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Mysticism vs. Politics: Refugee Industry Capturing Bush's "Faith-Based Initiative"
"We're great because you can choose whatever faith you choose, or if you choose no faith at all, you're still equally American. It's one of the great traditions of America that we will always hold sacred." – President George W. Bush to White House Leadership Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, March 1 2005.
Who said nothing is sacred anymore?
One of the stated goals of the President's much-trumpeted Faith-Based and Community Initiative is to prevent discrimination against explicitly religious organizations when handing out federal grant money—and to train them to apply for it.
But it will be no surprise to VDARE.COM readers that, with a gravy train like this, the Refugee Industry is among the "early adopters" of the new program. Many of its component "refugee contractors" now claim to be "faith-based."
In 2004 the federal government managed to hand out $2 billion in faith-based money in at least 1,000 separate programs through the departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Justice and HUD.
That was only 10% of the total funding set aside for faith-based social services—and doesn't include the cost for the feds to administer the programs.
Nor does this figure include block grants to states, which are then distributed to organizations claiming to be faith-based.
Faith-based offices are springing up all over the federal bureaucracy. And about half of the states have set up their own faith-based offices to tap into the rising stream of federal dollars.
A practically uncountable number of rapidly forming, dissolving and re-forming organizations with changing names, changing missions, and temporary spin-offs and affiliates has stepped forward to claim federal grants as "Faith-Based Organizations" (FBOs).
This is all the result of President Bush's executive orders—Congress has yet to pass any legislation enabling transfer of taxpayer dollars to "faith-based" organizations. Bush recently reminded faith-based contractors of his "continued commitment to faith-based and community groups."
But, in the first of many signs that the Faith-based Initiative is being diluted into a typical pork (forgive the expression) program, "Faith-based" is never mentioned anymore without joining it to the term "community-based."
Which means that FBOs may have no faith at all (except, of course, faith in the U.S. dollar).
When I asked a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ben O'Dell (email him) for a breakdown of faith-based grants among Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups he said no such breakdown was available. He said that, incredibly, the Department does not track the faith of the grantee—only the "quality of the grant application."
If there is a Wiccan "faith-based" grantee, the department giving out the money would be the last to know.
According to a spokesman, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) will dispense about 400 million dollars in 2006, approximately 1/3 for faith-based programs. Curiously, the largest single group of beneficiaries of this money will probably be Muslim—since they now dominate the refugee inflow.
So what is to be gained from the refugee industry's newfound mission? Well, the implication of the President's original program is that the religious values and practices of the FBO bring advantages to the social problem-solving and social assistance the FBO provides. Those advantages are worth paying for—perhaps.
Indeed, religious conversion may well be the most effective means of addressing some problems such as drug addiction.
But don't expect the born-again refugee FBOs to be practicing their religion on their clients.
The faith-based refugee contractor Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society lately set up a field operation in Kenya to bring in Muslim refugees from Africa. It recently achieved a legislative break-through easing resettlement of refugees from Iran. Perhaps a third of the refugees it brings over from Iran are not Jewish.
These organizations would no doubt argue that they are practicing their religion by resettling refugees to the U.S. The practice of their faith apparently need not extend any further than this in order to receive faith-based funds. (Maybe we should call them "faith-inspired" organizations—but that's already a buzz word with specific meaning in government grant argot: basically, not religious enough to qualify as an FBO.)
Refugee contractors and grantees, many of whom are themselves recent immigrants and refugees, now have a wider playing field on which to appeal for federal dollars…but no additional responsibilities. The newly rebranded grantees in the refugee industry will still make their money by finding refugees to move to the U.S. and dumping them on the taxpayer once they are here.
Without a trace of irony, President Bush reminds his audiences in the FBO community that "faith can move mountains." He makes it clear that the mountain waiting to be moved is the federal bureaucracy.
As the White House "faith-based" website says: "And chances are that if you had a little more money, you would be able to help more people and do your work better."
The Refugee Industry enthusiastically agrees!
But mostly it recalls the words of the French poet Charles Peguy: "everything begins with mysticism and ends with politics."
Thomas Allen (email him) is a recovering refugee worker.