Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Faith Based Initiatives: Buckets O'Money and No Accountability

You have to read this piece titled, "Obama's Evangelical Gravy Train." It's in The Nation, and written by an investigative journalist named Andy Kopsa. 

We all hope (and pray?!) that there still are journalists doing the kind of work Andy is doing. Even though this story made me want to set my hair on fire, I'm glad she wrote it. 

Our tax dollars are funding the work of faith groups working to (allegedly) fight AIDS in countries like Uganda. 

An excerpt:

On a hot but breezy day in August 2012, I visited New Hope. The clinic is located in Kampala’s Naguru district, on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, and is funded by PEPFAR to provide care and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS. The clinic is also tasked with implementing an HIV prevention program to include comprehensive sexual education and access to condoms.
A few minutes into our chat, I asked the clinic administrator about condoms. She paused. Finally, she said, “We are very suspicious of those.” When I asked whether the clinic provided comprehensive sex education—including instruction on the correct and consistent use of condoms—she said she didn’t know for sure and left to find a more senior clinic employee.
That employee arrived, but was no more able to answer my questions. All she could do was show me was a spot in a three-ring binder where she swore sex-ed materials were supposed to be and a big empty cardboard box labeled “CONDOMS,” which was relegated to a back hallway of the clinic. PEPFAR guidelines stipulate that grantees make condoms available and distribute them as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.
This clinic has gotten $1 million in faith based funding. 
There is more. So much more. From pray-the-gay away groups, to abstinence only programs, what Andy found is nauseating. In Mississippi, surplus TANF funds (intended to help poor families) go to fund abstinence and marriage programs. How can there be such a thing as surplus TANF funds in MISSISSIPPI? 
It's shameful stuff we're funding. Crisis pregnancy centers. Franklin Graham's group Samaritan's Purse, which puts Bibles in "hygiene kits" that are dropped in to Muslim countries. (Wash your body and your brain!)
Billions of our tax dollars are going to these organizations that appear to have absolutely no accountability. 
One State Department staffer, who asked not to be named, said moving federal grant money away from groups like CAF and Samaritan’s Purse, hand-picked by Bush officials to run HIV/AIDS programs abroad, would be difficult. By the time Obama entered office, the staffer said, these groups were so entrenched in the service delivery infrastructure, right down to the village level, that it was easier for the administration leave the money in their hands.
It's easier to just waste the money on groups that aren't doing what they're supposed to, because changing things would be so much work. 
Read this. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. 

Andy Kopsa is a freelance investigative reporter based in New York City. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, Talking Points Memo, Ms. magazine, and many other publications. She was awarded a 2012 Society of Professional Journalists Award for investigative reporting and was a 2013 recipient of a Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion in American Public Life from USC Annenberg.


Anonymous said...

OMG, torches and pitchforks NOW people!!!!! Back in the early 2000's I was appalled when locals who returned from "faith based volunteer work" in Zimbabwe mentioned that they received govt. "assistance" for travel etc. What on earth happened to separation of church and state? Corruption, that's what.

Brian Loudermilch said...

There is NO accountability because that is the LAST thing that the folks running those programs want.

Practical and effective programs
like Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps would be a MUCH better way to spend that Tax Money.

Spend our tax money on the Other side of the Planet while our next door neighbors go Hungry and Homeless. Go Figure.