Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tea Party Accuses Catholic Charities of Conspiracy with Obama over Immigrant Children Issue

  by Nomad

With ignorance on full display, a Tea Party Leader in Texas has accused Catholic Charities for conspiring with the Obama Administration. How? By sheltering and caring for the flood of immigrant children.

What does this say about our self-image as a nation, as a "City on the Hill"? What does the reaction by some in the Tea Party about their Christian credentials ?

Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Ft.Worth Star-Telegram, has recently called out an East Texas Tea Party leader for jumping on the  bandwagon and promoting nationwide yet another baseless conspiracy.  Their suspicions have targeted  Catholic Charities for trying to help with the influx of immigrant children.

Misguided Suspicions
One right-wing website,, broke the story that the Obama administration had advanced knowledge of, as its writer put it, the planned invasion. This conspiracy, it seems, was based solely on what Kennedy calls, one East Texas Republican’s "misguided suspicions."

So what is she basing this allegation on? The Longview Republican Terri Harris Hill points to federal records that show that the local Catholic Charities received $350,000 last year for immigration services.

LibertyNews also noted that:
Between Dec 2010 and Nov 2013, the Catholic Charities Diocese of Galveston received $15,549,078 in federal grants from Health & Human Services for “Unaccompanied Alien Children Project” with a program description of “Refugee and Entry Assistance.
Based solely on this information, LibertyNews has accused Catholic Charities in Texas of conspiring in “the invasion currently underway.”

Kennedy quotes Hill telling a phone interviewer:
“I think there is something suspicious because the government started awarding grants before the surge. I mean, how did they know?”
How indeed? 
The answer is remarkably easy to explain, according to the columnist.
Tens of thousands of foreign children each year come to the United States without a parent or legal permission. Under a quirk in a 2008 law, children from Mexico are returned, but Central American children stay in shelters or with families until a court rules if they are refugees or trafficking victims. 
Texas Governor Perry contacted the president over two years ago with complaints about the sharp increase in the numbers of illegal unaccompanied minors.
Since that time, the numbers have increased astronomically. As The Washington Post reported:
The number of unaccompanied children at the border, which was 5,200 in 2012, has shot up to more than 52,000 this year — and it could reach 90,000 by the end of September, according to internal Border Patrol estimates.
Accusing the president of negligence, Governor Perry has claimed that the president never answered his letters. 
However, one anonymous administration official told the Washington Post that Perry's  claims were untrue. 
According to this official,  
"federal officials briefed the governor’s staff more than once on the administration’s efforts to deal with border security after receiving the letter. The official also said Perry later acknowledged the briefings in a followup letter."
The governor at that time, according to the official, "did not ask the administration for anything in particular and offered no solutions of his own."
Back then, the numbers were but a small fraction of what we are seeing today. It's hard to see anything out of order in the Obama Administration's reaction to the unexpected flood. 

If that paper trail is verified, Perry is going to look plenty foolish and dishonest. He could be accused of exploiting this crisis to raise his image in his expected second run for the presidency in 2016. 
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Ms. Hill's conspiracy claims also seem to dissolve upon closer scrutiny. 

Kennedy points out in his column, Catholic Charities of Fort Worth starting taking in child detainees in June 2013 to assist the state and federal agencies. They ended up housing and caring for 198 in the first year

As the problem grew, the shelter was enlarged from eight to 16 and now 32 beds where children stay for a couple of weeks. This charitable effort was nothing new. The organization has hosted and fostered refugees and children for years.

Hill may not be aware that charities receive their funding from multiple sources. 
The majority of  these contributions come from individuals; foundations and corporations also give significant amounts to nonprofits each year. As one source explains:
What most of us don't realize is that another considerable source are taxpayer dollars, or government funding. While overall it represents a small percentage of a charity's contributed income, government funding is a generally reliable source that is typically renewed each year, or even increased.
Such was apparently the case here.  Contrary to a conspiracy by big government, could it have been that the federal government stepped in when local and state funding was slashed?  

The Star-Telegram column quotes a spokesman for the local diocese, Pat Svacina:
“There’s no conspiracy — this is what we do.”
And why shouldn't they? Only a few days ago, Pope Francis  himself called upon Catholics and all Christians to welcome and protect these children who have undertaken the long and hazardous journey to escape violence in their home countries. 
It is, he said 
"urgent to protect and assist them, because their frailty is greater and they're defenseless, they're at the mercy of any abuse or misfortune."
The pope also decried the "racist and xenophobic attitudes" which undocumented immigrants often encounter.

Ms. Hill seemed ready to provide a living example of the kind of attitude that Pope Francis was warning about. In addition to making spurious claims, she is the author of a "frothing"  online petition which labels the children as a "public safety risk, public health risk and reprehensible financial strain.”

America as the City on the Hill
Ms. Hill  has openly accused the Catholic Church of running its charity on taxpayers' cash supplied by the federal government.. Such a ridiculous statement is as toxic as it is ironic.
After all, aren't these the very people who seem so intent on blurring the line between Church and State?

But, if you know your history, the irony doesn't stop there.

The idea that charitable religious organizations could take up the slack to relieve the burden of the government of its responsibility to help the poor and needy is in fact a conservative principle. The idea was that government alone was not an answer for every social problem and that non-profit charities and religious organizations also had a mandate to help too.

That idea was strongly espoused by none other than Ronald Reagan. He once said:
For centuries the Bible’s emphasis on compassion and love for our neighbor has inspired institutional and governmental expressions of benevolent outreach such as private charity, the establishment of schools and hospitals, and the abolition of slavery.
He felt that religious organizations were better equipped by their nature to help. In a January 1989 Reagan said
I suspect that a dollar that comes from our churches and synagogues goes farther to help those in need than one that comes from the government.. The power of the Church is the power of love. And that makes all the difference.
Yet today, the people who say they idolize Reagan are creating a phony conspiracy against the religious organizations attempting to deal with this humanitarian crisis in Texas. And yet they have no better solutions to offer but to return desperate children back across the border to fend for themselves. 
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One of Reagan's more famous speeches dealt with America providing an example for the rest of the world. Those remarks are today known as the "A City on the Hill" speech.
In the hands of conservatives, the phrase referred more to American exceptionalism and less about American responsibilities.

Many people mistaken think Reagan coined that phrase. That, however, would be quite incorrect. It comes to us (through a circuitous route) from the Bible. In fact from the Sermon on the Mount. In American history, the phrase had been used before Reagan by President John Kennedy and before that, by Puritan John Winthrop in a 1630 sermon,  "A Model of Christian Charity"

In that sermon,  delivered on board the ship Arbella, Winthrop preached:  
The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. 
We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going.
Winthrop, quoting from the Bible, explained the importance of mercy for those in desperate need:
1 John 3:17, "He who hath this world's goods and seeth his brother to need and shuts up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" Which comes punctually to this conclusion: If thy brother be in want and thou canst help him, thou needst not make doubt of what thou shouldst do; if thou lovest God, thou must help him.
In modern terms, Winthrop was telling us that professing your faith was not enough. You can not make excuses and turn your back because God's blessing, if it should exist for a nation and its people, doesn't come without an injunction or a price to pay.

The Test of The Angels Unawares
Winthrop could have quoted other passages of the Bible for the spiritual benefit of people like Ms.Hill.
For instance, The Epistle to the Hebrews says:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Underscoring Winthrop's theme, The Epistle of James, also in The New Testament reminds us that God demands more than just faith when it comes to helping the poor. He requires from us action and commitment.
Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty," and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do? You see, it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no faith at all--it is dead and useless.
And yet, these essential tenets of faith are being so carelessly ignored by the very people who believe they have the right to judge, who think in every debate that they have God on their side.
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It is, of course,  hard to know what Reagan would have made of the Tea Party and people like Ms Hill. It's not clear what Reagan would have said about her conspiracy theories against the Catholic charities. Most likely- just like the most of the nation- he would have been very appalled.

That's an assumption based on  a speech he gave to evangelicals in 1983, in which he said:
I know that you've been horrified, as have I, by the resurgence of some hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice.
He told the mostly conservative Christians gathered there to use their power for good against groups like this:
Use the mighty voice of your pulpits and the powerful standing of your churches to denounce and isolate these hate groups in our midst. The commandment given us is clear and simple: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
We haven't seen much sign of that Christian charity when it mattered. When the quality of faith in Texas was tested the parade of helpless children.