Friday, July 28, 2006

God & Politics: Iowa Prison Ministries

A federal judge in Iowa not only struck down prison's support of Prison Fellowship Ministry. Not only that but he fined the ministry $1.7 million dollars. Why? Because despite the fact that the ministry is positive and supported by the prison systems and is completely non-coercive (with unrefuted and irrefutable evidence and witnesses introduced in court to support this), the judge wanted to fine them. It really doesn't come down to anything else.

UPDATE: Michael the Leveller has two long comments, hopefully they won't have pull a disappearing act because of haloscan. Bob effectively responded to his first, but I'd like to discuss to his second. Michael's argument is essentially:
  • You can't give federal money to religious causes because it is essentially robbing people (via taxation) to support religious groups they themselves oppose.
  • Association religious groups so closely to the federal government compromises their objectivity and leads to bad things, much like the court Prophets of Isreal.
Michael is right on both counts of course, but he unfortunately doesn't know how right he is.

In the first point, the full extent of the truth is that you're robbing people anyway. You rob people through taxation and give them to secular programs that don't work (~75% recidivism rates). You rob people through taxation and give them to a religious programs they don't like that do work (~25% recidivism rate). But at the end of the day you're still robbing people. This is the problem with social spending and centralized government.

On the second point, the full extent of the truth is that federal dollars compromise both secular and religious groups alike. You end up with a biased program either way. Just because a program is secular doesn't make this phenomenon right. It still isn't. So why should we put up with it from either a secular or religious organization.

The correct answer of course is to stop robbing people at all. Stop giving them that tainted federal money. Give that money back to the citizens in tax breaks, open up the prisons as much as possible to all applicable outside organizations, and allow the citizens to support the organizations of their choice directly through charitable giving. But of course no one will consider that option. Instead we can choose between robbing from people and giving it to religion or robbing from people and wasting it outright. Given that choice a lot of people are going to come down for religion, because at least you get something for your money.

1 comment:

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