ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of August 30, 1999
THE GOLDEN RULE
Would you be surprised to learn that the federal government, using money forcibly yanked from the pockets of both the religious and non-religious, is now providing funds to certain churches? Well, I was recently shocked by the discovery that part of the so-called Welfare Reform Act of 1996 provides for funding for churches engaged in government-approved activities, such as job training and providing assistance to those going from welfare to work.
True enough, the government hands out money to all sorts of private organizations—and improperly so—that promote all sorts of ideas, most of them bad. And it is also true that the federal government—and improperly so—has poured billions into a corrupt education system, politicizing it in the process and creating a near-monopoly for the teaching of statist ideas to children. But the funding of churches represents an ominous, new turn in American politics, a development that raises the ante in statists’ attack on freedom.
Churches are institutions explicitly organized around a certain philosophy, a set of ideas and a specific view of the world. The state should neither promote nor suppress ideas, especially philosophic ideas. This means, among other things, that the state should not be in the business of education and it should not favor or discourage any particular religion. With the emergence of federal funding for churches, statists have succeeded in establishing the precedent that certain churches will be promoted by the state over others.
Here’s the way this will work. Churches compete with one another for members. They do so not only with the spiritual message they advocate but also by the services provided to their members and/or prospective members. Those churches that accept federal funds to provide services to their members, or to possible members, obviously sanction the federal government providing such funds. Those churches will have a competitive advantage, so to speak, with those churches that do not accept federal funding. The more politically liberal churches will have a source of funding not acceptable to the more politically conservative churches. Membership to the politically liberal churches will be increased by the use of federal funding. The simple fact of more services being made available by these more liberal churches will attract more membership.
If this funding of churches is not repealed and eliminated, then you can be sure that it will quickly expand. Pretty soon, certain churches will be receiving federal money to provide daycare for its members’ children, to provide meals for the elderly and the young, to buy and distribute fans or heaters for the indigent and on and on and on. These churches, gorged on stolen money, will be transformed, for all practical purposes, from churches to a multitude of government agencies masquerading as religious institutions. And with all that money, such churches will have the financial means to out shout their opponents: politically conservative churches.
Your money should not be taken from you to fund churches (or any other private organization). And just who has perpetrated this unconstitutional outrage? Congressional Republicans. And George W. Bush, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination is, according to news reports, a supporter of funding for so-called "faith-based" organizations—a euphemism to avoid an explicit reference to church, as in the separation of church and state, a separation that is now beginning to recede into the past.
In business, in the realm of mergers and acquisitions, there is a saying that The Golden Rule governs such transactions—meaning: those who have the gold rule. This is all fine in a free market and as it should be since private individuals, using their own money, are buying companies. But in a statist society, ruled by the federal government, federal funding of private organizations is a deadly threat to freedom since it makes such organizations increasingly dependent on such funding. The independence of private organizations is diminished with each rise in funding. And those who hand out all that federal gold eventually end up ruling its recipients. This has been one of the most potent tactics statists have used in their ascent to total power: make individuals dependent, in part or totally, on federal funding and statists effectively control such individuals.
Federal funding of churches is nothing more than a clever way for statists to underwrite, subsidize and advance certain ideas over other ideas the federal government disapproves of—and, in the process, take effective control over certain churches. Such a policy is anathema to the freedom of ideas and to liberty in general.
It makes no difference whether you are religious or not. The principle at stake in this matter is broader than religion. It is a question of whether the state should fund and, therefore, control organizations created out of certain beliefs, ideas, of a certain kind of philosophy, religious or otherwise. In a free society, the state remains neutral in the expression of ideas, with its only role being the protection of your right to think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. In a statist society, such as we have in America, we now have one more poisonous tentacle from Washington poised to tighten its grip around yet another once-free area of life.
August 30, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
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