As has happened a number of times this campaign season, the Left is openly appealing to religiosity. I suppose this is inevitable, since the vast majority of Americans are religious. But Barack Obama today went far beyond what’s usual for the Left, treading overtly into Religious Right™ territory:

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans to expand President Bush’s program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support some ability to hire and fire based on faith. …

Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. He also only supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxypayer funded portions of their activities, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy. …

Obama proposes to elevate the program to a “moral center” of his administration, by renaming it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and changing training from occasional huge conferences to empowering larger religious charities to mentor smaller ones in their communities.

Senator Obama is being purposely naïve if he thinks religious charities are going to segregate their money and maintain separate operations in order to comply with this. He’s also wrong if he thinks they will never use their status as hired social-service operators for the government, in order to proselytize — of course they will! They can hardly avoid doing so!

And the idea that renaming this agency can prevent abuses of this kind, is beyond stupid! Names don’t matter, money does. And once these religious outfits start scooping up government cash, the name of the agency that’s paying them won’t matter one bit.

What this country needs less of, not more of, is religion gaining authority over people via governmental relationships. While I do not object per se to religious groups contracting with the government to perform services (just like any other entity), the fact is that I do not trust them to do so in a way that does not end up propagating the religion — and that is precisely what the First Amendment “establishment clause” forbids.

If Obama really wants to “change” the country, he will need to jettison the appeals to religiosity of the Religious Right™, and actually engage in different political behavior than what we’ve been getting.

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