Monday, April 23, 2007

Has Ohio Gone from "Faith-Friendly" to "Faith-Hostile?"

What a difference a Chief Executive makes. After the Ohio gubernatorial election last fall, incoming Governor Ted Strickland virtually gutted the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, reportedly firing over 90% of the staff two weeks after he took office. An office that had previously defended the religious hiring rights of faith-based organizations and encouraged active and equal participation by religious ministries in publicly financed social welfare projects seems to have become an arm of Rev. Barry Lynn's (Protestant and Other) Americans United for Separation of Church and State. In language Rev. Lynn must love, Governor Strickland called his predecessor's faith-based office “an ATM machine for some of the most politically right-wing organizations.” The previous administration's awardees and sub-awardees are now open targets for the administration and the media, as the state's main private partner in granting and administering faith-based contracts, We Care America, is under investigation by the state auditor at the behest of the governor. And the Governor's new faith-based office reportedly informed one grant recipient recently that it could not have a pubicly stated policy for its programs that contained the word “God” in it. Governor Strickland has also promised to go after abstinence education and school vouchers.

Ones wonders if this is a preview of the script a new administration would follow if the White House were to change hands in 2008. As we all know after the last election, as Ohio goes, so goes the Nation. Watch this space for developing news about the Buckeye State's newfound devotion to manning the ramparts of the "Wall of Separation."