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Good enough for Founding Fathers is good enough for me

1:14 pm December 9th, 2013

By Jim McCune
Budgeting is perhaps the most important job of your elected representatives. Discerning where to direct your tax dollars to provide the services government is charged with providing is something I take very seriously.
 Most recently, you may have heard something about funding, administered by Community Connections, designated for programs that deter youth violence. Prior to my coming to the Pierce County Council, the council members realized that there were additional, excellent, qualifying programs in their districts that perhaps were not aware of the grant program or didn’t realize they qualified for the program. This led to a percentage of the grant funds being directed by the council members to additional organizations.
The goal of the program is to deter youth violence, a global issue that does not discriminate against its victims. Our youth are individuals; therefore, there is no “one size fits all” program that addresses youth violence. There are many roads that lead to youth engaging in violence, and mentoring is one approach that fosters personal confidence and boosts one’s self-esteem, thereby, reducing the tendency toward violent behavior. When discerning which organizations would be worthy of receiving funds to aid in deterring youth violence, I felt that those whose focus was on building good and principled character traits would be deemed beneficial.
Unfortunately, a great deal of confusion was created due to a negative outreach campaign by those who practice humanism and organizations such as Americans United (a tax-exempt organization that promotes an atheistic stance toward policies, adhering to the falsely promoted idea that the Constitution speaks to the separation of church and state).  The First Amendment came in under the Blaine Amendment, it could be said it was written to further distinguish or define between freedom “of” religion and freedom “from” religion. 
For the record, I never claimed that Child Evangelism Fellowship wasn’t a religious foundation; I was specific that funds would not be used for curriculum that violated policy. I was merely exercising the constitutional right for organizations with different philosophical views to have equal access to funds.
To this point, 81 e-mails were received on the subject. Only two were from the 3rd Council District. In a county of over 800,000 residents, 23 were from out of state, 15 from other counties, and 43 mostly from the county’s urban areas. I’d say this was blown a bit out of proportion. What was good enough for our Founding Fathers is good enough for me.
Regardless, each organization must follow specific guidelines to qualify for reimbursement for their program. Neither the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (specifically the “no establishment clause”) nor the state constitution prohibits the use of or appropriation of public funds to faith-based organizations. 
Public funds may not, however, be used or appropriated for inherently religious activities such as worship, religious instruction or proselytizing. Every organization that receives Youth Violence Prevention Funds is required to enter into a contract with the county through the Community Connections Department in which they will describe the specific activity or program to be funded by public dollars, and they will have to agree therein that no public funds received under the contract will be used for the religious activities described above.
Out of respect for the council and staff time, I determined that this issue would be better addressed at a different time and chose to redirect the funds to different organizations, even though I had the support to maintain the grant.  

Jim McCune is a Pierce County Councilman. His district includes some of the Eatonville and Graham areas.

Jim McCune is a Pierce County Council member.

Jim McCune is a Pierce County Council member.

3 Responses to Good enough for Founding Fathers is good enough for me

  1. Stacy Emerson Reply

    December 10, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Councilmember McCune is intentionally being untruthful. Many of the people who submitted letters in opposition to McCune’s allocation of the money to CEF were self-proclaimed Christians and/or of other “faiths”, and additionally, those who spoke during the final hearing were a mix of Christian, Jewish, and “other” as well. I also spoke, and although I am not religious, I am not a member of, or even know anything about the groups he blames for creating “a great deal of confusion” and a “negative outreach campaign”. I myself did what I could to get the word out about his illegal allocation, but no matter how he tries to paint me as bad, or evil, or whatever rhetoric he chooses, he’d again be untruthful.

    I received over 2,500 pages as a result of my public records request relating to McCune and CEF. Much of it is quite interesting and contradicts the figures McCune cites in his op-ed here. Of special note, on page 305 of the 2,500+ page document, is a comment made by McCune’s assistant (Amy Cruver) to the Liberty Counsel — “It’s all for Him!” No, Ms. Cruver, you have that very wrong. It’s *supposed* to be all for the PEOPLE whom McCune represents. Period.

    This issue isn’t over. McCune more than hinted that he’s seeking legal counsel, and may introduce the same allocation at a later date. In the meantime, I hope that people much more educated than McCune will take the time help him better understand the Constitution which he claims to hold so dear.

  2. Cheryl Kopec Reply

    December 11, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Mr. McCune, I read your op-ed in the Pierce County Dispatch, dated 12/9/13. And I really take offense to your repeated claim that “a negative outreach campaign by those who practice humanism” was responsible for the outcry against your proposed gift of county funds to the Child Evangelism Fellowship. I was one of several people of faith who got up to speak at the Council meeting, and there were many more who couldn’t be there, but sent their comments online. Please do not try to portray this as a campaign waged by only a fringe group of atheists and humanists. Religious people such as myself are also offended by this proposal, because public money is supposed to be used in the interests of ALL the public, not just the portion that holds certain religious views.

    You complain that many of the objections come from outside your district. Be that as it may, it’s still county money, and county residents may be legitimately outraged by the use of county funds, especially when the allocation in question would probably have resulted in costly, totally preventable legal battles.

    You admit that the goal of the program is to deter youth violence. But there is no evidence that CEF involvement in communities has any effect on youth violence at all, and in fact, there is no specific violence prevention focus within their program materials and curriculum. Their spokesman said they would probably use the money to set up space at local fairs, but in fact CEF’s “Fair Ministry” consists of skits, stories, face painting, etc. focused on getting children to recite a specific prayer. While this is certainly evangelism, it doesn’t fit any commonly accepted definition of mentoring.

    The CEF has a very rigid, standardized program, and local chapters aren’t allowed to deviate from it. So it’s fair to say that what’s taught in one CEF program is basically what’s taught in another. It’s difficult to see how the causes of youth violence within a specific community would be addressed or even investigated when the curriculum and narrative are set in stone and strictly adhered to not only nationwide, but internationally.

    It would be interesting to see a proposal from CEF detailing what activities they would undertake using public funds that do not involve “worship, religious instruction or proselytizing.” I would also like to see independent studies suggesting that CEF’s presence in any community has resulted in lower youth violence rates.

    More troubling, however, is the constant drumbeat in the CEF narrative preaching obedience to parents and other authority figures, warning children that if they “sin” by disobeying an adult, God sees them as a “filthy rag.” What would be the effect of such a teaching on a child who was being sexually abused at home? If that child dared to resist or tell anybody else, she would incur God’s wrath? I shudder to think of the emotional damage that could result, in light of statistics showing suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens.

    Horse therapy has a time-tested record as an effective tool in helping troubled youth and adults. 4-H clubs promote a “revolution of responsibility,” using science, citizenship, and healthy living to develop youths’ creative and civic characters. I am glad you finally decided to allocate your slice of county funds to these kinds of organizations, which are accessible to all the youth in your district, not just the ones who might agree with the particular form of Christianity taught by CEF.

  3. Stacy Emerson Reply

    February 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Apparently a comment made by someone I know has been stuck in moderation since Dec. 10th. With that, I thought I’d try to post it on his behalf.

    ——————

    “Best comparison to the Council member’s argument of this funding not being for religious purposes but for renting space is this… “Honest officer, I wasn’t paying that prostitute for sexual favors, I was paying her to rent us a room.”

    The Councilman McCune in his legislative update played this same story as above, but was kind enough to include links for his revisionist history or the US. Links to creationists.org… everyone’s favorite source for evidence on constitutional law. Also to his source for the Blaine Amendment… something that never made it into the constitution but made it into most State constitutions making the concept of separation of church and state more explicit.

    He continues with changing the wording, or changing the meaning of phrases which our founding fathers laid out clearly… but he can ignore that by stating that he only goes by the words in the Constitution itself and Congressional records… thus being able to sidestep a couple of hundred years worth of case law at every level where his arguments have failed repeatedly… oh sorry, not HIS arguments, right wing religious groups that will gladly take your money to bring it up again in their attempts to make this a “Christian Nation”.

    Those drinking the Kool-Aid that see nothing wrong with pushing tax dollars to Christian groups flip their lids when any other group asks for the same. I suspect he’d be screaming bloody murder about Sharia Law if a Muslim group had the same request brought forward asking to have the county pay for their space at the fair or a summer camp where they were going to stop ‘youth violence’ by preaching at them and trying to convert your young kids in an after school program.

    While he remarks on the emails that came from elsewhere, he ignores the ones from THIS County… the majority. I don’t care if they came from his district, the group isn’t even from his district.

    He also conveniently ignores all the people that showed up in person to the Council meeting to speak out against it in person… Catholic, Jew, Muslim, and Atheists alike… with only those who’d seen the news report knowing it was in there. Mr. McCune, I recommend you rethink who you are representing, it is Pierce County as a whole, NOT YOUR religious beliefs. Yes, you are there to represent those in your district’s concerns, but keep in mind that you are there to protect everyone’s rights, not to help push one belief system on our kids using tax payer money.

    The fact that you are still pushing this after pulling back your amendment tells me a lot. You are either attempting to use this for fund raising for yourself because one letter was from an Atheist group, therefor you are being persecuted… send money, or you are seriously trying to help shift this country further towards a theocracy.

    If you want to really argue for the validity of the donation, don’t tell me that Community Connections would make sure it was valid before dispersing the funds, tell me what exactly what connection there is between a Children’s Evangelical Fellowship renting space at community events and reducing youth violence. None of their online information and training videos shows them doing ANYTHING besides proselytizing to young children then sending them out to bully those who are not in their “club”.”

    - Scott McElhiney

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