opportunity" for religious charities.
More churches and religion-based groups are lining up to tap government funds for social projects according to story carried by MSNBC ("After Katrina, more faith-based initiatives seen," October 31, 2005. The result has been "a closer relationship between churches and state and local government," and increased funding from Washington.
That trend "fits neatly with Bush's second-term goal of encouraging states and cities to get more involved with his faith-based initiative, since large sums of tax dollars go to states as block grants."
One example cited was a move by officials in Chattanooga, Tenn. to open up a faith-based liaison office, supposedly to service "hundreds of evacuees." There have been similar developments in Houston, TX.; Memphis, Tenn; and even Minnesota where Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered the creation of a faith-based office "noting that the churches' hurricane response showed that faith groups can help people in ways government can't."
"The Bush administration is using the same argument to steer federal relief dollars to religious service organizations," reported MSNBC.
In March, Mr. Bush extended his program to enlist the support of religious groups for "preparedness" when he ordered the
Department of Homeland Security to create a center for faith-based initiatives. Using his power of Executive Orders -- the same authority that has underpinned the formation of similar offices in other major federal departments -- Bush also ordered DHS "to identify all existing barriers ... that unlawfully discriminate against, or otherwise discourage or disadvantage the participation" of churches in federal programs."
DHS thus joined the ranks of other major federal agencies including the Departments of Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and even Agriculture that have faith-based liaison offices.
The publicity statements and press releases from both DHS and the White House were characterized by language that has become stock-in-trade for promoting the Bush faith-based experiment. The White House was effusive in noting "the extraordinary support by the faith-based community" after Katrina. The administration also decried "barriers" and "obstacles" standing in the way of religious groups seeking public funds to operate faith-based programs, charging that such regulations "discriminate against religion."
FEMA officials complied, and announced that they would be tapping part of the $67.9 billion emergency supplemental hurricane relief fund granted by Congress in order to reimburse religious organizations for feeding and sheltering storm victims. Among the biggest grants has been a $60 million payment to the United Methodist Committee on Relief which provided "case management" services for storm victims.
News reports from across the country, including the hard-hit states of the Gulf Coast region, indicate widespread involvement of faith-based organizations as new, integral participants in the government's emergency response plan.
In Texas, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio), Baptist Child and Family Services (BCFS) is earmarked to receive $500,000 to expand its services, and compensate the group for "assisting" more than 1,700 Katrina victims who moved into the state.
In Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour last week told the annual gathering of the state Press Association that faith-based organizations "have been a significant in the rebuilding effort."
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is also including religious groups in a four-step emergency planning strategy.
In Florida, the line between government relief efforts and religion has been particularly blurred. The Florida Baptist Witness newspaper recently described how the church's "Department of Disaster Relief and Recovery" has been working closely with state officials training over 1,000 new volunteers since the beginning of the year with the goal of having 2,800 staffers ready to deploy in the coming months.
One church relief worker excoriated fellow Baptists who may feel reluctant to participate in disaster relief telling readers, "God automatically qualifies you when He calls you," adding that a "servant attitude" is necessary.
Church emergency department chief Fritz Wilson told the Witness, "Disaster relief is an effect and natural way to show God's love to a world not used to seeing love. Our goal is to show Christ's love in a practical way with no strings attached."
At the national level, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff continues to feel political and media heat over the poor record of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to mobilize and provide services during disasters like Hurricane Katrina. In a meeting last week, he
and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue promised more mock crisis exercises and preparedness training. Both officials said that their respective agencies would be working more "in tandem" with the Red Cross and faith-based groups to ensure that religious organizations "are brought into the planning and operational process."
INCREASED FAITH-BASED GRANTS, BUDGETS?
Curiously, the move by the Bush administration to create a Department of Homeland Security/FEMA faith-based office comes following criticism that the initiative to funnel money to religious social service programs is flagging.
In February, a study by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy found that while there has been a slight increase in the percentage of grants given to religious charities, total funding of the program was in decline. Researchers found that
religion-affiliated groups received 11.6% of grants in 2002, and that the figure climbed to 12.8% in 2004. A total of 3,526 grants was made to 1,146 faith-based providers throughout the country. Despite increased numbers, though, the total dollar amount received declined from $670 million in 2002 to $626 million in 2004.
That figure is deceptively low, however. By some reports, federal faith-based funding hit over $1.2 billion last year. The 2002-2004 totals, as well as more recent amounts that have been uncovered do not include grants to churches and other religious groups operating prison re-entry programs, or money handed out through federal block grants by state and local governments.
Of the dozen federal departments disbursing money to churches, mosques and temples, grants from the Department of Health and Human Services alone stood at $300 million in 2003, according to outgoing faith-based czar Jim Towey. Following release of the Roundtable study, he boasted to reporters that his office would announce its own research, and said that the total number of grants was "roughly three times" that presented by RRSW.
Towey announced his resignation in April, and plans to become president of St. Vincent College, a Catholic school in Latrobe, PA. He scoffed at reporters who suggested that the Bush federal faith-based initiative was in trouble, saying "The reality is this program has taken root in America and will carry on after the president leaves office."
I vote YES http//underdogryan.blogspot.com/2005/09/should-men-fling-poo.html