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Squeezing Out the Faithful to Make Way for ACORN

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Should the federal government tempt people to cease volunteering at churches and instead be paid to “volunteer” at government-subsidized projects?

That’s the essence of the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act” which President Obama signed into law on April 21. 

Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), the bill passed the House by a vote of 275 to 149. The multi-billion-dollar spending bill triples the size of federal paid “volunteer” programs including AmeriCorps while killing funds for the faith-friendly Points of Light Institute. The ayes list had 26 Republicans, including Mark Souder (Ind.), Chris Smith (N.J.) and Vern Buchanan (Fla.).

The Senate approved the bill on March 26 by a vote of 78-20. That version was sponsored by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and 30 others, including Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Judd Gregg (N.H.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Olympia Snowe (Me.).

President Obama, whose constituent groups such as ACORN stand to benefit handsomely, hailed the bill’s passage, saying, “While our government can provide every opportunity imaginable for us to serve our communities, it is up to each of us to seize those opportunities.”

“Seize” is right. One of the first of many fraud charges leveled at ACORN was misuse of a $1.1 million grant from AmeriCorps in 1994 to strong-arm low-income people into joining ACORN in Dallas and other cities.

The bill will fund 250,000 paid “volunteers” with a budget of $5.7 billion over five years and $10 billion over 10 years. That’s a lot of tax money to be spent bribing people away from actual volunteerism and into government-paid work. At the same time, President Obama is seeking to cut tax deductions for charitable giving by wealthy Americans. The combination could transform America, and not for the good.

Generosity has been a hallmark of American character. It’s a product of the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and it’s the polar opposite of cold, contractual transfers that characterize socialism. In fact, socialism is so ugly in practice that it has to destroy its competitor, private charity, hence the proposed assault on charitable tax deductions.

Some of the largest secular groups in America such as the AARP enthusiastically supported the Kennedy Act boondoggle. They stand to gain paid “volunteers” at the expense of smaller competitors, such as churches.

Faith-based charities are technically eligible, but will get squeezed out by “nondiscrimination” language. In practice, this means that a Catholic-run homeless shelter would have to employ atheists or Buddhists. The Salvation Army, perhaps the most effective charity, requires volunteers – not its clients –  to adhere to Christian beliefs. Because of that, the Army will be shut out from employing any of the government’s paid “volunteers.”

Why would anyone think that government involvement would improve volunteerism? On the Senate floor, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) warned:

“…Our history shows us when Government gets involved, it tends to take something that is working and make it not work nearly as well. Civil society works because it is everything Government is not. It is small, it is personal, it is responsive, it is accountable. Civil society must be protected from any effort to make it more like Government. This bill centralizes control of important functions of our civil society.”

The original bill called for creating a commission to study mandatory civilian service, but that was yanked amid a public outcry. However, it has reemerged in HR 1442, the “Congressional Commission on Civil Service Act,” sponsored by Washington Rep. Jim McDermott (D).

This free-standing bill, which directs the proposed commission to “enhance our Nation and the global community,” reaches to kid-level, providing “the means to develop awareness of national service and volunteer opportunities at a young age by creating, expanding and promoting service options for primary and secondary school students.”

If you think this will be limited to public schools, you don’t know the mindset driving this bus.

And if you’re a sacrificial parent homeschooling or sending your children to a religious school so that they won’t be engulfed by the public school MTV culture that has led 11-year-olds to “sextext” nude pictures to each other, you’ll be out of luck. Your kid will need to go with the flow.

The McDermott bill requires the commission to study “[w]hether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed to … overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.” Or, as riot icon Rodney King might say, “Can’t we all be forced to get along?”

Of the face of it, mandatory civilian service violates the 13th Amendment’s prohibition on involuntary servitude. During a national crisis, such as World War II, married men with children were given the choice: military service or work in a defense plant.  The Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8 allows Congress to “raise and support armies” and to “provide and maintain a navy.” It’s one thing to allow for conscientious objection to a military draft; it’s another to draft civilians to serve in politicians’ pet projects absent an emergency.

The McDermott bill also charges the commission with examining “the need” for a federal, four-year college to train “future public sector leaders.”

Think of it, an entire university churning out graduates with the same mentality as ACORN, which is to say they will view the nation as entirely secular and public, except the parts that are stubbornly and temporarily private.

Papers will be written and policies hatched to ensure that this will not be tolerated much longer.

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