Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bush the Radical

There are 94 days left in the Bush Administration. I remember thinking - 8 long years ago - that if Bush won it would likely be a reprise of his father's administration, conservative and not agreeable with my political views but something we could live with. Was I wrong.

There has been nothing conservative about Bush. Whether you are talking about domestic policy or foreign policy or just temperament, Bush has been a radical. He has willfully ignored and flaunted precedent and law at every turn - on going to war, torture, firing US attorneys, signing statements, and more. Even his recent response to our economic crisis is radical, although in this case it seems like the right thing to do.

You might think he would be a bit chastened by the huge mess he has left us with. But no, he is still at it. This time he is ignoring a law he doesn't like that proscribes discrimination by religious groups that accept government money. Once again we have a legal memorandum from the Justice Department that says "screw the law":
In a newly disclosed legal memorandum, the Bush administration says it can bypass laws that forbid giving taxpayer money to religious groups that hire only staff members who share their faith.

The administration, which has sought to lower barriers between church and state through its religion-based initiative offices, made the claim in a 2007 Justice Department memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel. It was quietly posted on the department’s Web site this week.

The statutes for some grant programs do not impose antidiscrimination conditions on their financing, and the administration had previously allowed such programs to give taxpayer money to groups that hire only people of a particular religion.

But the memorandum goes further, drawing a sweeping conclusion that even federal programs subject to antidiscrimination laws can give money to groups that discriminate.

The document signed off on a $1.5 million grant to World Vision, a group that hires only Christians, for salaries of staff members running a program that helps “at-risk youth” avoid gangs. The grant was from a Justice Department program created by a statute that forbids discriminatory hiring for the positions it is financing.
World Vision does a lot of good work. But if they want to feed at the government trough they should have to follow the law of the land and open up their hiring to non-Christians. But what does the law mean to this administration?

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