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Why the "Faith-Based" Initiative is Nothing to be Afraid of

By Cherry Wood in Op-Ed
Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:37:59 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

When the Senate returns from its summer recess in September, they will have many controversial issues to debate. However a piece of legislation that may face the most problems, is also the one that would be of the greatest benefit to college and university foundations. H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act of 2001, better known as the faith-based bill, would dramatically alter the landscape of charitable giving in the United States.


As someone who works in the political scene in DC, I feel that I have a unique point of view to offer on this matter that may help educate others. First of all, to set up the scene, I am a lobbyist for higher education. I work for a liberal non-profit association, and classify myself as an ardent Democrat. However, the faith-based legislation that President Bush has advocated will do a lot to help colleges and universities.

What is this whole charitable choice deal? Basically, the term charitable choice refers to a set of rules about how government buys social services. Charitable choice is actually not a new phenomenon, and in fact has been signed into law four different times, however on a more limited basis. It currently applies to these domestic programs: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (1996); Welfare-to-Work (1997); Community Services Block Grant (1998); AND SAMHSA drug treatment (2000). What the Bush proposal will do is allow faith-based organizations to take part in all federal contract processes. Not really a revolutionary concept.

But what about possible discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people? Unfortunately, the White House, being the White House, entered into a horrible agreement that would permit organizations that win federal contracts to ignore local and state anti-discrimination laws. Normally, this wouldn't matter since the federal anti-discrimination laws would remain in place. However, while some forward thinking states and localities have included sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination laws, the federal government has not. Thus, we have a problem. However, the Senate sponsors of the bill have recognized the fact that the bill won't pass with the pro-discrimination language included, and will remove it from the final version.

You said something about how this would help colleges and universities? Not only will this bill tremendously aid colleges and universities, but it will help ALL non-profit organizations. How? Well, I'll tell you. The charitable choice language is actually just a small part of the whole bill. The majority of the legislation is actually tax incentives designed to help people give more money to charitable organizations, such as colleges and universities.

The most important of these is the IRA rollover for charitable contributions. Under current law, individuals who wish to donate to a charity from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) must declare the withdrawal as income and claim a deduction for charitable contributions. For individuals who give large amounts to charities, this creates the possibility that they will not be able to deduct the full value of the contribution because of the limits on the percentage of one's income that may be deducted for charitable contributions.. In effect, the current statute actually discourages some taxpayers from contributing their IRA assets to charity. The IRA rollover would allow individuals to exclude from gross income any distributions from a traditional or Roth IRA that are given directly to a qualified charitable organization.

The second most important provision, and one that affects younger taxpayers, is the non-itemizer deduction for charitable donations. Currently, individual taxpayers that itemize their deductions may claim a deduction for contributions made to qualified charitable organizations. However, taxpayers who elect the standard deduction ("non-itemizers") may not claim a deduction for charitable contributions. Approximately two-thirds of all tax filers (85 million Americans) are non-itemizers, and thus are not allowed to claim tax deductions for their charitable contributions. Allowing non-itemizers to deduct their charitable contributions would help increase support for charitable organizations by rewarding and encouraging giving by all taxpayers. The economic benefit of this proposal could be enormous. A PriceWaterhouseCoopers report indicates that the charitable deduction for non-itemizers could increase giving by $14 billion per year and could stimulate 11 million new givers. Providing this option to taxpayers would increase the number of lower and middle income Americans who give to colleges and universities. Additionally, it will help create a new spirit and habit of giving in individuals who would otherwise not make donations.

There are other provisions as well that will help higher education, but I won't go into them now. Overall, the point of this jargon-laden article is to demonstrate that the faith-based initiative is not evil, but will actually do some good. And for those of you who say that this violates separation of church and state, that is nonsense. First of all, it has nothing to do with the government supporting or not supporting religion. Rather, it seeks to support some of the services that some faith-based organizations offer. Second, this has already been codified into law, and no constitutional crises have developed as of yet.

I look forward to any and all responses.

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Why the "Faith-Based" Initiative is Nothing to be Afraid of | 73 comments (49 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
wtf? (3.20 / 5) (#4)
by Duke Machesne on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:05:04 PM EST

You said something about how this would help colleges and universities?
No, I didn't. wtf?
Overall, the point of this jargon-laden article is to demonstrate that the faith-based initiative is not evil, but will actually do some good.
So, why all the jargon? What are you trying to hide? And why do you repeatedly tell us (in language that implies that it was our idea, as above) that this bill would help colleges & universities so much, while writing only one line regarding how they might do that: in your own words, "incentives designed to help people give more money to charitable organizations, such as colleges and universities". Such as, eh? wtf?

(...and why did that guy just hug my head? and why the fuck ain't this bitch talking? i want some answers...)

__________________________________________________
arts schoolsweight loss

jargon? (none / 0) (#11)
by rebelcool on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:42:17 PM EST

maybe to someone who doesnt know what IRA's are... I would hardly call it hiding something.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

So wrong. (4.22 / 9) (#8)
by Electric Angst on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:35:46 PM EST

What the Bush proposal will do is allow faith-based organizations to take part in all federal contract processes.

Yea, and that's all we need here in the bible belt, where the inability to enter into federal contracts is all that keeps the Protestant churches from swallowing all the charitable activities around. They'll be able to take money away from organizations like Planned Parenthood, while providing none of the important services they offer, and our communities will be suffer because of it.

However, the Senate sponsors of the bill have recognized the fact that the bill won't pass with the pro-discrimination language included, and will remove it from the final version.

Yea, I'll believe it when I see it. Don't expect me to support something with a major hole on the promise that it will get patched later (particularly when our opposition is one of the motivating factors in getting the hole closed.)


--
I fly the UN Flag.
Taking away money... (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by netmouse on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 09:14:11 PM EST

They'll be able to take money away from organizations like Planned Parenthood, while providing none of the important services they offer, and our communities will be suffer because of it.

While I applaud your feelings on this, your reasoning is not quite correct. Under the current administration, no organization that provides abortions anywhere, anytime, can receive any type of federal funds. This disqualifies the international planned parenthood federation and all member groups. While I personally support Planned Parenthood a great deal, since they are not receiving federal funds, the faith-based initiative cannot take any away from them. Not right now anyway.

As an aside, there's a bipartisan bill called The Family Planning State Empowerment Act that's in the house and senate right now. I encourage everyone to write your representatives and support this bill enabling states to expand their medicaid services to provide family planning services to low income families.

--netmouse

[ Parent ]

You have your facts wrong. (3.75 / 4) (#29)
by Electric Angst on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:54:44 PM EST

I'm afraid you're the one with the incorrect assumptions. The branch of Planned Parenthood that conducts abortions does not receive any federal funding, true, but there are other branches that provide even more important services (contraceptives, family planning education, counciling) that do receive federal funds. These are services that will be in jeopardy in the communities that need them most should this 'faith-based' initiative pass.
--
I fly the UN Flag.
[ Parent ]
I wonder.. (none / 0) (#48)
by netmouse on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 11:23:48 AM EST

I'm surprised. Do you have any sources to back you up on this? I guess we could asked planned parenthood themselves.

[ Parent ]
Quick link. (none / 0) (#55)
by Electric Angst on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:55:46 PM EST

Here's one example. That was with a few minutes and google. I could do better but I'm busy right now...
--
I fly the UN Flag.
[ Parent ]
Future Funding (none / 0) (#54)
by Elkor on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:13:00 PM EST

The reason Planned Parenthood doesn't receive money is because of the "Global Gag Act" enacted by the Bush Administration.

However, in 3 years or so, a new administration may come into power that would rescind the Act, allowing Planned Parenthood to once again receive federal funds.

Assuming the Faith-based organizations don't use the funds they receive to supplement their attempts to put Planned Parenthood (and many other organizations) out of business by having more money to solicit donations that would otherwise go to PP.

(Yes, I am sure they won't directly use Fed funds to do this, but they can use the funds to free up monies from other locations to do this)

I have no problem with God, it's his fan club that I don't trust.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Why include the faith-based service provisions? (4.42 / 7) (#10)
by maveness on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 04:41:21 PM EST

I'm in favor of tax incentives for charitable donations to educational and other 501C3 organizations. So why not just have a bill with those and leave out the problematic stuff having to do with faith-based service providers?

In point of fact, those tax incentives are the sugar coating on a potentially very bitter pill.

There are many faith-based organizations who are uncomfortable about the government setting standards for how they do their charity. So they won't take any money. This, ipso facto, will mean that the government supports some religious groups with money and others not. Is this what we want?

Money used for social services may or may not come out of general funds of religious organizations. If it does, and it's replaced by gov't money, then the government is essentially subsidizing the religious activities of those organizations. How is this NOT a church/state separation problem?

This piece reads like it was cribbed from something else -- probably someone's briefing book or talking points. I'm going to vote it up anyway, because I think the topic is very important.

Disclaimer: I am a member of a religious organization. I do NOT support government funding of religious organizations' activities, whether charitable or not.

*********
Latest fortune cookie: "The current year will bring you much happiness." As if.

Yes.. (3.50 / 4) (#13)
by DeadBaby on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:02:09 PM EST

What the Bush proposal will do is allow faith-based organizations to take part in all federal contract processes.

What part of the concept of "separation of church and state" doesn't that violate? I don't want churches doing anything for the government, even if it's for free. Worst yet, my tax dollars could go to a faith that has spent hundreds of years telling its people I was evil. That's just splendid.




"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
This bit (none / 0) (#68)
by Pseudonym on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:44:33 PM EST

What part of the concept of "separation of church and state" doesn't that violate?
The bit where "faith-based organisations" are currently discriminated against (i.e. not allowed to pick up government contracts) merely on the basis of religion. That violates "separation of church and state".

I don't want churches doing anything for the government, even if it's for free.
You can prevent this by winning those contracts yourself. Of course, this is contingent on you convincing the government that you can do a better job. :-)



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Taxpayer behavior (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by Version5 on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:15:55 PM EST

I don't know a lot about tax law, but I doubt that allowing non-itemizers to claim deductions for charitable contributions would increase donations. Imagining for a moment that the legislation passed, here is my argument why not:

The increase in donations, if there is one, would be from non-itemizers. Donations from itemizers would be entirely unaffected by the new legislation

Among the non-itemizers, there would be two groups: Group 1 is those who donate primarily out of the goodness of their hearts. Group 2 is those looking for a tax break. Group 1 would be unaffected by this legislation.

People in Group 2 consist of people who want to donate to lower their taxes and don't itemize. I think this group is rather small, because if I was really concerned about lowering my taxes, the first thing I would do is run and get an accountant to itemize everything for me to see if I could squeeze out it somehow.

Perhaps I'm missing something that PriceWaterhouseCoopers hasn't? The reason that most people don't itemize is because its too much work and half the time they leave to the last minute anyway. I don't think those non-itemizers sit down and think, "How would I lower my taxes?". No, they just fill out the form and be done with it. And even if they did think that, would they be aware of the new law? Most people are pretty clueless about tax law, and maybe that it is even possible to reduce their taxes. Those that are aware are already itemizing.

quite so (none / 0) (#21)
by netmouse on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 09:01:21 PM EST

I can't remember where, but I did hear of a study that supports what you're saying. Charitable donation behavior is not expected to change under this new law.

However, I'm pleased. I donate regularly to charity but do not normally itemize my taxes. Of course that might be changing what with buying a house. I have yet to figure it out...

--netmouse

[ Parent ]

You don't explore the two most important parts... (4.28 / 7) (#15)
by Anatta on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:41:17 PM EST

The first being:

Does the US as a country want to get involved in giving taxpayer money to specific religions?

And the second,

Do religions want to get involved in government bureaucracy in order to get funding?

As to the first question, I don't think the US should go down that road. I fall somewhere in the buddhist/gnostic christian/I Have No Idea area of religion, but I know I wouldn't be too keen on having my money go to the Church of the Kreator (or whatever the name is of that KKK church), and I doubt too many in the Nation of Islam would be too keen on having their money go to say, an Orthodox Jewish group. Because of the requirement of fairness, money may by necessity go to some pretty unsavory groups. While I would 100% defend the right of them to believe what they wish, I'm not so sure I should have to spend my money on them, and they shouldn't have to spend their money on me.

Though there is no "separation of church and state" in the constitution, we do know that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." I for one would like to see Congress avoiding all such laws on religion...

Next part...

Would say a Native American Peyote-popping church be able to worship as it normally does once federal bureaucrats start storming in and making sure everything is working equitably and without discrimination? I don't think so. Though I'm not a big fan of organized religion, clearly a lot of people are, and I'm not sure how pleased they'd be to see the federal government telling them what it's acceptable to believe in order to receive government money.

In effect, my guess is that this Faith Based Initiative will work to weaken the hold religion has over American society (which should make those who dislike organized religion vote for the bill) because it will force religions to accept decisions of the state rather than god's representatives or spiritual leaders. Also, it will create a massive, thoroughly Big-Government bureaucracy in order to make sure everything is done equitably ("small government" republicans are for this?!). If I understand correctly, the way it's going to work is that there must always be a secular alternative to a religious organization in a specific area. So if, for example, a church in Houma, Louisiana wants to start a drug treament council using federal money, the feds will be forced to create a secular alternative there where there wasn't one in order to make sure everything's kosher, so to speak.

So, for those of us who like government programs and dislike organized religions, this Faith Based Initiative should be a sure-fire winner... oddly, those people seem to be the first ones to attack it.
My Music

World Church of the Creator (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by regeya on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 10:08:25 PM EST

Most assuredly not the KKK. I went to school, for a short time, with the guy who founded that. Even remember going to Barnes & Noble and seeing some Goth kids with World Church of the Creator shirts...*shudder*...and two years ago, when one of his buddies shot a bunch of people in Chicago, I was there...and was on my way home as he was driving south, on the same stretch of road...*shudder again*

I won't link to it, because I don't encourage that sort of stupidity, but to call it a church would imply there's some sort of religion. Apparently, legally, they are, but if you think it was anything other than a way to legitimize the founder's beliefs (he used his "beliefs" to form a case against the State of Illinois when he was denied a law license....boo-hoo, Mr. Hale's religious freedoms were being oppressed by inferior minorities! that was sarcasm; I don't hold racist views) you're wrong. The Creator referred to in the name of the Church? God? Some sort of Deity? No! The Creator is the White Man! Bah! Religion, my ass.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

The second reason (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by wiredog on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:44:44 AM EST

The fear of government regulations being imposed upon the operations of churches is why the initiative went down in flames last spring. Jerry Falwell and company were much more vocal in opposition to it than the ACLU types were.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]
This is not handouts! (4.66 / 3) (#52)
by krlynch on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:54:16 PM EST

Because of the requirement of fairness, money may by necessity go to some pretty unsavory groups.

I don't necessarily support this bill, because I haven't read it in complete detail, but there seems to be some misunderstanding of the details that I have read. This bill is NOT about handing money to religions to do their religious work...it is about allowing religion-based organizations to bid for contracts on the provision of social services that are paid for by the federal government. That is, instead of only allowing private, non-religious companies to bid on those contracts, religious groups would be allowed to bid for those contracts. And just like the companies that get these contracts now, religious organizations will have to prove that they can actually successfully operate the services they are bidding to provide. It isn't going to be about "fairness to all religions", it's going to be about being able to fulfill the contractual obligations to provide the necessary services. Concerns about satanic cults getting government money are largely unfounded, and the worries that government will be "choosing" favored religions to "give money to" are mostly overblown.

One still have to be careful about the details if this is passed and implemented; I just think that people should be talking about the real issues involved, and not the strawman arguments over giving money to satanists, because they aren't the ones that will be bidding to provide services....

[ Parent ]

Substitution (none / 0) (#64)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 06:20:13 PM EST

This bill is NOT about handing money to religions to do their religious work...it is about allowing religion-based organizations to bid for contracts on the provision of social services that are paid for by the federal government.

One of the pricipal elements of economics is the idea of substitution; if you are a church, and you spend X dollars on social programs and Y dollars on religious programs... and I give you more X dollars for your social programs, you can now divert some of dollars you used to spend on X and spend it on Y.

Giving money to churches allows them to spend it in any way they please, assuming they spend at least the amount of dollars given by the feds on social programs. It's the same idea as using food stamps to purchase a TV or a car. When given food stamps, one no longer has to spend one's money on food, and can spend it on other things. Call it what you will, that is the result of the program.

Even though Bush may try to convince us otherwise, he's simply using euphamisms for his fundings, just as he is using the euphamism of Faith-Based Initiative to destroy the separations of church and state.
My Music
[ Parent ]

Well, at least you admit you're a lobbyist. (3.80 / 5) (#16)
by RobotSlave on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 05:48:16 PM EST

Voting for the initiative based on the putative benefits to higher education that you have delineated would be like voting to ratify the US Constitution based on Article IV, section 3, paragraph one, delineating minor rules for the admission of new states.

The bill is much more sweeping, but if you want to focus on higher education, fine. Let's get it on.

Since when were colleges and universities "charitable institutions?" True, they are allowed to take donations, so in a technical sense they might be considered "charitable," but they are a far cry from nonprofit institutions. Most colleges and universities are either for-profit business ventures, or state-funded services. And you know what? I think that's a good mix. I'd be perfectly happy if zero dollars arrived in the coffers of higher education via "charitable" channels.

Donations to schools have done some good, I'm sure, but they've also done considerable harm-- e.g. in defending the atrocities of college athletic programs, administrations always claim that they must spend millions of dollars on, say, a new football stadium, because they are beholden to alumni. And you want to open up that alumni dollar spigot using tax leverage? Shame on you. Let the schools be funded by tuition and/or state subsidy. You will end up with schools beholden to some mix of the free market and democratic bureaucracy, but there are worse things to be beholden to.

There is a strong market for education, and strong popular support for it as well. It doesn't need charity. It especially doesn't need to be put in a position where it must tailor its curriculum and research to please the largest and best funded special interest groups.

Academia should not be a mirror of Washington.

Where are the for-profit schools? (none / 0) (#70)
by Secret Coward on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 03:54:51 AM EST

Most colleges and universities are either for-profit business ventures, or state-funded services.

Can you name two colleges or universities that are for-profit business ventures? The only one I know of is DeVRY Institute of Technology. All the other schools I know of, are either tax-funded public schools, or non-profit private schools.

Many private schools offer tuition reductions and/or grants for financially disadvantaged students. Private schools also receive considerable funding from their alumni. I would not expect either of these from a for-profit business.

The idea of a for-profit school frightens me. I do not want a school making deals where some outside party pays them to teach certain things (i.e. copyrights are God's gift to knowledge; Capitalism solves everything).

[ Parent ]

Had to vote -1 (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by DeadBaby on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 06:03:10 PM EST

This just reeks of a fixed story. Even most republicans I know think this bill is a terrible idea. I don't believe any democrat, outside of bible thumpers, would support such a pandering bill to the radical right.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
I support this Bill... I think (4.50 / 4) (#25)
by netmouse on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 10:17:09 PM EST

I believe that the logical outcome of the separation of churche and state should be that the involvement of your religious faith in the motivation of your actions should not change the government's position regarding those actions.

I think that it is in fact inconsistent of the government to exclude faith-based organizations from federal social programs due to the religious nature of those groups of people, so long as the services they might provide are as helpful, as neutral and as non-discriminatory as the services anyone else might provide.

To me this is the crux of the matter. Anyone who wishes to qualify for these funds has to follow the government's rules. On the one hand, you have conservative commentators arguing that this initiative could interfere with the activities of churches across the country. On the other hand, you have people worried that somehow a group might qualify for these funds yet still require people to participate in, or at least tolerate a lecture or prayer of, some particular faith in order to benefit from the services.

So long as the latter could not happen, I would support H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act of 2001. However, I find that I'm not convinced on this point. To see the whole Bill (I believe the most current version is number 4, but it is confusing) go to the Thomas Legislative Information search page and search by bill number "H.R. 7".

In case you are not aware, the president established Cabinet offices to research and prepare a report, Unlevel Playing Field: Barriers to Participation by Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Federal Social Service Programs that is the basis for many of the details of this bill.

You should also be aware that the bill includes an 8-year plan for increasing the allowable percentage cap of charitable contributions from corporations from 10% to 15%. Unfortunately the bill does not cross-reference the amended section of the IRS Code, so I'm not sure what this cap is. Let's see...

The entire U.S. tax code is huge. A searchable 1994 version of it appears to be available here. So let's see.. in section 170b paragraph (2) that describes the cap as a limit on deductions as a percentage of the taxpayer [corporation]'s taxable income. Well, increasing that is fine by me.

Furthermore, H.R. 7 would lower the Excise tax on net investment income of private foundations from 2 to 1%. I'm in favor of this, as I do not support most federal excise taxes. Excise taxes compose less than 10% of our federal receipts and are separate from (read: in addition to) income tax though still collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

--netmouse

I used to agree (4.33 / 3) (#30)
by vsync on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:21:54 AM EST

I strongly agree that the religious element (or lack thereof) should not disqualify an organization from participation in community improvement. The way this bill was first presented, its goal was simply to level the playing field for all organizations, and I supported it as such.

However, this support was not unconditional. Any government entanglement with religion (or rather with established religious organizations) inevitably leads to trouble. Especially when money is involved, I would not be surprised to see strings attached to such support (for example, discrimination based on sexual orientation). After becoming dependant on or at least accustomed to these funds, churches and other organizations would be faced with the hard choice of watering down their beliefs or losing funding. Better to avoid such a quandary from the start.

Additionally, the strong emphasis on "faith-based programs" made me a little uneasy. While this is indeed the key disparity with current regulations, it would seem wiser to place the emphasis on equal access to funding regardless of the religious status of the organization. And George W. Bush is the consummate politician, desparate to keep the favor of the conservative "Christian" voting block which helped him into office.

I originally supported this legislation, on the grounds that it was a long overdue change (although the libertarian in me would much rather see an overall decrease in the amount of funds being channeled through the government) and that regardless of the intentions of its creators, it had a strong likelihood of promoting good.

Recent news, however, has led me to alter my stance. Bush's recent policies concerning stem cell research and affirmative action seem to indicate that he is less concerned with any moral platform than with whatever will make him most popular, or rather what will make him unpopular with the least amount of people. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt before, although I could not in good conscience vote for him, but his departure from the ideals so loudly proclaimed in his campaign, and even more unnerving, his silence in failing to justify such actions, makes me increasingly nervous in placing a possibly groundbreaking change in the relationship between church and state in the hands of this administration.

The clincher was when I read in a recent news article that this administration does not plan to grant such funding to Wiccan or other "non-mainstream" religious organizations. This is an untenable position. The government cannot be granted the authority to approve or disapprove religions or the authenticity thereof. First, it is clearly illegal under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. Second, it is a clear moral hazard. It is hard not to imagine this authority spreading from the realm of charitable funds into any and all others.

While I support the public justification behind this legislation, I cannot support this implementation. I would require many more safeguards against governmental editorializing of what constitutes "true faith", and quite honestly I doubt whether any safeguards can adequately protect against governmental enforcement. I worry that this power is far too tempting to present before them, even in limited form. Furthermore, I do not trust this administration to carry out this plan or any similar one.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]

Can you cite this? (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by ti dave on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:49:28 AM EST

"The clincher was when I read in a recent news article that this administration does not plan to grant such funding to Wiccan or other "non-mainstream" religious organizations."

I'm dying to verify this.

Cheers,

ti dave
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
I'd like some verification as well... (2.50 / 2) (#57)
by dgwatson on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:21:12 PM EST

Since I think that that it's probably false. I have NEVER heard this, and there is NO way that they would write that into law... "These organizations get funding for programs, but thsoe ones don't"? Get real!

This is just some anti-religious bigot who is making up facts to suit his purposes.

[ Parent ]
so would i :P (3.00 / 3) (#59)
by vsync on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:39:42 PM EST

As I replied to the parent comment, I lost the only citation I had on this matter, and I would personally welcome any evidence for or against the statement in question.
there is NO way that they would write that into law... "These organizations get funding for programs, but thsoe ones don't"? Get real!
Really?
This is just some anti-religious bigot who is making up facts to suit his purposes.
Um. Please explain how any of my statements could be construed as being anti-religious.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]
sadly, no (none / 0) (#58)
by vsync on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:31:48 PM EST

I'm almost positive that it was in one of the major Colorado newspapers (Denver Post or Rocky Mountain News), but I can't say for sure. I saw it once and then couldn't find it again. Yes, I may be hallucinating.

--
"The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
[ Parent ]
He did a bad job then... (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by krlynch on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:39:10 PM EST

Bush's recent policies concerning stem cell research and affirmative action seem to indicate that he is less concerned with any moral platform than with whatever will make him most popular, or rather what will make him unpopular with the least amount of people.

If his goal has been to minimize his unpopularity, then he's been doing a pretty bad job! His stem cell stance has angered everyone on both sides of the issue, although I think it was a pragmatic solution to an unsolvable problem for exactly the reason that no solution would have pleased everyone. And his affirmative action stances recently have also been extremely pragmatic, again angering people on both sides of the issue. If he's trying to minimize the unpopularity of his policies, he's going about it in a strange way.

In my opinion, he realizes that he isn't going to be able to please anyone on these types of issues, no matter what he decides (including not deciding!). So he's trying to find pragmatic solutions to these issues that keep rearing their heads so that he can lay them to rest long enough to keep the public focused on issues he wants to focus on.

[ Parent ]

So... (3.50 / 2) (#28)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:11:53 PM EST

... enacting thing A is good because there are some other things B and C that are in the same bill, and B and C are good? Funny, but I was taught that, under those conditions, the term for A is pork. Bushie trying to give his pals some juicy pork I can understand, but I would much rather they trim the faith-based-bacon off of that part about encouraging more charity donations and then put it to a vote.



GOP: All your faith are belong to us. (4.55 / 9) (#31)
by kitten on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 03:45:59 AM EST

What the Bush proposal will do is allow faith-based organizations to take part in all federal contract processes. Not really a revolutionary concept.

Murder isn't really a revolutionary concept either - this doesn't mean murder is good.
Why is our esteemed leader so hell-bent on this 'faith-based' nonsense anyway? There are literally hundreds of other nonprofit organizations out there that can deal with social issues, without having to do it in the name of some diety or other. Perhaps Bush should focus on those organizations, and let the faith-based ilk fund themselves, which they are more than able to do.

But what about possible discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people?

What about it, indeed?

Unfortunately, the White House, being the White House, entered into a horrible agreement that would permit organizations that win federal contracts to ignore local and state anti-discrimination laws... However, the Senate sponsors of the bill have recognized the fact that the bill won't pass with the pro-discrimination language included, and will remove it from the final version.

Which of course would please the government (or so we'd like to think), but will the religions organizations in question really appreciate having to admit gays, etc, in stark contrast to their holy doctrines? The Seperation works both ways - the churches should not be funded by the government, and the government shouldn't be telling the churches what they can and cannot do.

You said something about how this would help colleges and universities?

No.

Not only will this bill tremendously aid colleges and universities, but it will help ALL non-profit organizations.

Since when is a college or university a nonprofit organization?

The majority of the legislation is actually tax incentives designed to help people give more money to charitable organizations, such as colleges and universities. ... The most important of these is the IRA rollover ... The IRA rollover would allow individuals to exclude from gross income any distributions from a traditional or Roth IRA ... the non-itemizer deduction for charitable donations. Currently, individual taxpayers that itemize their deductions may claim a deduction for contributions ...

Blah, blah blah.. all of this nonsense and jargon could be avoided if we had a flat national sales tax and disbanded the idiotic self-perpetuating unnecessary Empire Of Paper-Pushers known as the IRS.

And for those of you who say that this violates separation of church and state, that is nonsense.

Nonsense, is it?
  • Government provides money to religious organizations;
  • Religious organizations receiving federal funds must now do certain things that their doctrine may forbid or strongly discourage them to do, e.g., consort with homosexuals, under mandate of federal law;
  • Religious organization must now either be forbidden to preach to the people they are helping (State telling Church what to do), or be allowed to preach (federally-funded institution telling people what to believe). Either way we've got a problem.
    Sounds like a violation to me - for both Church and State.

    Rather, it seeks to support some of the services that some faith-based organizations offer.

    Can a church really help an alcoholic as well as, say, AA? I'm of the opinion that the last thing a drug addict needs is to be told he's a sinner. How about teen pregnancy? "You had sex before marraige?! Sinner and harlot, you'll burn in Hell.. unless ye repent immedietly and say forty-seven thousand Hail Marys!" This is really not what people need in times of crisis.
    What stipulation will this bill provide that the people seeking help will not be preached at, threatened, or otherwise "saved" or "converted" or whatever people are calling it these days? This is of paramount importance, for if a federally-funded institution is telling people what they should and should not believe, we've got a huge problem.

    And if those religious organizations are forbidden - by federal law - to preach to people, then we've got another problem.

    You know, every time I see that guy that looks like Santa Claus come on the TV and tell me about poor starving Maria and won't I donate twelve guineas a day to the Christian Children's Fund to save her, I am sickened. The Christian Children's Fund - like any other 'faith based' community service - has very little interest in helping for helping's sake; rather, they perform their Good Deeds so that they can also "educate" their new proteges on the Bible. Really, those little kids have no choice - it's either "listen to us tell you what religion to believe in day after day, or starve to death."

    How will the 'faith based' organizations of Bush's bill be any different?
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
  • Part of the reason I might support this... (none / 0) (#49)
    by netmouse on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:06:55 PM EST

    Part of why I consider supporting this is I know of some faith-based programs I would really like to see get federal funding (no, I don't belong to a church).

    There is, for example a mission for under 21 people in distress in the heart of New York city. It's part of the Covenant House network. And I don't know, but I suspect it's not eligible for federal funds.

    --Anne

    [ Parent ]

    Universities (none / 0) (#50)
    by krlynch on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 12:26:36 PM EST

    Since when is a college or university a nonprofit organization?

    Since the nonprofit status was passed into the Internal Revenue Code. Almost every university in the U.S. is a nonprofit, officially run by a nonprofit corporation, usually called the "Corporation" or the "Board of Trustees".

    [ Parent ]

    AA is successful? (4.00 / 1) (#62)
    by coffee17 on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:43:29 PM EST

    AA is a waste of taxpayer money, and is a horrible breach of church and state. A bit part of it is the accepting of a "higher power" and it is an insult that a court can mandate an atheist/agnostic to attend AA when there are viable secular institutions with higher success rates.

    A link which might be of interest:

    Piety Gets you Sobriety?



    [ Parent ]

    Violation? Huh? (none / 0) (#67)
    by Pseudonym on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:34:02 PM EST

    Sounds like a violation to me - for both Church and State.
    It doesn't sound to me like a violation for State. The State just gives funds to someone who otherwise would be discriminated against on the grounds of religion.

    You could argue it's a violation for Church, but surely that's the price they pay to get federal funds? We won't interfere unless you want money from us, in which case we get to say how it's used.

    Seems perfectly fair.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    Yes, a violation. (none / 0) (#72)
    by kitten on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 04:50:54 PM EST

    It doesn't sound to me like a violation for State. The State just gives funds to someone who otherwise would be discriminated against on the grounds of religion.

    By giving the money to the relgious institution, said institution now becomes a government-funded institution.
    The government now has two choices: Either it can allow the religious organization to preach to the people it's "helping", or it can forbid it.
    If the government allows the preaching, then a government-funded institution is preaching. This is not allowed.
    Or, if the government forbids such preaching, then the government is telling a church how to worship, and this is also not allowed.

    You could argue it's a violation for Church, but surely that's the price they pay to get federal funds? We won't interfere unless you want money from us, in which case we get to say how it's used.

    I submit to you that the government holding dollar signs over a Church's head and saying "You want this? Then you gotta do what WE say,not what your holy text says" is a violation of that Seperation.


    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Hardly (5.00 / 1) (#73)
    by Pseudonym on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 04:01:15 AM EST

    The government will hardly be holding dollar signs over a church's head. Your image is of the government waving bundles of cash in front of a religion saying "Hey, you want some money? All you have to do is make a few changes to that holy book of yours..." I picture the government saying "Now who wants to pick up this contract? Oh, you religious guys, you can bid too if you want." Nobody is forcing religions to accept government money. Nobody is even actively encouraging them to. The idea is to allow them to if they're prepared to play by the government rules.

    Picking up a contract to provide government services also does not pose any constraints on that religion beyond what they can do with the government's money. This would not pose a problem to any religion unless it has as part of its creed that you must preach to anyone that you come in contact with. I can't name a single mainstream religion of which this is true. (It might be true of some large non-mainstream groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses or something. Not sure.) Indeed, some religions (e.g. Judaism) don't even evangelise.

    But even if it did somehow compromise a religion's beliefs or practices, why does that matter to you? Surely if it's a problem for a given religion, they can avoid the dilemma by simply not bidding for government money.

    I think that part of the problem is that you're stuck on the word "religious". Suppose the Communist Hippies for Compulsory Vegitarianism Welfare Service successfully bid for a government welfare contract. Would that be okay? I submit that it is okay, so long as they don't "preach" on government money or on government time.

    I further submit that your hypotheticals are hypotheticals and little more. Here in the state of Victoria (Australia), we used to have a government-run employment service. That has been split up and privatised, and many of the contracts have been awarded to religious organisations (the Salvation Army and the Catholic Church are two that I know of). Nobody has yet complained of preaching. Well, I haven't heard of such a claim, anyway, but I strongly suspect that it would be all over the news if it did happen. Like every western democracy, only the government is allowed to evangelise with government money. :-)



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    This says it all (2.75 / 4) (#34)
    by paxus on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:17:52 AM EST

    And i quote, "As someone who works in the political scene in DC..." Nothing more needs to be said.


    "...I am terrible time, the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world... " - Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita
    This bill is bad - but so is the alternative. (4.57 / 7) (#35)
    by enterfornone on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 05:00:05 AM EST

    The problem here is that the majority of people both for and agaist this bill seem to feel that they have a right to decide who the government should donate taxpayer funds too. Either you donate only to secular groups or your let religious groups have some of the funds.

    Since the government is supposedly the voice of the people then the people should decide who they want to give funds to. Some people want to give funds to only secular groups. Others want to give funds to religious groups.

    On top of that some want to give funds to medical charities groups that don't support abortion. Some want to give funds to research that doesn't test on animals. And other individuals have other beliefs on who their money should go to.

    Whatever choice the government makes, it will not please the majority of people because the majority of people want to choose for themselves which charities they donate to. The only right descision here is to remove the government from the process, give the money back to the people and let individuals decide who it should go to.

    --
    efn 26/m/syd
    Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
    Damn this makes me mad (2.33 / 3) (#37)
    by Lord13 on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 08:40:52 AM EST

    I was actually going to write an article about this subject. I have been doing research (I'm lazy so it's been slow going) and I have read the entire bill. This article just plain pisses me off. The author is completly misrepresenting the bill and what its real intentions are. There are a lot of explosive issues(abortion is a big one) assoiciated with this bill and the author fails to examine the bill in depth. I'm going to get off my lazy butt and write the damn thing. Maybe I can submit it later this afternoon.

    Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
    Nope (3.00 / 2) (#43)
    by RangerBob on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 09:55:59 AM EST

    You know, I'm all for my separation of church and state. I think that you and your buddies really ought to read some history books and figure out why we in America tend to like our separation of church and state. As a hint, I'll remind you that an awful lot of people came over here because certain state sponsored religions were persecuting the hell out of them (pun intended). While it may not be explicity stated ther than a small blurb, the writings of the founding fathers of this nation are still available. Education presidents and their supporters should read them sometime.

    This whole issue shows an EXTREME lack of thought. If you give to one religion, you have to give to ALL who ask for it. This includes Scientologists, Satanists, etc. Instead of thinking about things like this, you, along with the current adminstration, try to hide the downsides by proudly proclaiming the small and insignificant benefits like tax deductions and the like. I mean, come on, this isn't going to help out universities or other non-religions charitable organizations in one little bit. If a religion wants to spread its message, let it do it on its own time and money. I'll admit that I'm biased against this issue, because I can really see this leading to state sanctioned religions, or even only one state sanctioned religion period.

    And on a personal issue, no, I don't really care for my tax dollars going to certain religions. When I was younger, I lived in a town that was dominated by southern Baptists (was in a Catholic family myself). Now, the fundie SB's in no way hid their animosity towards us. Every spring, I was treated to seeing posters plaastered around downtown that proclaimed how people like me should be killed because we were in that other religion. I got to see nice graphic images of how to gut me. And now, I have a president from the same group who wants to give my money to people like this?

    Whoa, nelly! (none / 0) (#56)
    by BurntHombre on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 02:42:44 PM EST

    When I was younger, I lived in a town that was dominated by southern Baptists (was in a Catholic family myself). Now, the fundie SB's in no way hid their animosity towards us. Every spring, I was treated to seeing posters plaastered around downtown that proclaimed how people like me should be killed because we were in that other religion. I got to see nice graphic images of how to gut me.

    Okay, you can't drop a bomb like this without further clarification. The Southern Baptists advocated the murder of Catholics? Please tell me more, it sounds extremely exciting! I'll be disappointed if it just turns out to be false hyperbole. :(

    [ Parent ]

    Like? (none / 0) (#66)
    by RangerBob on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:28:33 PM EST

    *shrug* It wasn't official, and was the work of a fringe group, but was fairly well known where I grew up who was responsible. We were also blamed for Hitler and the Holocust and just about everything else bad that had ever happened. But yeah, I've never forgotten it, and I'll be damned if I ever advocate the government giving money to ANY religious organization.

    [ Parent ]
    Faith-based Initiative and the Drug War (4.66 / 3) (#53)
    by bmasel on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 01:10:42 PM EST

    1.) Drug Rehabs would be removed from any State Oversight as may currently exist, leaving them free to mess with the Human Rights of their charges.

    2.) The overriding Political purpose of the Initiative is to buy the support of the Black Clergy. In many regards, it has already succeeded.

    Last spring I attempted to invite local religious leaders to a conference on the harms of our War on Drugs, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Two ministers told me (paraphrase) that they were more and more coming to agree the WOD was a mistake, but would not participate, as they might lose their place in line for the Faith-based $$$$$.


    I am not currently Licensed to Practice in this State.
    Can you say... (3.00 / 1) (#60)
    by cyberdruid on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:02:23 PM EST

    ..."Astroturfing"?

    Luckily many of the replies were much better formulated than the actual article.

    OK, it's bundled with some nice goodies (4.00 / 3) (#63)
    by error 404 on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 04:47:23 PM EST

    The faith-based part is still a very, very bad idea.

    Bundling a bad idea with a good one does not make the bad idea good. It is a negotiation tactic, not a rhetorical tactic. It only works when the bundling is respected - that's what the whole idea is behind the line-item veto.

    Bundling may work for getting a bill past a legislative body, but k5 isn't a legislative body. We don't negotiate here, we discuss.

    Now, if you could convince us that there is a logical neccesity that the tax breaks have to go with the rape of the First Ammendment, well, there would be something to discuss. And my part of the discussion would be "Hell, No!" But as it stands, I can't even be that positive.


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    A bigger agenda? (4.33 / 3) (#65)
    by billman on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 07:17:15 PM EST

    I really don't consider myself a democrat or a republican though I do tend to have more of a conservative slant in the Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt sense. That being said, Bush's actions on at least two different issues either show a hidden agenda or my wishful thinking.

    First is this particular issue. The government is absolutely pitiful when it comes to managing any sort of social program. With so much money at stake, every special interest group has a hand in the pot until there's nothing left for the people who are supposed to be receiving the benefit. I think it was on an ABC special where they showed how the government spends something like $40,000 a year to help each family living under the poverty level. Hell, if they just cut them checks for $20,000 a pop, we could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Instead, layers upon layers of government skim off a little here a little there until there's almost nothing left.

    So my theory here is not that Bush wants faith based initatives as much as he wants to get the government out of the business of running these social programs. This just happens to be the path of least resistance. Yes, he does get the support of key religious groups but that's a perk not the goal. First it's faith based initatives with tax perks, then slowly pull the government out of the middle man position alltogether and let people contribute directly to any non-profit they deem appropriate. Proposing the end goal would set off alarms in every group that gets far off of the government's current inefficiency so could it be that Bush is taking baby steps to ease the people into a frame of mind that will help sneak this by?

    My other theory has to do with education. I don't want to bash teachers but let's face it, the educational system in this country is a complete failure. It's almost criminal. It has been shown time and time again that private schools on the same amount of funding as a public school graduate more children with higher SAT and other standardized test scores. I'm not talking about your upper class exclusive private prep schools, I'm talking about places like Oakland where a private corporation took over running one of the worst schools in the district and within two years turned it into one of the best schools in the district AND increased the number of minority students. The school board is attempting to close the school because they are concerned that the company may actually turn a profit which they claim is not a proper use of school funds. The truth is that they want to hide the success when they failed for over a decade to do the same thing. It also keeps more money from coming in which is the real goal of the educational system. So is Bush for school vouchers or is he simply doing an end run around the educational system which is run by democrats and all of the teacher's organizations which in aggregate are one of the largest contributors to the Democratic National Party? If you take the kids (i.e. the money for each kid) out of the hands of a hostile enemy (the teacher's unions who oppose educational reform that doesn't involve more money), you can weaken them and eventually break them. Taking on the teacher's unions and the educational system as a whole would be political suicide regardless of whether you're right or wrong. Teachers would be sending out propaganda left and right to parents telling them that little Johnny is going to grow up ignorant because of that big bad president and his reforms. So instead of attacking them head on, you take away their base (i.e. their money). You do it slowly so that the objections of the teachers seem silly. "What do you mean you oppose voucher programs if a school fails to meet certain standards three years in a row? That seems perfectly reasonable to me." You set up arguments in such a way that makes them look stupid for opposing them and you whittle away at their power. Far fetched? I don't know, just a theory.

    I don't know, call me paranoid or a conspiracy theorist but nothing in politics is what it seems. There's always a hidden agenda and it just may be that Bush is a lot more crafty than people give him credit for.

    Chomsky and the Manufacture of Consent (4.00 / 1) (#69)
    by gbd on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 10:29:45 PM EST

    Have you ever read Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent?" The idea is that the political establishment and especially the mass media change people's beliefs through the clever and gradual use of propaganda. Those who think that Bush's faith-based program is harmless would do well to read this book. The whole idea thoroughly reeks of the worst kind of evil imaginable.

    Of course they're not going to fund non-Christian religions. And of course the mass media will report it. When people turn on their television sets and see that non-Christian religions are being denied funding, it will begin to reinforce the very idea that Bush wants people to believe: that Christianity is "the real religion" and that all others are evil. Before long, he will have manipulated the media so far as to make people start believing that human beings who do not practice Christianity are not "real humans."

    History teaches us what happens next.

    I know that there are those who believe that Bush is too dumb and slow-witted to actually make this plan work. But I tend to think that's a stunningly naive attitude. He's surrounded himself with a slew of politically-savvy fundamentalists, people who are quite adept at manipulating the media for the purposes of manufacturing consent. We would do well to nip this thing in the bud now, before the history of the twenty-first century is as atrocity-laden as the previous one.

    --
    Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

    How could anyone be against funding religion? (3.66 / 3) (#71)
    by EdFox on Sun Aug 19, 2001 at 02:53:45 PM EST

    The simple answer is that many Americans consider religion to be the cause of many societal and social problems rather than the solution. Intolerance, hate, scorn, abuse, and rejection are viewed by many as the central tenets of religious doctrine. As a devout atheist who considers the Bible the most damaging work ever published and organized religion directly responsible for the bulk of human suffering throughout all of recorded history, I am appalled by the concept of taxing the citizens of the United States then turning over those funds to these same religious groups for any use.

    Paid lobbyists and christian fundamentalists stared in mute shock as a massive wave of public objection rose almost instantly to W's innocent little idea. Blinded by their own dogma, they cannot understand why anyone would take offense to their mission. Aid the poor, feed the hungry, treat the addicted, these are all noble goals. The problem with all of this is that theists are incapable of assisting anyone with anything without trying to bring their damn god(s) into the picture. As a reflex, a theist will attempt to spread the "good news" in the same breath as any offer of assistance. They are simply incapable of expunging their proselytizing from their messages.

    For this reason I, as an American citizen who totally disavows religion, object in the strongest terms to any of my tax dollars being given to these groups. Their ability to assist those in need is totally subordinate to the glaring fact that these groups are religious in nature. In other words, I care more about not funding religion of any nature than helping the poor.

    To borrow the slogan of the American Atheists:
    OUR MONEY + THEIR RELIGION = NO WAY!


    Why the "Faith-Based" Initiative is Nothing to be Afraid of | 73 comments (49 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
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