May 29, 2005

PULPIT PILFERAGE:

A U.S. Faith Initiative for Africa: Secretary of State Rice and black pastors discuss a joint effort to fight AIDS. (Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, May 29, 2005, LA Times)

Escalating its courtship of a politically powerful constituency, the Bush administration is teaming up with some of the nation's best-known and most influential black clergy to craft a new role for U.S. churches in Africa.

The effort was launched last week, when more than two dozen leading African American religious figures met privately with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior White House officials at the State Department, according to administration officials and meeting participants.

The hourlong session focused largely on how the administration's faith-based initiative could be expanded to combat the spread of HIV and provide help for tens of millions of children orphaned by the epidemic across Africa.

Some of the pastors said it was a matter of national security — that those orphans were susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists unless they could be exposed to churches such as theirs.

The gathering yielded no formal financial commitment from the federal government for the Africa effort. But participants said it marked a new era of engagement by black clergy with U.S. foreign policy. [...]

Rice and the pastors discussed the possibility of establishing an office of faith-based initiatives within the State Department that would direct federal funds for overseas aid to church and community groups, as similar offices have done in other Cabinet agencies.

The meeting reflected the expanding relationship between some of the country's best-known black clergy and the Bush administration — a relationship that has been nurtured through a White House program that encourages funneling government grants to religious charities.

Illustrating the political benefit of that relationship, White House officials injected some Capitol Hill strategy into the session. They solicited support among the black pastors for controversial legislation that would allow faith-based charities in the U.S. to discriminate in hiring based on an applicant's religious beliefs — a provision that has spurred opposition from some Democrats and civil rights groups.

"Compassion has a way of cutting across partisan lines," said James Towey, the top White House official in charge of the faith-based programs, who asked the pastors to sign a letter endorsing the legislation.


These guys are good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2005 9:14 AM
Comments

Rodger that--truly brilliant: smells like napalm in the morning.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 29, 2005 9:57 AM

Some of the pastors said it was a matter of national security that those orphans were susceptible to recruitment by Islamic extremists unless they could be exposed to churches such as theirs.

Since the number of Christian suicide bombers out there is slim to the point of non-existance, it will be interesting to see if this strategy plays itself out, since it would be in direct contrast to the offend-no-Muslim attitude of so many people in and around government. Given the choice between PC attitudes and faith-based initiatives even in foreign policy, the current administration will choose the latter, but if you're trying to keep orphans away from being recuits for Islamic extremists in this fashion it means you're going to have to keep them away from Islam, which is bound to raise the hackles of both people from that religion in Africa and from those on the left inside the country, who don't want blacks and Republicans to have anything to do with each other in the first place.

Posted by: John at May 29, 2005 1:11 PM
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