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Is Bill O'Reilly a Secularist?
Jonathan Pait
March 5, 2004

Dear Bill OíReilly,

You have been on a crusade of late against the secularists. Last night you presented a segment involving The Salvation Army vs. the ACLU. The portion of the program seemed to start out as a continuation of your campaign. Before it concluded you defected to the side for whom you have often expressed such little respect.

In case you canít recall, the topic of discussion revolved around a lawsuit brought against the charitable organization by workers who do not agree with a request from The Salvation Army. According to the suit, a form was distributed requiring current and future jobholders to pledge to preach the gospel, to identify their church affiliation and to authorize their religious leaders to reveal private information to The Salvation Army.

The argument from the ACLU is that this amounts to religious discrimination. They do not believe that the Salvation Army should be allowed to receive government funds and require such a pledge from those who choose to work for the organization. As your guest, Larry Walters, said about the group, "When it acts like the government, it has to be bound by the prohibitions on religious discrimination, and that is the law, and that's what the court is likely to find."

Your friend, Judge Andrew Napolitano, countered with the current application of regulations regarding charitable, religious organizations providing social services. He said, "The law is if the federal dollars are used for nonreligious purposes, like food to the poor, shelters to the poor, they can accept the federal dollars, and they can have religious aspect of themselves as well." He gave you an illustration of how this has long applied to Catholic schools.

Then came the point of your conversion.

"You're telling me, Judge, that The Salvation Army can refuse to hire Jews, Muslims, atheists, all right, and receive $89 million from the federal government?" you said with your trademark eyebrow raised to your hair line. He answered, "As long as that money is used in a secular way, for food, for shelter, for clothing for the poor. As long as that money is not used to promote their religious . . ." You interrupted to inject that you thought that would be a civil rights matter.

Judge Nepolitano gave you a reasoned reply when he said, "The civil-rights violation would be violating The Salvation Army's civil rights by attempting to constrain them and impose upon them a secular agenda just because they took the federal dollars." What The Salvation Army did was not illegal and was not a violation of these personís civil rights. You and many others might not like it, but it is the truth. Accepting government funding to carry out a social improving activity does not make an organization the government.

I could have let that go, but you had to continue on. "I think there's something wrong with this organization anyway." I wish you had expounded on that. What exactly is it about them that is "something wrong." Perhaps we got some further insight into your prejudice against the group when you said, "I can't work there because these fanatics are making me -- even though I'm qualified to work there, I've got to spread their gospel. Come on." Your feelings about the organization was also evident in your statement, "You call The Salvation Army and tell those pinheads maybe there's something I'm missing here, but, you know, you can't be doing this with $89 million tax dollars."

What exactly is The Salvation Army doing with that $89 million tax dollars? Go into any city and see the work of The Army. Go ahead, Bill, do a LexisNexis search on the group. These "fanatics" are feeding and clothing the poor, helping single mothers get back on their feet, encouraging drug addicts to go straight and giving disadvantaged kids a place to avoid the street. What bothers you is that they believe in something and that is where you are a secularist.

Secularists donít mind if you are religious. Go ahead and have a religious belief as long as you are willing to say that everyone elseís religious belief has the same credibility yours does. Believe something as long as it doesnít mean anything. They donít mind you joining a church as long as you hold dual membership in the religion of the secular state.

The ironic thing is that I agree with your final desire Ė federal dollars not going to private groups -- though we arrive at it differently. I wish The Salvation Army would not take the federal dollars. Religious organizations will increasingly learn that federal dollars equals federal control. For that matter, state dollars equals state control.

Take your beloved Catholic Church for instance. Just this week in California the Catholic Charities lost a case where they were forced to pay for birth-control coverage for its workers in the state even though Catholic teaching condemns contraception. Why? The Catholic Charities that shares a similar social mission with The Salvation Army also received Federal and State funding. Both groups are being penalized for their beliefs.

Behind this is more than just an attack on The Salvation Army or the Catholic Charities. It is an attack on the Presidentís Faith Based Initiatives. For many Christian "fanatics" it is hoped that perhaps this battle will open the eyes of freedom loving Americans to avoid this entanglement. I hope the dollars do not sway conviction. Accepting government funds could be the selling of the very soul of a religious organization.

My question to you, Bill, is this. Are you a defender of those who share your concern for the secularization of America only when they are your approved brand of traditionalists? Is it so terrible of a thing that one of the most traditional of American charitable organizations actually believes and practices what they preach? Is there not room in the great mosaic of America for a diversity of organizations? Cannot there be an allowance for free association based on ideals and beliefs without facing penalties from the holders of the secular doctrine of ecumenism?

I know it is easy to take the side of the ACLU when it comes to these pinheads -- these Christian fanatics. However, it wonít end there. Ultimately we will all be called upon to bow before the idol of secularism.

I still consider my visit with you on your program back in 2000 to be one of the highlights of my career. I was very disappointed with your capitulation to the ACLU, but I will end this message with the same sincere expression I ended our conversation on your show, "I love yaí, Bill."

Jonathan Pait
The Common Voice

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