Alex Blaze

Way to give faith-based programming a good name

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 26, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media
Tags: Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Kentucky

The Kentucky arm of Teen Challenge, a faith-based rehab program aimed at adolescents, has "given up" its $50,000 federal grant. They obviously should never have been receiving it in the first place:

Teen Challenge, Americans United pointed out, requires participants to take part in prayer, worship, Bible study and other religious activities. Program participants must sign a "Civil Rights Waiver" in which each surrenders the right to "exercis[e] the religion of my choice."

Applicants for the program are required to describe their Christian faith and agree to conduct themselves in a "Christ-like manner." The organization vows to offer "deliverance from addiction through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and practical application of Biblical principles."

While the Bush Administration has been loath to investigate any of this activity that's being federally funded, this was completely obvious. Here's the national organization's description of their program:

The Program

Teen Challenge programs have been developed to encourage the student to cope with everyday life issues. Students typically rise between 5:45 and 6:15am. Devotions, Bible Reading, and Chapels are essential elements of the program as well as discipleship training during an average day. Secondary education is provided in all adolescent programs.

There is generally very little free or unsupervised time as this has been found to be a hindrance to the successful progress of the student. Three healthy meals are provided throughout the day and students are provided a variety of work assignments to complete. This full day of activity normally ends between 10:00 and 10:30pm.

In the early phase of the program, several studies of the Teen Challenge curriculum, Group Studies for New Christians are taught. These cover many of the basic issues regarding discipleship, basic Christian living, and character development. Personal Studies for New Christians contracts may also be used to influence specific issues in the individual.

In the latter phase, students will be involved in more in-depth Bible study and issues basic to daily Christian living based on a Biblical worldview. The classes provide instruction on practical Christian living, intensive bible studies, and the responsibility of the Christian to the community.

Upon graduation, students are made aware of educational and ministry opportunities in their local community colleges and churches. Although pursuing higher education has obvious benefits for any individual, it is vital that the Church has a place for those in the after care process. Continuing involvement in the local church is critical to the on-going development of any believer, especially those who have come through the battleground of addiction.

Wow, good of them to eventually mention addiction once while describing, y'know, a rehab center.

While this program may be effective (Americans United for the Separation of Church and State insists that it isn't), it shouldn't be funded by public dollars. It seems more focused on pulling people into the flock when they're down and out, and probably forced to attend by their parents.

That shouldn't be the goal of faith-based programming at all, but the Bush administration has been good at using the treasury as a private piggy bank for loyal supporters.


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Teen Challenge, Americans United pointed out, requires participants to take part in prayer, worship, Bible study and other religious activities. Program participants must sign a "Civil Rights Waiver" in which each surrenders the right to "exercis[e] the religion of my choice."

This is a prime example of a government-funded proselytization program which opponents of faith-based initiatives warned about. Since Obama plans on keeping the faith-based initiative program I hope he tightens up its operation - a lot.

Since Bush created the monumental opportunities for Churches to swindle the Federal Government, we are stuck with it until we can clean it up. It would be too disruptive for a new president to just suspend the programs, and owuld give too much ammunition to those few honest Christians who are taking or tax money and not abusing their contracts. So the least Obama can do it force them to play by the rules while the programs are brought back into come kind of control and supervision.
Bush's cynically throwing money at the Right Wing Christian organizations in exchange for their votes was concocted by that evil plotter Rove, and now it will take some time to undo it. This is just one more area in which Bush's plans were an absolute disaster.

Sounds a lot like a program handbook for a cult. Strong ideology and almost zero free time are hallmarks of cult "brainwashing."

Alex you claim the program is not effective, American's United claim it is. I don't know if you're being over critical or American's United is going overboard trying not to offend. The truth of the tale is independent evaluation. Program evaluation with honest and transparent benchmarks should be the gold standard in any federal program, but even more so in faith based efforts.

While I share your opposition to "faith based initiatives" administered with federal dollars, I fear that for the foreseeable future they are here to stay. Any efforts to reform or eliminate them should be accompanied by a demand for strict accountability.

Americans United thinks that this organization isn't effective:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said he was pleased with the outcome but noted that Teen Challenge should never have received public funds in the first place.

“Teen Challenge boasts about its program being saturated with fundamentalist Christianity and makes it clear that required participation in religious activities is key to its approach,” Lynn said. “I cannot imagine a worse candidate for tax funding.

“Bush administration officials have claimed that they do not fund religious activities, but this grant suggests otherwise,” he continued. “Apparently their policy is to do it until they get caught.”

Lynn noted that while Teen Challenge and other fundamentalist “faith-based” groups often claim high rates of success, no empirical data backs up the claim.

“Tax funds were being funneled to this organization even though it openly boasts about its religious content, and there’s no evidence its approach even works,” Lynn said. “This incident is a perfect example of what’s so wrong with faith-based initiatives.”

I don't know whether it is or not, and that's what I said, second paragraph from the bottom. But I forgot the link so I put that in. Thanks for pointing that out!

If there were similar programs available for persons of other major religions (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccans and indigenous American religions , etc.), as well as for agnostics/atheists, even then I might perceive a "level playing field" and not get too upset about their use of government funding.

But the reality is that there are very, very few "faith-based" dollars going to non-Christian programs --- partly because they don't even bother to apply because they know they will get rejected! So, bottom line, this is a politician's mechanism for buying votes from fundamentalist Christians and using government to put other religions at a disadvantage. Maybe someday we will have a US Supreme Court that will put an end to this travesty, but I'm not holding my breath on it.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 27, 2008 4:58 AM

The Chicago Tribune reports that then

“state senator from Chicago's South Side, Barack Obama …arranged for a $200,000 state grant… to jump-start an urban venture capital fund for a non-profit group run by Rev. Jesse Jackson.”

The effort was a failure because of fear of investing in non-EuroAmerican projects. The Tribune says it’s an

“example of the mixed record for Obama and other officials in getting results from such programs.”

“Obama's embrace of this approach, championed by President George W. Bush, led Jackson to lash out…at his fellow Chicago Democrat…The flap erupted amid Obama's attempts to broaden his appeal by reaching out to evangelicals…a development that has disturbed some liberals such as Jackson who fear the faith-based emphasis is an excuse for curtailing government social service obligations.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. Frightened by Republican successes using bigoted christers as saps in their wedge issue campaigns, Democrats like Obama, Clinton and others embraced the Bush/Rove program to bribe pulpit pimps in exchange for endorsements and votes.

That’s exactly what Bushbrain Rove did. And it’s exactly what Obama’s doing, from the trail of revival meetings with “ex-gay’ scum like Donnie McClurkin down to last Sunday's hoe-down with bigots in deepest, palest Orange County to his frightening decision to order the platform committee to erase all mention of us.

Jackson’s not the only one really pissed off – and the list is growing every day. Even a glut of teary eyed convention speeches won’t slow the dawning awareness that Obama's a rightist pulling the Democrats even further to the right by duplicating Roves strategy. If the christers elect him they’ll own him. They owned Clinton after DOMA and they've made Bush bow and scrape every day of his presidency. Bush is going to leave office as a national disgrace because he pandered to christers. Next!