Bush Scandals List

140. Office of Faith Based Initiatives (a sop to the religious right)

The Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, an idea for those who don’t believe in the separation of church and state or the Establishment Clause in the Constitution (First Amendment). A political and financial sop to rightwing Christians, the program has given no money to non-Christian groups. It is unclear how much money has actually gone through the program. The real problem is that any money should be distributed in this way.

On June 25, 2007, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 in Hein, Director, White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives et al v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. et al that taxpayers do not have standing to contest this spending in violation of the Establishment clause A) because they can not show direct harm and B) because Establishment challenges under Flast v. Cohen are only allowed if a specific Congressional statute is at issue. SCOTUS held that the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives had been created wholly within the Executive Branch and that no specific monies had been appropriated to it by Congressional statute so no challenge could be made. This is fairly squirrely reasoning (increasingly typical of the Roberts Court) because the money didn’t just appear out of nowhere and what money the Congress does appropriate and how it is spent by the Executive must meet Constitutional requirements such as the Establishment Clause. In any case, the bottom line is that in the view of SCOTUS the Congress and/or another President are the ones to change this. Ordinary Americans need not apply

An October 17, 2008 New York Times story reports that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion in 2007 that the government could use money from programs covered by anti-discrimination laws to fund groups that did, in fact, discriminate in their hiring on religious grounds. The opinion was in reference to a $1.5 million grant for gang prevention to World Vision, a religious group which hires Christians only, but was not limited to this case only.

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