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Religion, Politics and World Events They make great dinner conversation, don't you think? plus Political Film

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Old 09-27-05, 03:03 PM   #1
DVD Polizei
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FEMA Will Use Taxpayer Money To Reimburse Religious Organizations & Churches

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9495550/

After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

FEMA officials said it would mark the first time that the government has made large-scale payments to religious groups for helping to cope with a domestic natural disaster.

Civil liberties groups called the decision a violation of the traditional boundary between church and state, accusing FEMA of trying to restore its battered reputation by playing to religious conservatives.

"What really frosts me about all this is, here is an administration that didn't do its job and now is trying to dig itself out by making right-wing groups happy," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

For churches, synagogues and mosques that have taken in hurricane survivors, FEMA's decision presents a quandary. Some said they were eager to get the money and had begun tallying their costs, from electric bills to worn carpets. Other said they probably would not apply for the funds, fearing donations will dry up if the public comes to believe they were receiving government handouts.

‘Volunteer labor is just that’
"Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer," said the Rev. Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. "We would never ask the government to pay for it."

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, religious charities rushed in to provide emergency services, often acting more quickly and efficiently than the government. Relief workers in the stricken states estimate that 500,000 people have taken refuge in facilities run by religious groups.

In the days after the disaster, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and other Republicans complained that FEMA seemed reluctant to pay church groups. "There are tons of questions about what is reimbursable, what is not reimbursable," DeLay said Sept. 13, noting that Houston alone had "500 or 600 churches that took in evacuees, and they would get no reimbursement."

Joe Becker, senior vice president for preparedness and response with the Red Cross, said he and his staff also urged FEMA to allow reimbursement of religious groups. Ordinarily, Becker said, churches provide shelter for the first days after a disaster, then the Red Cross takes over. But in a storm season that has stretched every Red Cross shelter to the breaking point, church buildings must for the first time house evacuees indefinitely.

‘Strange definition’
"I believe it's appropriate for the federal government to assist the faith community because of the scale and scope of the effort and how long it's lasting," he said.

Lynn disagreed. "The good news is that this work is being done now, but I don't think a lot of people realize that a lot of these organizations are actively working to obtain federal funds. That's a strange definition of charity," he said.

Lynn added that he accepts the need for the government to coordinate with religious groups in a major disaster, but not to "pay for their good works."

"We've never complained about using a religious organization as a distribution point for food or clothing or anything else," Lynn said. But "direct cash reimbursements would be unprecedented."

FEMA officials said religious organizations would be eligible for payments only if they operated emergency shelters, food distribution centers or medical facilities at the request of state or local governments in the three states that have declared emergencies -- Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In those cases, "a wide range of costs would be available for reimbursement, including labor costs incurred in excess of normal operations, rent for the facility and delivery of essential needs like food and water," FEMA spokesman Eugene Kinerney said in an e-mail.

FEMA outlined the policy in a Sept. 9 internal memorandum on "Eligible Costs for Emergency Sheltering Declarations." Religious groups, like secular nonprofit groups, will have to document their costs and file for reimbursement from state and local emergency management agencies, which in turn will seek funds from FEMA.

David Fukitomi, infrastructure coordinator for FEMA in Louisiana, said that the organization has begun briefings for potential applicants in the disaster area but that it is too early to know how many will take advantage of the program.

"The need was so overwhelming that the faith-based groups stepped up, and we're trying to find a way to help them shoulder some of the burden for doing the right thing," he said, adding that "the churches are interested" but that "part of our effort is getting the local governments to be interested in being their sponsor."

Salvation Army in talks

A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army said it has been in talks with state and federal officials about reimbursement for the 76,000 nights of shelter it has provided to Katrina survivors so far. But it is still unclear whether the Salvation Army will qualify, she said.

The Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America, an antiabortion group formerly known as Operation Rescue, said, "Separation of church and state means nothing in a time of disaster; you see immediately what a farce it is."

Benham said that his group has been dispensing food and clothing and that "Bibles and tracts go out with everything we put out." In Mendenhall, La., he said, he preached to evacuees while the mayor directed traffic and the sheriff put inmates from the county jail to work handing out supplies.

Yet Benham said he would never accept a dime from the federal government. "The people have been so generous to give that for us to ask for reimbursement would be like gouging for gas," he said. "That would be a crime against heaven."

‘No income coming in’

For some individual churches, however, reimbursement is very appealing. At Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Ocean Springs, Miss., as many as 200 evacuees and volunteer workers have been sleeping each night in the sanctuary and Sunday school classrooms. The church's entrance hall is a Red Cross reception area and medical clinic. As many as 400 people a day are eating in the fellowship hall.

Suzie Harvey, the parish administrator, said the church was asked by the Red Cross and local officials to serve as a shelter. The church's leadership agreed immediately, without anticipating that nearly a quarter of its 650 members would be rendered homeless and in no position to contribute funds. "This was just something we had to do," she said. "Later we realized we have no income coming in."

Harvey said the electric bill has skyrocketed, water is being used around the clock and there's been "20 years of wear on the carpet in one month." If FEMA makes money available, she said, the church definitely will apply.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:09 PM   #2
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So seperation of church and state means a church gets screwed where a non church wouldnt?

People are retarted.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:10 PM   #3
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I won't lie, I only skimmed the article.

But I have no problem with FEMA reimbursing ANYONE who gives aid and supplies to N.O.

Assuming the religious groups aren't forcing people to convert religions or something crazy like that.

Last edited by Sominex; 09-27-05 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:12 PM   #4
nemein
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If other groups are getting reimbursed I don't really see what the big deal is.

On a similar note I ran across this but didn't feel like posting it, but since church/state has been mentioned now

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050927/...NlYwMlJVRPUCUl
Quote:
TRENTON, N.J. - Black clergy who endorsed Sen. Jon Corzine (news, bio, voting record) for governor Monday found themselves on the defensive over $2.5 million in donations the senator's foundation has made to their churches.
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Corzine's opponent in the governor's race, Republican businessman Doug Forrester, mentioned the wealthy Democrat's generosity to black churches during a news conference earlier Monday, implying that Corzine's gifts might have influenced the ministers' endorsement.

"I don't know which particular ministers will be casting their lot with Sen. Corzine and don't know what individual relationships they may have in terms of financial ones with the Corzine campaign," Forrester said before the ministers announced their support of Corzine.

The two candidates addressed the Black Ministers' Council of New Jersey on Sept. 12. Though the group does not make endorsements, 15 ministers who belong to the group came to the Statehouse Monday to stand with Corzine and give individual testimonials on his behalf.

Asked whether the donations — $1.8 million to the Rev. Calvin McKinney's Calvary Baptist Church in Garfield for a new church and more than $700,000 to other black churches, according to published reports — make it appropriate for them to endorse a candidate, the ministers bristled.

McKinney said he was endorsing Corzine for his stance on the issues and his vision for New Jersey, not because of a contribution to his church.

Corzine said the donation to Calvary Baptist was made in 2003, before he contemplated a gubernatorial run.

"The goal of what I have done with my charitable contributions is the same as it is in my public life: to try and make the world a little bit better," Corzine said.

Forrester has made one donation of more than $1,000 to a black church, said his spokeswoman, Sherry Sylvester.

Blacks make up about 11 percent of the New Jersey electorate.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:16 PM   #5
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If churches are getting reimbursed what about private individuals who put evacuees up in their homes?

I think the church should have to prove that they didn't preach to the evacuees before the government cuts them a check.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
If churches are getting reimbursed what about private individuals who put evacuees up in their homes?
It wouldn't surprise me at all if that was next. The piggy bank is broken and everyone is scrambling for the money
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Old 09-27-05, 03:34 PM   #7
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What's wrong with it?

Pls. don't try to make some violation of the EC out of this.
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Old 09-27-05, 03:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nemein
It wouldn't surprise me at all if that was next. The piggy bank is broken and everyone is scrambling for the money

Well one point to consider is that I would guess that churches (locally and nationally within denominations) are collecting contributions from parishiners to help with the housing of evacuees. Private individuals who are housing evacuees don't have this benefit. So I have to wonder is there some kind of offset to the amount of government aid received or do these churches basically get a double-benefit?
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Old 09-27-05, 04:51 PM   #9
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If they are helping out where federal, state, and local governments could not, why shouldn't they get paid for doing someone else's job?
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Old 09-27-05, 05:00 PM   #10
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I have no problem with this if other, non-religious institutions are being reimbursed in the same way. If not, then something is seriously screwed up.
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Old 09-27-05, 05:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suprmallet
I have no problem with this if other, non-religious institutions are being reimbursed in the same way. If not, then something is seriously screwed up.
Yeah, but I'd rather see local churches (who haven't received a half-a-billion dollars in donations) get reimbursed before big, non-religious organizations like the Red Cross does.
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Old 09-27-05, 06:10 PM   #12
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Isn't helping people in need a big mission for most churches?

If they are anything like the church I attended while growing up, their parishioners are donating more than FEMA would ever give them, in time, food, supplies and money.
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Old 09-27-05, 07:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
If they are anything like the church I attended while growing up, their parishioners are donating more than FEMA would ever give them, in time, food, supplies and money.
Did you bother reading the article?

Quote:
The church's leadership agreed immediately, without anticipating that nearly a quarter of its 650 members would be rendered homeless and in no position to contribute funds. "This was just something we had to do," she said. "Later we realized we have no income coming in."
I imagine other churches in the area are in the same condition? Now if churches outside of the area are asking for funds I might agree w/ the criticism.
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Old 09-27-05, 08:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Draven
Isn't helping people in need a big mission for most churches?

If they are anything like the church I attended while growing up, their parishioners are donating more than FEMA would ever give them, in time, food, supplies and money.
Other than simply church bashing - what's your point?
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Old 09-27-05, 08:37 PM   #15
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1) I guess we need to re-define what a non-profit organization is.

2) I guess we need to re-define what a volunteer is.

3) I would imagine some people will not be as ready to donate to churches in times of need, mistakenly thinking a church will be reimbursed. This might actually hurt a church's budget.

4) We've had several disasters in the past, taking just as many lives--maybe more--and just as many churches were involved with the help efforts--and yet this is the first time an administration is sending money directly to religious organizations.

I think this sets a very bad precident, surprisingly not because it's a religious issue, but because these organizations are non-profit, and guess who's going to be knocking on the doors of taxpayer's money when ANY crisis happens in the future. Organizations will be just giddy to rack up charges and costs, knowing they don't have to pay.

The fact is, volunteering is what it is. Volunteering. If you were getting reimbursed, that's not volunteering.

Another option FEMA should have looked into, is officially having a program where they recruit local organizations hit by a disaster, and then working with them. In this way, it would be more official, and I would tend to agree with this kind of a program. But as it stands, I'm not so confident this is best way to go--by whimsically deciding to help churches.
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Old 09-27-05, 08:44 PM   #16
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As long as its "here's a sandwitch" instead of "here's a bible", I guess I just don't see what the issue is?
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Old 09-27-05, 08:52 PM   #17
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I guess we don't need FEMA then.

I mean really. Since local organizations helped out more anyway, and they often do because they are there in the middle of a crisis, why not have money going directly to organizations that help. Take the inflated FEMA entity out of the equation.
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Old 09-27-05, 08:57 PM   #18
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Chris Matthews on FEMA. When you combine FEMA's actions, you get a picture of their political interests.

On Monday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews welcomed New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the leading Democrat on the committee, to discuss the billions of dollars in no-bid contracts that FEMA has rewarded since the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

To read an excerpt of their heated conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Eighty percent of the $1.5 billion that's been let out in contracts for recovery efforts down in the Gulf has gone to no-bid contracts. It's a deal with one company, no competition; $60 million has gone to a Halliburton subsidiary represented in the lobbying world by Joseph Allbaugh, the former FEMA director for President Bush; $100 million has gone to Bechtel, which is still in a controversial situation for perhaps unsubstantiated charges in the Big Dig up in Boston.

$568 million has gone to a group called Ashbritt down in Pompano Beach, Florida. That is represented by the firm formerly headed by Haley Barbour.

Haley Barbour, Joe Allbaugh, Big Dig, lots of connections here with politicians close to the Bush administration.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, what do you think of it?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I think, Chris, we absolutely have to have transparency in our process.

At this point in this entire contracting, we have no transparency, no accountability. And I think the public absolutely should be made available in terms of what's going on. Other companies should be involved in the process of bidding. Right now, sole-sourcing is not the way to go.

MATTHEWS: Congressman King, remember that line in "Casablanca" where the guy ... the Vichy policeman said, "round up the usual suspects."

When I read these names, I go, it looks like the usual suspects are getting all these bids. In fact, there's no bidding. They get the contract.

REP. PETER KING (R) NEW YORK: Well, first, Chris, the reality is, in situations like this, there generally is not bidding.

I mean, the law specifically provides that, in the early stages of a disaster, that the contracts usually are done without bidding. You wouldn't have time. You can't have it both ways. You can't say we want quick action and yet put something out for bidding. So, the reality is, it's always done this way in a large disaster.

Now, the other part of it is that every invoice is being checked. There's an inspector general monitoring everything. If there's any abuse, if there's any contracts that are out of line, if there's anything that's not fair market value, that will be taken care of. And I can assure you that my committee and Bennie Thompson, the ranking member on the committee, will be examining this very carefully.

But there's already a team of inspectors general in there to make sure that every voucher can be explained, that no one is overcharging. And, if they are, there will be action taken.

MATTHEWS: According to "The New York Times" report-and I'm not here for "The New York Times" -- they report that several of these contracts dealt with projects not to begin for at least three months. So, it wasn't a rush job.

Let me ask you this. Congressman King, I want you to continue this thought, because you're a good politician. ... What does your sense of smell tell you when you notice that Halliburton, Bechtel, clients of the former Haley Barbour firm, clients of Joseph Allbaugh, the president's former FEMA director -- everybody seems to have a brand name representing them who gets the money? Doesn't that make you think, wait a minute; maybe it helps to have a friend of the president's doing the bidding here, cutting the deal?

KING: Obviously, that has to be looked at.

But, also, remember, under Bill Clinton, most of the big contracts went to Halliburton and Bechtel also, especially Halliburton. They're the ones that do this type of work. Chris, I can assure you this is going to be watched very carefully. If there's anything out of order at all, it will be caught either number one by the Department of Homeland Security.

If not by them, it will be certainly caught by the congressional committees, including my committee. We will watch it very carefully.
I don't think we should be rushing to judgment here. I think that's what's wrong from the beginning of this. You know, people in the media are so quick to demonize. And they are, I think, creating a very bad atmosphere.

If it's true, it's true. But if it's not, I think the media should watch what it says. We should look at it very carefully. But let's not rush to judgment. That Chris, that-that used to be called McCarthyism.

MATTHEWS: The question is whether there should be a judgment by the taxpayers when they see the money heading to the usual suspects.

Congressman Thompson.

THOMPSON: One of the issues, Chris, that I'm looking at is that local businesses are not being given an opportunity to participate in this process.

One of the things that we waived was any requirements-the president waived, not Congress, any requirement for local participation by small business, veteran-owned businesses. So, if you are going to resurrect an area, you need to involve the people who live in that area. None of these sole-source contracts have gone to a single individual who live in the hurricane-impacted area.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about Congressman King's argument that these jobs are too big for the little guys?

KING: I didn't say that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, you said that they're sole-sourced. You said that you have to go to these same guys year in and year out, regardless of the administration.

KING: No. Chris, I'm saying, at the early stages, you might have to.

But Bennie Thompson and I have both signed a letter where we have called on Secretary Chertoff to give as many local contracts out as he can. And that's actually required by the act by the Stafford Act. That's required by federal law. And I'm confident that they will comply with that.

And, actually, a number of contracts have gone out. And I believe a lot of the subcontractor is going to locals. ... But I signed letter with Bennie saying they should go to local contractors, minority contractors, women-owned companies.

THOMPSON: Well, you're right, Peter.

But, at this point, I can tell you that that's not the case. I have met with small contractors who can't get phone calls returned. They go on the Internet. They register their company. Nobody ever calls. We had a meeting last Saturday with over 100 minority contractors, small business contractors. None of them have ever been contacted.

So, what we're trying to do is say to these super contractors, if you are going to follow the Stafford Act, you have to hire local people. And you are not doing that.

KING: Well, Bennie, I agree with you.

MATTHEWS: What should we be doing, Congressman King, here? What should be done? When you look at the front-page story of "The New York Times" today that says that 80 percent of the money is going out in no-bid contracts and, as you say, sole suppliers, doesn't that raise concerns by taxpayers that the money is going to the usual suspects?

KING: Well, first of all, the fact it's in "The New York Times" means nothing to me.

But having said that, obviously, any time you have no-bid contracts or sole-source contracts, it raises questions that have to be addressed. That's why Bennie Thompson and I sent a letter to Secretary Chertoff telling him that, as much as possible, contracts should be given out to local contracts, minority contractors.

That's why inspectors general are down there. That's where my committee and others are going to be looking at this carefully. If anything is done wrong, the price will be paid. I'm just saying, let's not rush to judgment. Obviously, any time you go around the bidding process, the presumption is that it has to be looked at. It will be looked at very carefully. I can guarantee you that.

I'm just saying, don't indict and convict people before the facts are in.

MATTHEWS: No. Well, let me go back to the president. Let me go back to the president for both of you. We have a public record of a Michael Brown being head of FEMA, appointed by the president of the United States. And he was found to be so incompetent, he was sacked within a week after this disaster. So, it is a reasonable thing for the American taxpayer to pay attention to what obviously other people weren't paying attention to, which is the competence and the reliability of FEMA.

Don't you agree, Mr. King?

KING: Chris, that's why I said that the congressional committees will be looking at it, as will the Homeland Security Oversight, the inspectors general.

But, also, let's face it, Mike Brown did have four hurricanes in Florida last year, and he did a very good job. I mean, there has been a pile-on here by the media. You guys are in a rush to judgment, no matter what George Bush does. If he had sent this out to bidding, you would say, nothing is being done. What is he waiting for? He had the power to suspend bidding.

Now, he has suspended bidding and you are raising questions. I'm saying, let's look at this in its totality. If anything is found wrong, I guarantee you, the price will be paid. And Bennie Thompson will be leading the charge. And I will be right next to him.

MATTHEWS: So, I want to go back to the beginning here. Has FEMA been operating in a incompetent fashion, gentlemen? I just bring the case that the president himself sacked a guy in the midst of this crisis because he realized the guy was an incompetent for this job.

If there's any other reason why he fired him, I don't understand it, Mr. King. But the fact is, the president admitted that he hadn't given enough attention to this appointment, to who he put at FEMA. He didn't give enough attention initially to Katrina, so he's spending all these days down there now.

I think the president has been very honest about this. There was a failure of oversight in who was heading FEMA. There was a slowness to act by himself and his officials early on. He's made up for that dramatically. I don't know why anybody would want to defend the current system at FEMA, though.

THOMPSON: Well, well, Chris, there's a bigger issue.

Where is Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, in all this? The president has basically taken charge of this whole effort. And the man he put in charge of the overall agency is missing in action. ...

KING: That's not true.

THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely. Yes, it is. There's absolutely nothing being done by the secretary in this Hurricane Rita process. ...

KING: Let me tell you-let me tell you, Chris-let me tell you, Chris, Mike Chertoff has been with the president every step of the way. ... Mike Chertoff has been with the president each stage over the last several days. He was there in the planning. I was with him last week, when he was involved in the planning. He's been with President Bush at every stage.

And, Chris, there is sort of a frenzy here by the media. Let's not forget the incompetence of the mayor of New Orleans, the governor of New Orleans. They were the ones in the first instance who were required to do the job, and they didn't.

As far as President Bush, it's wrong for you to say he wasn't caring. He certainly was caring. What he was not equipped for was to explain for the incompetency of the local officials or to explain the hysteria, anticipate the hysteria created by people like you in the media who go off the deep end. Let's treat this with a little bit of rationality and a little bit of decency.

MATTHEWS: ... The fact is that most people trust the media on this story, because the pictures of what was happening down there in New Orleans apparently got to them before they heard of any federal action. But go ahead.

KING: Chris, you are totally distorting reality. And that's the problem with you. You are distorting reality. You are on the story. You and MSNBC have carried away with this. You should all be ashamed of yourself.

MATTHEWS: OK.

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Old 09-27-05, 09:20 PM   #19
Breakfast with Girls
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These organizations can only collect on the money if they provided services at the request of local, state, or federal government entities. I think they have every right to be offered reimbursement that if that is the case.

However, I think any church that collects on it really shows its true colors.
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Old 09-27-05, 10:48 PM   #20
Draven
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Quote:
Originally Posted by classicman2
Other than simply church bashing - what's your point?
How is it church-bashing? I grew up going to church an average of three times a week. My father is a minister. Even though I don't attend now, I have no issues with the idea of charity coming from a church.

But I don't understand why a church that volunteers itself for recovery efforts should be treated any differently than all those individuals that drove in from all over the country to help out - are they all going to be reimbursed for their time?

I can't believe a church would EXPECT reimbursement...my point was this kind of thing something I'd expect a church to do, without having to be asked (or reimbursed) by the government.
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Old 09-28-05, 01:02 AM   #21
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First off, I didn't see it as church bashing myself (looks like you're putting the church in a better light than FEMA to me), however, I do sort of take issue with your follow up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Draven
I can't believe a church would EXPECT reimbursement...my point was this kind of thing something I'd expect a church to do, without having to be asked (or reimbursed) by the government.
Um, they're not the only one's eligible for reimbursement. Why, if the government is going to reimburse, say, a civic center or a Superdome, is it wrong to reimburse a church?

From the article,
Quote:
Religious groups, like secular nonprofit groups, will have to document their costs and file for reimbursement from state and local emergency management agencies, which in turn will seek funds from FEMA.
Secular nonprofits' are eligible for help with their costs, I don't see why nonsecular groups should be excluded from the very same assistance.
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Old 09-28-05, 05:40 AM   #22
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And yet another link to FEMA's amazing spending intelligence:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9507503/

Must be nice just writing the checks out and not having to be responsible for the money. I wish I had that leisure. I work for my money. Obviously, the US government has different standards.
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Old 09-28-05, 07:18 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
I guess we don't need FEMA then.

I mean really. Since local organizations helped out more anyway, and they often do because they are there in the middle of a crisis, why not have money going directly to organizations that help. Take the inflated FEMA entity out of the equation.
I'd like to wager that's what the framers would say as well

(also Grover)
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Old 09-28-05, 08:19 AM   #24
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Quote:
I guess we don't need FEMA then.
That's a thought. Although I wouldn't do away w/ it entirely but I would scale it back and make sure people understood that it is not a response organization (and certainly not a "first responder" organization) but turn it into a consulting group/organization that will help Gov'ts/other interested parties at various levels develop/implement/test emergency plans.
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Old 09-28-05, 08:33 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
I think this sets a very bad precident, surprisingly not because it's a religious issue, but because these organizations are non-profit...
Yeah. Because non-religious non-profits have NEVER received govt grants...
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