What is Mike Huckabee Talking About?

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Mike Huckabee says the stimulus bill is “anti-religion.” The Christian Coalition calls it “an attack on people of faith.” The Traditional Values declares that the economic package “stimulates anti-Christian bigotry.” My goodness. Maybe the devil really is in the details.

Or…maybe this is a classic case of social conservatives ginning up yet another false charge of anti-Christian bigotry in order to avoid coming up with a legitimate reason to oppose the stimulus bill. Let’s look at what we’re really talking about here.

The provision that has the Huckabee gang all atwitter would prevent the use of federal construction funds for college facilities used primarily for religious purposes. In other words, you can’t take federal money and use it to build a chapel on your campus. It does not do…well, pretty much everything Senator Jim DeMint claimed it would:

“[It] would make sure students could never talk openly and honestly about their faith … what this means is that students can’t meet together in their dorms if that dorm has been repaired with federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study. They can’t get together in their student centers. They can’t have a commencement service where a speaker talks about their personal faith… Classes on world religions and religious history, academic studies of religious texts could be banned”

Now, that’s just ridiculous–and unabashedly disingenuous, to boot. Again, the provision would prevent the use of federal funds for the construction of religious facilities. That’s been federal law for decades and has to be reiterated every time monies for school construction are approved.

Of course, while social conservatives have been crying wolf about this higher ed construction provision, they’ve largely ignored a provision in the House version of the bill (the Senate version largely stripped out school construction funding and the issue is at the crux of negotiations between the two chambers) that didn’t include parochial and other nonpublic schools in the “green schools” initiative that allocates money for schools to modernize. What their protest has done is conflate the two issues for many congressional staffers, some of whom have hardened their opposition to allowing parochial schools to access the modernization funds. Way to go, Huckabee Gang.

Says one religious lobbyist advocating for an expansion of the green schools provision: “The Traditional Values crowd doesn’t have the material interests of religious higher education institutions in mind. They’re just trying to put points on the board. They’re not interested in the green schools issue because it’s not something you can put in a direct mail piece. There wasn’t any language in the House bill that explicitly said parochial schools can’t get this money. But the higher ed section had to clarify that you can’t use this money to build a chapel. So they’re taking that and running with it.”

What’s most maddening is that the people getting the mobilization alerts and emails from the Christian Coalitions of the world are getting squeezed under the weight of the collapsing economy. There are legitimate arguments to be made that this stimulus package may not be the solution they need. But instead of making those arguments, the Huckabee Gang would rather scare folks with false claims of bigotry and discrimination. WWJD? Hell, no.

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