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Dec 30 2011
a new twist on religious freedom?

If I understand this article, the situation is this:

* Catholic charities gets government money to provide services to the poor and needy

* They wanted to restrict who they help based on their own religious beliefs. In particular, they did not want to help same-sex couples foster or adopt children as they do with heterosexual couples.

* A judge ruled that they could not discriminate this way with government money. So, they have a choice: stop discriminating or stop taking government money.

So far so good. I think I get all of that. As I see it, they can do whatever they want with their own money, but the government does not have to give them tax dollars to work with if the government is not happy with what they are doing with it.

The twisted part is that they represent this as if they are being subjected to discrimination. They say that the government is denying them a contract because of their religious prejudices against gay people. (Actually, it is not their prejudice, which I suppose they are entitled to have, but rather their actions that are the problem.)

This is a bit crazy, I think. It would mean that the government would be required to give money to any religious group no matter how they choose to spend the money, because otherwise they could claim that they were being discriminated against!

Is the government not giving millions of dollars to the Church of Scientology to help people by telling them about the aliens who control our brains? According to this logic, it had better do so else it is guilty of discriminating against their beliefs.

In my opinion, the only sensible way for the government to be religiously neutral is for it to not give money to religious groups. That would make total sense to me. The new idea that the government can give money to religious organizations (like Catholic Charities) so long as they use it in ways that are consistent with the government's goals is a little less sensible, but still vaguely reasonable. The idea (which I heard here for the first time) that government money has to go to religious organizations regardless of how they choose to use it is completely nutty! What, does the government have to give money to every religious organization, lest they face charges of discrimination? How much money to each? It could not possibly work that way.

If Catholic Charities wants to be picky about who they help, let them do it with their own money.

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