Sponsoring a government religion without calling it government-sponsored religion

June 19, 2006 | By | 3 Replies More

A few years ago, in his State of the Union speech, President Bush called for a  massive increase in federal spending to help fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  At the time, I was suprised that Bush — who is not known as a friend of AIDS victims, people of color, or countries without petroleum reserves — would make such a statement.  Today, I have a new perspective on Bush’s seemingly incongruous statement.

The PBS program, “Religion and Ethics,” said yesterday that the Bush Administration has been requiring one-third of the money spent on AIDS relief in Africa to be spent on abstinence-only sex education programs.  Since virtually the only people who create such programs are evangelical Christians (whose religious beliefs coincide with Bush’s own), it’s obvious what motivated Bush to call for aid to Africa:  it has enabled him to funnel very large amounts of federal money directly into the pockets of evangelical Christians without overtly violating the Constitutional ban on government-sponsored religion.  In other words, as is always the case with politicians, if you want to know what’s really driving them, always follow the money.

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Category: Politics, Religion, Reproductive Rights

About the Author ()

Grumpypilgrim is a writer and management consultant living in Madison, WI. He has several scientific degrees, including a recent master’s degree from MIT. He has also held several professional career positions, none of which has been in a field in which he ever took a university course. Grumps is an avid cyclist and, for many years now, has traveled more annual miles by bicycle than by car…and he wishes more people (for the health of both themselves and our planet) would do the same. Grumps is an enthusiastic advocate of life-long learning, healthy living and political awareness. He is single, and provides a loving home for abused and abandoned bicycles. Grumpy’s email: grumpypilgrim(AT)@gmail(DOT).com [Erich’s note: Grumpy asked that his email be encrypted this way to deter spam. If you want to write to him, drop out the parentheticals in the above address].

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    But maybe those abstinence-only programs are effective–well, actually not. It is widely reported that abstinence-only programs used in schools:

    violate students' free speech rights by censoring student publications of articles referring to sexuality. Abstinence-only programs often promote alarmist misinformation about sexual health and force-feed students religious ideology that condemns homosexuality, masturbation, abortion, and contraception.

    Where is any credible evidence that abstinence-only programs result in abstinence? I don't see that evidence.  Rather, I see thousands of years of evidence that telling people not to have sex only works sometimes, with some people.  Ergo, we're pouring money into African AIDS programs that haven't been shown to be effective. See also, http://thinkprogress.org/?tag=AIDS

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Indeed, the PBS story I mentioned in my post reported that the abstinence-only programs in Africa either don't mention contraceptives at all or, if they do mention them, it is only to provide negative information about them — i.e., to make them appear ineffective. People who live in the communities where such programs exist even have difficulty obtaining condoms. A film clip of one of one abstinence-only program also showed people singing a song to Jesus, so it was obvious that evangelical Christians were running the operation.

    Of course, this is just one part of Bush's so-called "faith-based initiatives," which is his euphemism for "government sponsorship of evangelical Christians." This is not to say that evangelical Christianity is the only religious sect receiving federal money under Bush, but it is apparently receiving a vast majority of the money. Whenever new government money becomes available, evengalicals working inside the Whitehouse make sure to notify evangelical groups in the private sector and help them with the application process, so they are assured of getting a big slice of the pie.

  3. Erika Price says:

    Somehow I suspect that these evangelical abstinence-only "educators" use much the same methods as the ineffective US public school abstinence-only "educators"- namely, they remain in large part entirely mum on the specifics of sex and sexuality. Many abstinence-only programs in the US consist of a hearty, "Don't have sex before marriage or terrible things will happen", with no description of contraceptives, the way that STIs spread, or the way that conception actually takes place.

    Considering the rampant misunderstanding of AIDS and how it spreads by the people of Africa- many believe as per myth or gossip that one can cure the condition by having sex with a virgin- education programs must involve full, candid access to information that Africans don't generally have.

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