The article is from Quite enlightening!
Are Your Tax Dollars Funding Pat Robertson?
by Charles Henderson at

Taking a closer look at Operation Blessing International

From the moment President Bush began discussing his plans for diverting your tax dollars to "faith based" organizations, there were many who had grave doubts about the idea. To be expected, voices of alarm were raised by those who have consistently fought the idea that the government should be directly involved in promoting a particular religion. For example, Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, accused Bush of being so anxious to secure the support of the religious right that "he's willing to fund religious extremists." Lynn cited televangelist, Pat Robertson's comments on the 700 Club that an angry God had allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks to succeed in retribution against a corrupt American society.

What surprised many commentators at the time was that much of the criticism of the Bush initiative was coming from the religious right itself, including Pat Robertson. Early this year, Robertson denounced the Bush proposal, warning that the program is a "Pandora's Box" that could make legitimate religious charities dependent on government and that the government would end up financing "cults that brainwash" prospective adherents. He went on to tell his 700 Club television audience that the groups getting such funding "will begin to be nurtured, if I can use that term, on federal money, and then they can't get off of it." He added, "It'll be like a narcotic; they can't then free themselves later on."

All the more surprising then, that among the very first organizations to be funded by the Bush administration's new program is Operation Blessing International, a Virginia Beach charity created by Robertson. This group is to receive $500,000 in the first wave of grants to be distributed under the faith-based initiative. The award to Operation Blessing is one of 25 announced on October 3rd by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

Aside from the irony involved in Robertson's own organization applying for and then accepting such "addictive" government funding, one needs to take a closer look at the finances of Operation Blessing International. On the surface it looks very much like the sort of church sponsored, social service organization that the federal government has been funding for many years. Indeed, according to tax returns filed by the organization, its main purpose is to give "food, medicines and other necessities of life to individuals in need." What could be more appropriate than to have our federal tax dollars going to feed the hungry and house the homeless?

Unfortunately, to understand what Operation Blessing is actually doing, one needs to read a bit deeper into that tax return. In 2001, the organization solicited from individuals and corporations various products which it then distributed to mostly small churches and Christian missionary organizations. Among the products distributed, for example, were Ensure, a dietary supplement and Splenda, a no calorie sweetener. I suppose that few would object too strongly to such products, though one would wonder whether a no calorie sweetener ($2,572,548 of it to be exact) could be considered among the "necessities of life." Also, looming very large on the list of products being distributed by Operation Blessing International are panty hose and candy. ($10,465,640 worth of candy.) Do you suppose that those being asked to contribute to this organization understand that a significant portion of its money is involved in the distribution of panty hose and candy?

In addition, Operation Blessing makes direct cash grants to these same organizations "on behalf of individuals." Most of the grants are very small: $1,000 or less. There is one grant listed in Operation Blessing's financial report for the year that dwarfs all others. This grant is to none other that the Christian Broadcasting Network where Robertson holds forth with his 700 Club. The purpose of CBN has little to do with rendering social services to the truly needy. Rather, its stated purpose is "to glorify God and his Son Jesus Christ." This grant was not $100, not $1,000, not even $100,000. Rather CBN received from Operation Blessing International in 2001, a direct grant of $2,061,755.00. That is more than half of the entire OBI budget for direct grants. I suppose that Pat Robertson truly believes his television show ranks among the "necessities of life," but I wonder if the average American tax payer would agree?

A cynical view of all this, of course, is that the entire faith based initiative is simply a form of pay back for the support given by the religious right to the Bush presidential campaign in 2000. I would not go this far. I think the Bush administration actually believes that organizations like Operation Blessing do a better job of addressing basic human needs than government or secular social service organizations ever have. I think this view is wrong, and Operation Blessing's efforts in distributing no calorie sweetener, panty hose and candy to the poor is a case in point. Still, the relative effectiveness of private charity versus government anti-poverty programs is well worth discussing. And the Bush administration's view of this is at least defensible. What cannot be defended is the funneling of public money into the hands of religious organizations for their own sectarian purposes. At this point, even with the best of intentions in the world, the Bush initiatives constitute a dangerous precedent. It will not be long before the federal courts are deluged with complaints from tax payers who do not believe that the government should be taxing Americans to help keep Pat Robertson on television. It is outrageous that the person who suggested that Americans somehow deserve what they got on Sept 11 should turn around and ask those same Americans to pay him to continue promulgating such perversity!