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December 20, 2002 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-12-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Editorials are posted and archived on JN

Sanctity, Soup Kitchens And Tax Dollars

resident George W. Bush's decision to
push ahead with his "faith-based" initia-
tive — essentially a plan to funnel tax
dollars to churches — is wrong both in
principle and in the way he did it. And U.S. Sen.
Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., America's most
prominent Jewish politician, was wrong in his
rush to applaud the president's action.
There's no reason why organizations that arise
from religious bases should not be allowed to seek
and win government funds for needed social serv-
ices. In fact, such organizations already are recipi-
ents of hundreds of millions of dollars in govern-
ment grants for such programs, and many do an -
outstanding job. In many communities,
these church-, synagogue- and mosque-
based groups or programs are the most
caring and efficient agencies for reaching
society's needy.
But they must operate themselves and their
programs in ways that do not discriminate either
in the people they serve or the staff they hire to
give the services. And the government must
remain exceptionally vigilant to make sure that
the organizations don't try to impose their reli-
gious beliefs on the captive audience they are
helping. It may be that programs are most effec-
tive when they save souls as well as ease hunger,
but they should only get government money for
the latter.
Far from providing the guarantees against
abuse, the president's executive order of last week
signals that his administration intends to tolerate
practices that tear down the proper wall between
church and state.
It is, no doubt, good politics for President Bush
to align himself with this country's Christian
majority, as he does on issues such as abortion and
reproductive cloning. Bush phrased the logic for
his executive order in appealing terms: "The days
of discriminating against religious groups just
because they are religious are coming to an end."
But the premise is false.
Religious groups are not discriminated against;


Dry Bones

they are simply required to com-
ply with proper federal rules that
say they can't refuse to hire some-
one for a federally funded pro-
gram just because the job appli-
cant doesn't share the organiza-
tion's religious beliefs. The Bush
plan effectively lets the govern-
ment waive its rules against job
discrimination when the employ-
er is a church, synagogue or
mosque. If a religious organiza-
tion can turn down an applicant
because he or she is of a different
faith, it will be hard to
argue that any other
organization cannot do
the same.
Bush should have been guided
by another portion of his speech
announcing the change in the
rules. "When decisions are made
on public funding," he said, "we
should not focus on the religion
you practice; we should focus on
the results you deliver." If that
makes sense for the government,
surely it makes even more sense
as the standard religious organi-
zations should follow in hiring —
not the applicant's religion but
his ability to get the job done.
At Bush's request, Congress had
been working on legislation that
would make it easier for religious
legislative process by taking a position that proba-
organizations to seeking federal
bly will help him in his quest for the Democratic
funds for social service programs. The Senate was
Presidential nomination in 2004.
certainly ready to move on a measure that
Bush, by acting as he did, again showed his
Lieberman had authored and that had been sub-
impatience with governmental checks and bal-
ject to useful public hearings and debate. The
ances that are essential in our democracy — and
measure was not perfect, but it was a much better
nowhere more important than when dealing with
process than the arbitrary executive order Bush
the constitutional imperative to keep government
promulgated. Senator Lieberman was too quick
to endorse the executive order, undermining the
and religion separate. ❑


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Judicious Thanks


ith the end of the secular year
approaching, southeast Oakland
County communities are saying good-
bye and thank you to three men who
have set an unmatched standard for the
local district courts.
Judges Marvin Frankel, Benjamin
Friedman and Bryan Levy are leaving the
bench after long and distinguished careers. Frankel
and Friedman are bowing to the state's mandatory
retirement requirement at age 70, leaving the 45B
District Court after 30 years of service. Their court-
rooms served Oak Park, Huntington Woods,

Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak Township.
Levy's decade and a half of service to Southfield,
Lathrup Village, Beverly Hills, Southfield Township,
Franklin and Bingham Farms as judge of the 46th
District Court was ended by the electorate
in November.
Alt three judges brought caring and
compassion to their duties. Their court-
rooms were places where justice was paramount, but
with understanding and a commitment to their
neighbors and local citizens to achieve justice for
both the individual and the community.
One definition of justice is righteousness, and the


use of authority and power to uphold what is right.
Marvin Frankel, Benjamin Friedman and Bryan
Levy have used their authority and power in an
exemplary manner over many years.
They have left a strong legacy for their successors:
Judge Friedman's daughter, Michelle Freidman
Appel, and the late U.S. District Court Judge
Lawrence Gubow's son, former state Rep. David
Gubow, at the 45B District Court; and Shelia
Johnson at 46th District Court.
And they leave an appreciative community, which
recognizes their tremendous efforts in our courts of
law. ❑






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