In his op-ed column in today's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof derided the snobby, sneering, snooty, secular liberals who dare to criticize faith-based organizations that provide extensive aid to poor and suffering people around the globe. Kristof is impressed that the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization is now a Christian evangelical organization rather than any secular group. He generously forgives conservative Christian groups their late arrival on the social aid scene after years of over-focusing on sexual morality and homophobia rather than the needy.
Kristof's piece coincides with the recent release of a report by President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships about the new administration's attitude toward faith-based organizations. Kristof, President Obama and the Council all ignored the most important topic, namely the constitutionality of religion-based employment decisions regarding jobs partially or fully subsidized by federal funds. Kristof is satisfied with federal funding of evangelical organizations because they no longer offer aid to entice converts.
The First Amendment requires much more than Kristof's minimal standard. Tax dollars should not be given to religious groups that, by hiring on religious grounds, are free to discriminate on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation.
Kristof criticizes the past homophobia of some conservative Christian groups without recognizing that his pro-aid position allows those groups to refuse to hire female or gay employees. Thus they spread overseas the vision of a conservative Christian America rather than the egalitarian ideals of the U.S. Constitution that government organizations would be required to defend.
Presidential candidate Obama promised to change the George W. Bush-era rules that allowed federal aid to groups that discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. Even after the report's release, the Bush rules remain in place. Representative Robert C. Scott (D.-Va.), who valiantly contested Bush on the antidiscrimination issue, said of the Obama administration: You'll have to ask them why they think it is all right to discriminate; they are either offended by the idea of discrimination, or they're not.
Kristof and Obama are not. Fortunately the snobby, sneering, snooty, secular liberals still are.