Memo To: Steven Goldsmith
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Presidentís Initiative
The following is a letter I got in February from Minister Donald Muhammad, head of the Boston Mosque of the Nation of Islam, probably Louis Farrakhanís oldest and closest friend in the NOI. Iíve gotten to know Min. Don during the last four years and have great respect for him, which is why Iíve decided to share his concerns about President Bushís initiative to use federal funds to support faith-based institutions in their grass-roots social work. Because you are really the inspiration for the idea, through your similar initiatives when you were mayor of Indianapolis, Iíve been favorably disposed to the idea. I know other members of the Nation of Islam who are also favorably disposed to it, but now that I see other religious institutions raising questions about it, I thought you would benefit from this thoughtful letter. Perhaps with some further discussion, trial and error, common ground can be found.
May this communique find you and your family in the best of health. As I spoke to you most recently in regards to the President Bush's planned faith-based initiative, I'm of the opinion that it's a waste of government's time and resources. It will not meet its stated objective.
Any faith-based organization (church, mosque, synagogue, etc.), that is sincere in the propagation of its faith and its mission to reach individuals spiritually and assist in the providing of other basic essentials must act in an autonomous fashion. There's no way that a faith-based organization can provide effective services in the community and remain within a spiritual realm if co-opted with government money and the government oversight that comes with it.
Affording a pool of money from the government for faith-based initiatives will only create a feeding frenzy for opportunists who have no substantive track record in providing services to the community, which is evident by some of those already associated with that initiative.
One such opportunist is a man from Boston, Reverend Eugene Rivers. Reverend Rivers is supposedly the pastor of the Azuza Christian Community in Boston and the head of the 10 Point Coalition. There is no Azuza Christian Community (unless his wife and children can be considered such) and he has more points in his 10 Point Coalition than he has members. Yet, this man has been at the White House and met with President Bush and others around this faith-based initiative. Further, he has been on talk shows speaking to how the money is going to be doled out. This individual has no credibility whatsoever in the Black community in which he purports to serve. What's further puzzling is that the Secret Service must have done a background check of Eugene Rivers that would have revealed that he's a fraud. Nonetheless, Mr. Rivers appears to be President Bush' representative of the faith-based initiative in the Greater Boston area, and has even been quoted nationally in that regard. If Mr. Rivers is any indication of the credibility of the President's initiative, it's doomed before it is even implemented.
If it is President Bush's objective to make inroads to the Black community, throwing money at the churches is not the way. While effective spiritual-based initiatives need to be supported and given cooperation, it doesn't cost money. Support and cooperation does not come with a price tag.
Consider prison ministries and community intervention in the public schools. We have been involved with correctional institutions locally for many years, and we're often asked to address students and staff in the school department to quell disturbances. We are in the prisons speaking to inmates when allowed, yet oftentimes there are stumbling blocks placed in our path via rules, regulations, or attitudes. One criminal has the potential to negatively affect up to 100 people with his criminal act, and he/she commits on the average of 12-14 crimes before ever being arrested and 21 crimes before ever he/she is ever incarcerated. Our goal is to change the thinking or mindset of those that are at-risk of becoming involved in criminal behavior, as well as those who are incarcerated prior to their returning to the community. Often times we are asked into the schools to help put out fires after they start racial problems, violence, etc. As the old adage states, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's not necessarily money we need, it's cooperation. Though both the educational and prison administrations are aware of our effectiveness, oftentimes there are stumbling blocks placed in our path via rules, regulations, or attitudes. While we volunteer our services in the schools and prisons, it's more effective to have paid positions (many members of the Nation of Islam are already employed in correctional institutions throughout the country), and afford these faith-based employees with the opportunity to address these vital concerns.
Further, there are many pilot and community schools that are doing spectacular work with limited resources. The University of Islam in Chicago, for an example, had four children in recent years listed in Who's Who in Academia. Marva Collins of Chicago continues to groom children in educational excellence, and locally in Boston we have Paige Academy where children are receiving excellent academic training. Rather than President Bush throwing money away, why not invest it in our children's future via proven educational programs.
I'm of the opinion that President Bush should focus on building the family unit. It's the family that is the basis of our nation; if the family is not intact, we as a nation will never be. Essential to that family unit is a man. In many ways it appears that the government has replace the man in many families. Similarity in the same manner it appears that government wants to replace the responsibility of the church. Government has made it easy for the man not to be the head of the household. More often than not, the man is not even part of the household in the Black community. Many in poorer communities see more benefits for female-headed households coming from the government than the benefits of having a husband, i.e. Section 8, AFDC, food stamps, day care vouchers, school lunch programs, etc. To further complicate the family issue, government has taken away the authority of parents to be able discipline their children. We see children perpetuating acts of violence like never before, such as the recent killing of an 11 year-old child in Springfield, Massachusetts by another 11 year-old child. Yet, parents are subjected to prosecution if they discipline their children and follow the adage spare the rod, spoil the child. I'm of the opinion that our government's priorities are not in tune with what is needed to move our country forward. We must make it a priority to support the family structure. Jude, rather than us singing God Bless America, we need to pray that God Save America, but we got to hurry and get to work to ensure that He does.
Minister Don Muhammad