Monday, August 3, 2009

Religious Group in Detroit Faces Objections from Americans United

The Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM) is a valuable social ministry that has been helping people for more than a century. If you can name a social ill common to most large cities, this group is probably already helping people out of the mire. While they are a faith-driven group, they do not discriminate based on religion, do not preach to those getting aid, and do not have any requirements of their beneficiaries "except that they become good citizens and productive members of the community." They receive funds from various sources, including government funds for specific social purposes.

Regular readers can probably guess what's coming next. Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has gone on the record saying that this group is religious and should not receive government money. The same point is raised for other faith-based initiatives that the federal government funds.

This may seem logical at first. After all, the federal government is not allowed to establish a religion, right? That IS correct. But clearly this religious group is not and was not founded by the government, so the government did not establish it. Paying them for services rendered is not establishing a religion.

It's just as important to look at it from the other perspective. If the government is doling out money to various groups for social services, and they withhold money for a group solely because it has a religious basis, isn't that religious discrimination?

Suppose I am giving out money to various contractors for work, but I reject a black man solely because he is black. Isn't that clearly discrimination?

The Constitution certainly could have said that no appropriations could be used for any religious purpose if that was its intent. Even that statement would have been a restriction on the federal government and would not have prevented state/local governments from doing so. But in any case that is not what is written.

There is enough social trouble to go around, one can hope that any group with a proven track record would be allowed to help. Read more here.

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