Sunday, February 28, 2010

If "God Has a Plan For Sex," Does Obama Have a Plan for Monitoring Programs Overseas?

A billboard promoting abstinence for HIV prevention in Tamale, Ghana

Think of this as the missionary position [ed- intended] of the US government. The question is whether they hand out Watchtower.

On Saturday, the White House faith advisory council task force released recommendations for government agencies that do business with faith-based social service groups. These recommendations touch on several issues related to a recently filed lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. In that case, the ACLU asked a court to order the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to release documents related to its funding of religious abstinence-only-until-marriage programs overseas, which will likely uncover violations of the constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state.

Interestingly, the faith advisory recommendations say that USAID is better suited than the Department of Defense for development work. Though perhaps correct, the shift of additional work to USAID only increases the need for additional oversight of its faith-based work given that USAID has a history of violating the Constitution. Indeed, the ACLU's investigation was trigged in July 2009, when the Inspector General of USAID released a report (PDF) after auditing USAID's faith-based grantees. The report came to startling conclusions about the misuse of government funds. For example, the Inspector General noted several instances of biblical references in government-funded curricula, and USAID itself admitted that some of the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs it funds "reflect a religious perspective and include religiously infused materials and religious references." One of the curricula includes an optional biblical verse for "reflection or memorization," the purpose of which is to show students that "God has a plan for sex and this plan will help you and protect you from harm."
Did you pay for that sign?

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