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FEMA attempts to whitewash faith-based volunteers

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 19, 2010 04:15 AM

A few years ago, economist Arthur Brooks wrote a must-read book on volunteerism in America titled, “Who Really Cares.” An excerpt:

The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistribution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they oppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish. (On the contrary, a public attack on the integrity of those who don’t share my beliefs might more legitimately constitute evidence that I am the uncharitable one.)

To evaluate accurately the charity difference between liberals and conservatives, we must consider private, voluntary charity. How do liberals and conservatives compare in their private giving and volunteering? Beyond strident slogans and sarcastic political caricatures, what, exactly, do the data tell us?

The data tell us that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. In most ways, political conservatives are not personally less charitable than political liberals—they are more so.

People living in conservative states volunteer more than people in liberal states. In 2003, the residents of the top five “Bush states” were 51 percent more likely to volunteer than those of the bottom five, and they volunteered an average of 12 percent more total hours each year. Residents of these Republican-leaning states volunteered more than twice as much for religious organizations, but also far more for secular causes. For example, they were more than twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor.

I bolded that last part as a segue to this stomach-turning story from the Associated Press about how a FEMA official taping interviews with volunteers helping tornado victims in Mississippi was so sick of meeting faith-based volunteers in the area that he asked two women to change their shirts to hide their religious affiliation:

The top officer for FEMA said one of the agency’s videographers was “absolutely wrong” to ask Mississippi church volunteers not to wear religious T-shirts for a video about tornado cleanup.

Angela Lott and Pamela Wedgeworth, who are sisters, told The Associated Press that the FEMA worker videotaping the cleanup on Saturday in the small town of Ebenezer asked them to do on-camera interviews but requested that they change out of their T-shirts because of a Salvation Army logo.

“He said, ‘We would like to ask you to change your shirt because we don’t want anything faith-based,'” Lott said Tuesday.

Lott said she asked him why he didn’t want to feature faith groups.

“All he said was, ‘We’ve done that hundreds of times,'” Lott said.

No surprise there.

If only the religious volunteers had worn ACORN or SEIU or “God is Dead” t-shirts, the FEMA employee would have featured them in full-length documentaries and bought them steak dinners.

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