The problem with the government’s funding of religious organizations to do social work has always been the difficulty of clearly separating church and state. I’m a strong believer that religious groups should be exempt from regular non-discrimination laws in the private sector if such laws offend their calling. Some groups won’t hire women or gays or masturbators or non-believers. Fair enough. But when those groups seek to get public money, that distinction goes out of the window. If Dana Milbank’s report in the Washington Post is correct, and the Bush administration is seeking to waive anti-discrimination laws for groups that support its ‘faith-based’ policies, then we are truly into dangerous territory.

Don’t misunderstand me. I think the Salvation Army is a fantastic organization. I think they do more good than most public agencies. In fact, when I was editor of The New Republic, we ran a cover-story saying just that. But if they take tax-payers’ money, they need to act as a public and not a private entity. Discriminating against gay citizens is against the law in many states and cities. It applies to all public entities. If the SA wants our money, they need to play by our rules. And if the Bush administration thinks it can push this assault on Church-state separation without fierce resistance, they’re wrong. Drop it now, guys. It’s unconstitutional, divisive, and dumb for all involved, including the Salvation Army. This goes, by the way, for all faith based government programs. Religion can only do what it does best when unshackled from government interference. And government can only win legitimacy if it represents all the people (including gays), rather than imposing religious orthodoxy on all of us with our own tax-payers’ money. I grew up in a country where the government explicitly supported a particular religion and subtly denigrated my own. One reason I love America is that it couldn’t happen here. Or could it? Would I have backed Bush at the last election if I’d known about this in advance? Probably. Does it make me and many other non-religious conservatives and moderates queasy? More than I can express.

OFF THE EDGE: The latest Condit press grotesquerie came on Fox News’ The Edge with Paula Zahn. Not content with broadcasting completely irrelevant details of Condit’s alleged affairs with others, Zahn coaxed this quote out of attorney Jim Robinson:

“ZAHN: Can you elaborate for us when you say
she discovered things of a sexual nature that
made her nervous? What do you mean by that?

ROBINSON: Apparently there were ties –
neckties tied together, tied underneath the
bed – as if someone had been tied up in bed.
And that had never happened to my client
before. And, apparently, Mr. Condit made a
joke about it, just brushed it off. And
[Smith] told me that she was very afraid for
her life at that point.”

So now it’s relevant what kind of sex Condit had? What’s next? How often he slept with his wife?

PHRMA SPONSORSHIP: The usual suspects from the far left have emailed me outraged that this website has accepted a small sponsorship from PHRMA, the umbrella group that represents the drug companies. Since we haven’t actually received any money yet, and haven’t added a sponsorship ad, I haven’t written about it yet – waiting for the appropriate moment. But seeing as this sponsorship was published in the New York Times, it behooves me to say I see absolutely no problems with it. In fact, I am extremely proud to get some support from a great industry that has saved my and countless other people’s lives, despite a massive attempt to penalize them for their work. They approached me initially. I was happy to respond, although I recused myself from any direct negotiation. They advertise in dozens of magazines, including The New Republic and the New York Times Magazine and many gay magazines, including POZ. The sponsorship is pretty minor. We hope to attract others. If people believe that my convictions on this matter over several years were designed to elicit a small donation to this site in the distant future, they’re welcome to believe it. But it’s paranoid hooey. In part, of course, the real worry of those who want to attack the free market in pharmaceuticals is that I might have been a teensy bit effective in my arguments – and that these arguments might even have some merit. The usual suspects want to silence opposition. They won’t. And this little donation will help keep debate alive.

WHAT’S NOT A DISABILITY: A legal reader sends in the following information from the Americans with Disability Act about what is not a disability under federal law: “Under this chapter, term ‘disability’ shall not include–
1) transvestism, transsexuals, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders; or
2) compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or pyromania; or
3) psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.
(42 U.S.C. sec 12211(b).)
So the Congress that passed this bill equates transgendered or transsexual people with pedophiles. Mary Eberstadt must be deliriously happy.