Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church, State

August 27, 2006 at 4:10 pm | Posted in Church and State, political parties | Leave a comment

(Washington Post) Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws” and that the separation of church and state is a “lie we have been told” to keep religious people out of politics.

“If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.

Read more at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/25/

Bush Appoints Conservative to Head Faith-Based Office while Jewish Community Isn’t Looking

August 17, 2006 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Church and State | Leave a comment

Join NJDC in telling Jay Hein, the Bush Administration’s new Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, that federal funds should not be used to subsidize religious discrimination!

While the American Jewish community has been closely watching events unfold in the Middle East and Connecticut this month, President Bush and his Administration have been busy furthering their conservative agenda.

On August 3, Bush appointed a new director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (FBCI). Bush called the new director, Jay Hein, a “leading voice for compassionate conservatism” and advocate for faith-based organizations. American Jews should beware this new appointment.

In the mid-90s, Hein served as Welfare Reform Policy Assistant to former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson. Hein helped Thompson develop, pass, and implement changes to the state’s welfare system.

In 2001, The Nation reported that welfare reform in Wisconsin allowed for-profit institutions in Milwaukee alone to pocket $27 million intended for those in need, reduced the average income of low-income families by $2,000, and led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare that Wisconsin welfare agencies “put illegal obstacles in the way of people trying to obtain food stamp benefits.”

It is both troubling and ironic that the man who President Bush appointed to lead an office supposedly aimed at helping organizations who have “a long tradition of helping Americans in need” was responsible for designing and implementing a program penalizing low-income families for taking themselves off of welfare in Wisconsin.

As if that wasn’t enough, this past June, the General Accountability Office (GAO) – Congress’ independent investigative arm and, frankly, the only part of Congress doing any type of oversight on the Executive Branch – released an alarming study stating that faith-based organizations receiving federal funds through FBCI are not adequately separating the funds used for social services from those used for religious purposes. The GAO writes:
“While officials in all 26 FBOs [faith-based organizations receiving federal grants] that [GAO] visited said that they understood that federal funds cannot be used for inherently religious activities, a few FBOs described activities that appeared to violate this safeguard.”
The GAO study points out that approximately one-third of the faith-based organizations which receive federal funds and also offer voluntary religious activities “did not separate in time or location some religious activities from federally funded program services.”

Finally, the report questions the effectiveness of Bush’s FBCI and raises concerns about oversight, noting that “little information is available to assess progress toward another long-term goal of improving participant outcomes because outcome-based evaluations for many pilot programs have not begun.”

Perhaps the scariest part of the GAO findings is that Jewish organizations have been issuing similar warnings about these violations since the program began. Two examples:
Religious Action Center (RAC): The RAC noted in 2001 that faith-based federal funding proposals are “dangerous, divisive, and uncharitable.”
Anti-Defamation League (ADL): The ADL states on its website that “allowing pervasively sectarian institutions to take the place of the government as the provider of essential services in a community will likely result in the kind of coercion that the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent.”
President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative has not been without controversy. The Administration has pushed through legislative language permitting religious organizations receiving funding to discriminate in their hiring practices based on the religion of applicants. Even more, Republicans have used faith-based funding to achieve political advantages.

The Bush Administration clearly holds the interests of the far right in higher regard than those of other religious backgrounds. This is completely unacceptable.

Join NJDC in telling Jay Hein, the Bush Administration’s new Director of FBCI, that federal funds should not be used to subsidize religious discrimination!

You can call Director Hein at (202) 456-6708 or fax him a letter at (202) 456-7019. You can also e-mail President Bush at comments@whitehouse.gov.

Official Statement of the YDA Jewish Caucus on the Lebanon War

August 13, 2006 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Announcements + Events, Israel | Leave a comment

Approved August 6, 2006
Posted August 13, 2006

The Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus joins with the organized Jewish and Democratic communities to offer support for the State of Israel. We encourage Americans, especially young Americans, to stand by Israel, our democratic ally in the Middle East. The Democratic Party has a long history of supporting Israel, we count on our Democratic members of Congress to continue this important long-standing relationship. At times of crisis, support for Israel should not be a partisan issue.

The news and images from Lebanon have been trying to us all. No one can condone the humanitarian crisis that has emerged as a result of the current conflict. Nonetheless, we believe that it is important both to look to the root of the problems between Lebanon and Israel and to work toward a stable relationship where non-state actors do not have the capability to carry out attacks directed at civilians or to instigate an international crisis. Every day that Iran and Syria were allowed to support Hezbollah and Hezbollah was permitted to continue recruiting militiamen in southern Lebanon presented a challenge to the legitimate Lebanese government and raised the specter of a regional crisis.

We have been avidly watching the news over the past few weeks and have been disturbed by the images coming from Lebanon. We realize that the horrific images being shown of Lebanese people make it difficult for some to acknowledge Israel’s right as a sovereign nation to defend itself.

While Israel takes precautions to protect civilians and only targets military outposts, Hezbollah launches its rocket-fire indiscriminately, with civilian casualties as the primary objective.

Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups intentionally operate in civilian population centers, and use innocent civilians as human shields. After the destruction over the weekend in Kana, Israel has been accused of targeting civilians and not caring about the safety of the Lebanese people. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel values the lives of all its citizens-Jews, Muslims, Druze, and Christians-and the lives of its Arab neighbors.

Israel realizes that civilians are suffering in Lebanon and Gaza, just as Israelis are suffering in Northern Israel. Israelis have been spared excessive casualties because they are required to have bomb shelters in their homes, an awful reality of living with the daily threat of terror. Despite Israeli literature drops before raids on Lebanon, Lebanese citizens were not adequately prepared and did not find safer refuge.

Though any civilian casualties are unacceptable, it is the unfortunate truth of war that they are often unavoidable. As with all Americans and Israelis, the Young Democrats of America Jewish Caucus hopes that a cease-fire will emerge shortly with a minimal loss of life. If that eventual cease-fire does not ensure the dismantling of Hezbollah, however, this crisis may be the first of many. A long-term peace in the Middle East is one which non-state actors do not have the ability to undermine.

Finally, we encourage both Israel and the United States to expedite the humanitarian aid they have committed for the end of the conflict. This will help the Lebanese government to rein in extremist groups like Hezbollah and ensure that this year’s violence will not be repeated.

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