On faith-based initiatives: I have deep concerns about the faith-based initiatives--but I am in support. Mr. Bush has thought this out. What they have in mind is totally valid and acceptable. My problem is not with the intentions of the Bush presidency. My problem is where it might go under his successors. I have pastored the same church 45 years, and Iíve served as chancellor of Liberty University and was the founder for the past 30 years and...we have never accepted any government grants or funding, whether federal, state, or local. We have done that by design so we could never be challenged regarding our philosophy and our practices. It is doubtful that we will ever apply for any assistance under the faith-based initiatives, as Mr. Bush has proposed them. I may change that once I have seen enough years of safety and consistency with no strings attached, but at the present moment I would not want to put any of the Jerry Falwell Ministries in a position where we might be subservient to a future Bill Clinton, God forbid. It also concerns me that once the pork barrel is filled, suddenly the Church of Scientology, the Jehovah Witnesses, the various and many denominations and religious groups--and I donít say those words in a pejorative way--begin applying for money--and I donít see how any can be turned down because of their radical and unpopular views. I donít know where that would take us. And third, I maintain faith-based [grants] should be restricted to those organizations that have already been doing a measurable, qualitative work among the poor, in the prisons, and in the inner cities. I donít think religious groups should be allowed to apply for federal funds to start new ministries they have not been doing before the funding was available.
On Islam: I think the Moslem faith teaches hate. I think thereís clear evidence that the Islam religion, wherever it has majority control--and I can name a dozen countries--doesnít even allow people of other faiths to express themselves or evangelize or to exist in their presence.... I think that when persons are clearly bigoted towards other persons in the human family, they should be disqualified from funds. For that reason, Islam should be out the door before they knock. If youíre not going to minister to blacks, whites, all colors and religions, and you're not going to allow freedom of expression in every circumstance...you should not be allowed to dip into the pork barrel. Islam is growing among African American young people. Itís growing in the prisons. And whenever Islam, God forbid, ever gets a majority in the United States--like Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, all the Moslem countries--free expression will disappear. I applaud Mr. Bush for including everyone, include Islam [in his presidency]. We should not respond to the Moslems the way they respond to us. If I were president of the United States, I would include Moslems in my presidency. And I would do my best to change them. Iím simply saying their track record worldwide, outside the U.S., is not good. If anybody questions what Iím saying, I would challenge them to send a Christian minister into any predominantly Moslem country and apply for a permit to build a church.
On handling minority religions applying for the federal money: Criteria should be established which make only seasoned veterans in the ministry to the poor and imprisoned even eligible to apply. Among the criteria should also be a requirement that no religious teaching, preaching, or ministry is funded at all. That doesnít mean they cannot do it their way, but they cannot add something of a religious nature just because the money is there. Whatever they have been doing before federal money was available is all they should be permitted to do after money is available. I think that there has to be some group, some body in the federal government who, not because of their philosophy, their convictions, their beliefs, but because of their behavior, determines that these people donít qualify. For example, the Aryan Nation movement could consider themselves a religion. Thatís why they burn crosses. Theyíre religious people. But I donít think we should have any problem at all determining theyíre not qualified, because they hate black people and Jews. I just think...if weíre going to give money away, we have to be willing to be objective and controversial in saying, ďYou donít qualify.Ē
On Scientology: Scientology has a terrible track record of bigotry. Anyone who denies that theyíre cultic doesnít know how they operate. Go to Clearwater, Florida, and ask the people of Clearwater, where they have a headquarters operation, how those people operate. I know pastors in Clearwater who tell me that thereís a great deal of fear and concern about those people. I have no personal knowledge of them. I donít think I know a Scientologist except when I see one or two of their actors on the Hollywood screen. Some of the Hollywood people are caught up in it. But I do know the Scientology Church, like the Moslems, has a pretty hard, strong grip on their constituents.
On how he'll support the plan: Hereís what Iím saying to pastors in conferences where I speak regularly: If you or one of your ministries decides to apply for faith-based initiative support, be absolutely convinced before entering the alliance that there are no strings attached, that you will never be called into question for what you believe, what you teach and preach and the way you administer your faith.... I tell these pastors, if you're going to do it, be very careful, very cautious. Itís tempting to suddenly have money available to you that you did not have to raise. I have to raise $3 million a week to operate all the ministries for which Iím responsible--$150 million a year. And through the past years of my ministry, Iíve had to raise $2.5 billion. And Iíve raised none of it through the federal government. Iím saying to the younger group "be careful."... Thatís how it works in most of the socialist countries. Be very careful that you donít surrender any of your freedoms, any of your liberties. --Beliefnet, 3/9/01
Note: Muslims Call Falwell "Inaccurate, Bigoted"
POLITEX: "FAITH-BASED" PLAN JUST ONE MORE BUSH DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN. Last week George asked for $8 billion worth of government money for a welfare program mainly operated by religious institutions. Based on his use of government money to fund social programs within mainly religious institutions in Texas, he's asking us to have faith in him, when our experience suggests that would be a mistake. (For example, see the Texas Charter Schools story below.) Although his voucher plan never saw the light of day, the same problems were evident. He likes to put governmental power and money in the hands of religious institutions, gets governmental lawyers to try to work around the constitution, attempts to make accountability as fuzzy as possible, does not provide governmental overseers with the money or the manpower to to do job, and then ignores the chaos that follows and lets his spinners clean up the mess. If simple incompetence is not the problem, one wonders what Bush's ultimate intentions really are. Consider the problems with his "faith-based" plan.
First, George would create a welfare bureaucracy in the name of eliminating a welfare bureaucracy. " Bush already has said that, if elected president, he would establish an 'Office of Faith-Based Action' in the government to serve as a clearinghouse for successful charitable social programs and to help religious groups with federal regulations," writes Clay Robison in today's Houston Chronicle. "And if the governor's program were to be as successful as he apparently envisions, thousands of government workers -- bureaucrats -- would still have to oversee the distribution of federal funds and check out the validity of applicants. Many Americans may like the idea of their tax dollars going to legitimate charitable programs, but they will demand some accountability. Just about any group can call itself a church or a charity, even groups that consist of little more than a phone number and a fly-by-night operator whose sole charity is himself." Bush seems to want as little accountability as possible. Example: "Republican Gov. George W. Bush, a presidential candidate who wants to funnel federal tax dollars into private programs (vetoed) a bill requiring private entities to meet in public when they discuss how to spend taxpayers' money. Bush last month killed a measure that would have subjected certain nonprofit corporations to the state open meetings laws if the organizations spend federal money. Though the bill made no mention of faith-based organizations, Bush cited them as the reason for his veto." (AAS 7/31/99) Further, George's history of under-funding and under-staffing agencies designed to oversee accountability also does not bode well for his "faith-based" welfare
But that's only the beginning of the problems with the "faith-based" plan. How in the world will the needed new bureaucracy deal with those institutions that are gender-biased, racist, and dictatorial? Salon reporter Debra Dickerson provides some anecdotal observations. "In the black community, it is often argued that community groups disproportionately target men with their resources (both in the delivery and receipt of services) and ignore black women. Black women continually rail against the trumpeting of black men's issues as the black community's issues. Clarence Thomas' and O.J. Simpson's problems were seen as racial, while Anita Hill's complaints were merely gender-based and therefore less significant. I know of one well-respected group that has been fervent in its discrimination against female volunteers and administrators, running off with sexual harassment and belittlement the few who tried to persevere." As we know from the Baptist debates that have taken place this past year, many would suggest that Dickerson's problem is not limited to black women. She goes on: "So when Bush promises that no organization will have to compromise its core values and spiritual mission to get the help it needs, I have to wade through a strong sense of ambivalence. Will that include the inner-city church I witnessed instructing the kids on its basketball team that white churches would be racist towards them, and to just pray for forgiveness when the white folks cheated them? Well-intentioned though many of these groups may be, they are also often self-limiting, anti-female, anti-intellectual and frankly racist."
Dickerson also questions the concept of "voluntary" participation in the "faith-based" institutions' religious practices. "Bush promises that participation in faith-based programs will be truly voluntary and that there will be secular alternatives. What will he do about programs like the one I visited as a journalist, which physically dragged me into a prayer circle? The more I protested, the more they just knew my soul needed saving. At a recent religious conference, even though I was wearing a big, neon press badge, I was hissed at for not participating in the prayers and songs. I'm a middle-aged, world-traveled, well-educated journalist with a law degree from Harvard, and I find myself both intimidated and angry in these situations. Junkies, desperate parents and the illiterate are supposed to stand up against such onslaughts? Is there really such a thing as free will in this context?" I don't know about you, but I have found that my own experiences with respect to "voluntary" participation in such groups is similar to Dickerson's.
Finally, "aside from the political and social problematics, there remains the very basic question of efficacy. As Jacob Hacker, fellow of the New America Foundation, wrote in the New Republic, 'It remains an open question just how effective faith-based organizations really would be in a greatly expanded role. Systematic research on [these programs] is meager.... To expect institutions of this scope to dramatically expand their infrastructure and expertise in response to new government grants -- much less to become the nation's core providers of social assistance -- is unrealistic,' Hacker concludes." Bush does not seem to have much of an idea of "systematic research." With respect to his Charter School system as well as the proposed school voucher system that failed to pass into law, the idea has been to get the untested plans up and running, then use the failures of the plans as a guide to considering what needs to be changed to make them work. By then, the lack of money and manpower does not lead to many serious changes, and the previous failures are compounded. Based on Bush's past record, one would imagine that if he were to become President and carry out such a plan, the results would be disastrous.
Dickerson sums up: "It is no accident that Bush's first major policy pronouncement exalts religion. Challenged for months to address issues like the minimum wage, tax cuts, abortion and gun control, the man who would lead America released a comprehensive proposal ostensibly aimed at highlighting the role of religion in public policy instead. What courage. Lately politicians and pundits have been trying to act like Christian martyrs, insisting their religious beliefs have been marginalized by godless liberals and the media.... Bush's speech echoes the same self-pitying perception of this vast bloc of citizens as an oppressed minority. Bravely, he said, 'A president can speak for abstinence and accountability and the power of faith,' all the things we heathens fight so hard to prevent. Exactly where does the pro-promiscuity, pro-irresponsibility, pro-devil worshippers' lobby meet and how much are the dues? Bush pretends to go out on a political limb when he knows full well that there isn't a safer perch to occupy in this one nation under God. Patriotism is still the last refuge of a scoundrel but, these days, religion fills that role for a candidate." 8/1-3/99
POLITEX: BUSH CHARTER SCHOOL SYSTEM IN SHAMBLES AS HE PUSHES FOR NATIONAL MOVEMENT. A couple of weeks ago in Seattle, Bush said he may not be super-smart, but he's a good administrator. That's not true when it comes to his Texas charter school system. Yet, in Milwaukee last week, he said when it comes to education we should "set high standards and high expectations," neither of which he has done in Texas. He said the charter school movement "should encourage local folks to develop accountability measures," which has not happened under his guidance in Texas. He also said that charter schools would "provide an outlet for educational entrepreneurs," which may have happened in Texas under Bush, depending upon his definition of "entrepreneur." (HC 7/21/99) The fact is that ten percent of the independent charter schools operating in Texas this Spring are under investigation by state and federal governmental authorities for financial failures, student abuses, fund misappropriation and forgery. Although the state has poured $77 million into Texas charter schools since September 1996, the schools are only answerable to the Texas Education Agency for their financial, not their educational activities, suggesting that Bush was more interested in the charter schools as exercises in entrepreneurial privatizing, not education. Also, he did not provide the TEA with the money or the manpower needed to police the charter school system, so the ten percent figure for financial failure, student abuses, fund misappropriation, and forgery may be only the tip of the iceberg. Yet, Bush takes reporters to charter schools in Massachusetts, California, and Wisconsin and talks about what he would do as president. One would think he would want to brag to reporters about what he's done in Texas.
When Bush became Governor in 1995, one of the first things he did was to push a charter schools bill through the legislature as a sop to the school voucher advocates who supported him with contributions during his campaign. "During his first few months as governor in 1995, Bush helped persuade the Legislature to allow nonprofits...to create special public schools that would operate independently of local school districts," writes Stuart Eskanazi in the 7/22/99 issue of Houston Press, the source of information for this piece. "Called 'charter schools' because the Board of Education issues what effectively is a charter for them to open, they would operate relatively free from many state regulations. Charter schools are given more latitude in creating a curriculum and do not have to adhere to a minimum seven-hour school day for students. The administrators can hire just about anyone they want as teachers and pay them whatever they want. The goal is to give charter school operators enough flexibility to create a learning environment that best serves a student niche, whether it is high achievers or dropouts." Although the TEA, a state agency, was empowered to oversee the working of the charter schools, the Board of Education, a group elected by the voters throughout Texas, decides who gets the charters. The first 20 charters were granted by the 15 member Board of Education in the Spring of 1996. A near-majority of the board's membership consists of Theocrats far to the right of Bush and Mike Moses the Bush-appointed head of TEA who resigned last week although he was not up for re-appointment until 2002. Many of the members of the board had been calling for Moses' resignation since he, along with Bush, began to carve away its powers two years ago. A Bush aide once called the board, and we're paraphrasing, "the last booth on the right in the carnival of life." "Not since awarding the first 20 charters has the Board of Education demanded the CEOs or other key officers of proposed schools to come before it for a face-to-face interview. Instead, the board has relied on the assessment of a 45-member application review committee, appointed by board members and the education commissioner, to grade the written applications. Only now, at a time when embarrassing audits of charter schools threaten the entire movement, is the Board of Education leaning toward supplementing the committee evaluation with a return to in-person interviews."
Here are the TEA's most ambarrassing findings thus far:
*One of the first 20 charter schools, Cypress Lodge in East Texas, never opened, but collected $240,000 in state checks, which has never been recovered.
*Harrison Charter School in Waco was $300,000 in debt before it opened. The state granted its charter without knowing that the head had a history of financial troubles. The school has since been shut down.
*Rameses School in San Antonio had its charter revoked because of possible school attendance inflation. The state pays charter schools between $4,000 and $5,000 per student.
*Four charter schools under the rubric of "Life's Beautiful Educational Centers, Inc." in Houston owes debts totalling several hundred thousand dollars. These schools overestimated the projected number of students who would attend, did not cut their costs when the actual number was lower, and spent their money for the entire year during their first five months.The corporation claims its books were taken during a burglary, leading a puzzled TEA official to note that "the black market on school records isn't very good."
*Writing about the troubles of Impact Charter School in Houston, Eskanazi opines, "If it wasn't bad enough that the Board of Education approved a charter school with a CEO who didn't know she was CEO, it awarded a school based on a written application that featured this jumble of grammatical mumble: "Impact Charter target grade level 3 year old -- fourth grade.... Our focus will be that of Intervention by reaching the children at earlier age will prevent failure of later years."
When news of the shambles of the Bush charter school system reached the press, "Mike Shepherd, a board member of the Texas Language Charter School in Dallas, wrote a May 30 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled "Failing charter schools are the exception." He cited two examples of quality charter schools. One is the Dallas Can! Academy. But TEA's audit division is investigating that charter school and its sister school in Houston for undisclosed transgressions." The other charter school Shepherd held up as a model of quality under Bush's administration is Renaissance Charter School, which had branches around the Dallas area at that time. Eskanazi looked at the Arlington branch, where a student said, "You name it, we don't have it!" Here's a list of what this model school didn't have: heat, desks, chairs, dictionaries, tap water, textbooks, chalkboards, trash cans, phones, filing cabinets, offices, a gymnasium, a lunchroom, vending machines. computers. Here's what this model school under Bush had: two rooms with dim bulbs overhead, a concrete floor to sit or stand on, one sofa for 40 students, holes in the ceiling, stains on the walls, bugs, a toilet that barely flushed (the students walked two-blocks through a busy commercial neighborhood to use library restrooms), and a second floor declared unsuitable for habitation by the City of Arlington.
We've been told that Bush's administrative style is to come up with big ideas, then appoint others to take care of the nuts and bolts activities of turning these ideas into realities. Time after time, we find that his ideas have not been thought through, he has not provided his administrators with the tools to do the work, and he seems unable or unwilling to make the needed corrections in time to head off disaster. Bush is implying to the nation's voters that because he says he wants quality, they'll get quality, but he's told that to the citizens of Texas already, and they're sitting on too many cold concrete floors with dim bulbs overhead, wondering when the textbooks will come. 7/26-28/99
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