Saturday, September 01, 2007

Faith based initiative

One of the big arguments made by those in favor of the Faith-Based Initiative is that "it works." They suggest that by using Christian programs, criminals getting out of prison will not become repeat offenders. This program has been touted by President Bush in the past as well as other members of the Republican Party and by the Religious Right. Often, what those speaking in favor of the program are seeking is tax dollars to fund their religious programs, to try to preach to the people on the Government's Dime. Of course, this could easily be considered endorsing religion, or using coercive tactics, but try convincing a fundamentalist of that.

Case in point - in Oklahoma, the department of corrections has turned to a group known as Genesis One to help with inmates about to be released from prison. According to this article from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the program does not currently receive tax dollars, but it might after this November, "under the terms of a new state law that requires corrections officials to partner with faith-based groups on reentry programs."

This law would then allow Genesis One to preach (basically) the word of God to whatever convicts it can get its hands on, and do so with the State's tax dollars. The program claims to be open to everyone, according to Americans United, but one of the fundamental requirements is that the participants must be willing to "accept God." In other words, the state would be paying money for the advancement of Christianity, which seems very akin to a Government Endorsement of Religion, which is prohibited under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Perhaps this could be considered justifiable if the program actually cut down on recidivism amongst prior convicts, but a five year study cited in the article has shown that the recidivism rate for non-participating individuals was the same 39.6% as with those who completed the Genesis One program (source cited in the article in Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven W. Taylor). So what we end up with is a government-funded coercive endorsement of Christianity that doesn't even reduce what it claims to reduce. But what does effectiveness have anything to do with it?

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