Monday, October 30, 2006
In the New York Review of Book, Garry Wills has a long essay criticizing the Bush Administration for what Wills regards as its excessive injection of religion into policymaking. It's overheated and unfair, in my view (e.g., "[t]he labyrinthine infiltration of the agencies was invisible to Americans outside the culture of the religious right"). In the end, I do not think it is a stretch to say that, in Wills's view, any argument or position that is (a) held by the Bush Administration and some Christians (b) with which Wills disagrees is a "faith based" position.
The piece is basically a bill of particulars. One charge, in the section called "faith-based justice," struck me as particularly unfounded:
Ashcroft's use of the Civil Rights Division for religious purposes was broader than his putting partial-birth abortion under its jurisdiction. Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, two critics of Republican policies, write in One Party Country:
In 2002, the department established within its Civil Rights Division a separate "religious rights" unit that added a significant new constituency to a division that had long focused on racial injustice. When the Salvation Army— which had been receiving millions of dollars in federal funds—was accused in a private lawsuit of violating federal antidiscrimination laws by requiring employees to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Civil Rights Division for the first time took the side of the alleged discriminators.
Surely, in a government constrained by our First Amendment, and dedicated to honoring our longstanding commitment to religious freedom, it is entirely appropriate for the "Department of Justice" to include in the "constituency" of the Civil Rights Division those who care not only about racial injustice but also discrimination against religion?