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News and Op/Ed

Pat Robertson Gets Bush's Blessing
Pat Robertson. 
Federal Funding of Operation Blessing continues.

(NJDC) By now you've heard again and again about Pat Robertson's hateful and divisive rhetoric -- calling for the assassination of foreign leaders, asserting that Prime Minister Sharon's stroke occurred because he was "dividing God's land," and so on.

But would you believe that the federal government continues to fund Robertson's "Operation Blessing?" According to a recent press report, under George W. Bush's faith-based initiative, "the group's annual revenue from government grants has ballooned from $108,000 to $14.4 million." 

Pat Robertson is more than just an evangelical leader with a tremendous following; he is a key GOP leader and spokesman. In 1988, he even beat out then-Vice President Bush in the Iowa GOP caucus. According to a recent article in The Virginian-Pilot, Robertson is "one of the Bush administration's most reliable supporters."

But recently Robertson has demonstrated again and again -- with one horrifying statement after another -- how out-of-touch he is with the vast majority of Americans. Among other actions, Robertson has:
  • Argued for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
  • Claimed that the federal judiciary is a greater threat to the country than "a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings;" and 
  • Asserted that God is punishing Ariel Sharon for his courageous pursuit of peace and security.

Yet according to The Virginian-Pilot story, the federal government remains "a major source of revenue" for Operation Blessing. The newspaper -- which covers Robertson's home town of Virginia Beach -- portrays just how dangerous Operation Blessing's programs are to church-state separation; how they discriminate in hiring and firing with your taxpayer dollars; and how there are precious few assurances that Robertson's group is effective at what it claims to do with government funds. (See "What's at Stake" below for more details.)

The close working relationship between Robertson's group and the Bush Administration must end. The damage inflicted by George W. Bush's faith-based schemes is bad enough; but when these federal dollars flow to Pat Robertson, insult is added to injury. Enough is enough.

What's at stake

Directly funding faith-based programs like Operation Blessing threatens the separation of church and state -- and thus the religious freedom of Americans. As The Virginian-Pilot article notes, "Many of the ultimate recipients of Operation Blessing's government grants are churches. An example is Lighthouse Mission, a street ministry on Long Island in New York.... The mission is unabashedly evangelical. Lighthouse Mission 'not only feeds the hungry, but spiritually feeds the soul,' it proclaims on its Web site. 'Through the love of God, the volunteers at the Mission help people in need on a daily basis through prayer and God's Word.'"

Groups like Operation Blessing can and do engage in federally-funded employment discrimination. The same article explains that "the group does not hire non-Christians, [Deborah Bensen, Operation Blessing's director of media and government relations] said. 'We're a Christian faith-based organization,' she said. 'We hire people that are able to help support our mission.'"

There is no assurance of the effectiveness of groups such as Operation Blessing that receive federal funds to provide social services. At a time when George W. Bush and a Republican Congress have repeatedly cut the funding of federal social service programs with proven track records, there is no data indicating the effectiveness of faith-based recipients of taxpayer dollars.

This is hardly the first time the Bush Administration and Robertson's Operation Blessing have worked hand-in-hand. Previously, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA actually placed Robertson's group at the top of the list of those organizations deserving donations to help with disaster relief.

Directing federal funds to such divisive figures as Pat Robertson merely adds insult to injury. Robertson's comments -- that foreign leaders should be killed, and that the federal judiciary poses a greater threat to America then the 9/11 hijackers -- should disqualify him from receiving so-called "faith-based" funds.