The Freedom From Religion Foundation
is going to argue
in front of the US Supreme Court next week on behalf of their case that the Office of Faith Based Initiatives
in the White House is unconstitutional. What is at stake is "whether taxpayers can sue over federal funding that the foundation believes promotes religion." I would imagine that in terms of a precedent-setting decision, the Supreme Court will decide what rights taxpayers have in bringing lawsuits over any type of funding with which they disagree.
The FFRF has been successful in several other lawsuits that targeted specific programs where government monies were being used for explicitly religious purposes, including proselyzation. They really should stick to these types of things rather than trying to attack the whole idea of a religious organization receiving federal money. If a group is doing a good job sheltering the homeless and they aren't requiring attendance at religious services or a profession of faith, then public money could probably be better spent supporting them than duplicating their efforts.
The main problem of the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives isn't its existence, of course. The problem, as with every aspect of the Bush Administration except for that dedicated to tax cuts for the wealthy, is neglect, incompetence and lack of oversight. Given a responsible administration in the White House, I could see this office as being a wonderful tool for smaller organizations that don't always get a fair shake when looking for assistance and an effective way to provide oversight and accountability for those who think that their obligation to proselytize trumps their stated commitment to refrain from it.
On another note, from the FFRF website
The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.
In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women's right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery.
Obviously the freethinkers at the FFRF are just as inclined as the most dogmatic fundamentalists at claiming all good things in humanity for themselves. If one's atheism is predicated upon the belief that all religion is evil and that society's improvements have all come from atheists or at least agnostics, perhaps one should consider that this is not "freethinking" at all, but is as bound to irrational faith as that of the most fundamentalist Baptist or Muslim.
I'm not talking about the idea that religion has more of a negative impact than a positive one. I've heard that many times and while I disagree I can understand the reasoning that would bring someone to that point. Instead I'm talking about those who actually believe religion to be nothing but a grand delusion used by evil men to oppress and enslave the human race by legitimizing its worst impulses. I would imagine that being a Freethinker means not just rejecting a particular strain or style of oppressive dogma, but repressive dogma itself.
Looks like all us Christians, Hindus, Muslims, pagans and Freethinkers aren't so different after all.