The New York Times reports today on the religious right’s declaration of financial warfare against the Young Women’s Christian Association.
The Traditional Values Coalition is seeking to bar federal funding to the YWCA because Ireland’s hiring does not conform to the religious right’s definition of Christianity. YWCA organizations receive $114 million in grant money now under federal review, according to the Times.
Patricia Ireland, the YWCA’s new chief executive, “emphasized that while the group had Christian roots it now focused on empowering women and ending racism.” Both goals are arguably more in tune with Christian morality than the sexual witch hunts of the religious right. Ireland does not cite abortion advocacy as one of the YWCA’s objectives.
The American Family Association is quoted arguing that:
- Leaders of “Christian” organizations must conform to the religious right’s definition of Christianity, and
- a leader does not qualify as a Christian unless one’s marital sex acts meet with AFA approval.
Ireland’s response is that opposition groups were “just becoming aware that the Y.W.C.A. embraces women without regard to their faith or denomination.” Inclusiveness, of course, is compatible with Christian values.
Meanwhile, the antigay wing of Concerned Women for America wants the YWCA to drop “Christian” from its name. This wing is run largely by men: Robert Knight and Peter LaBarbera.
“I’m not the head of a Christian organization,” Ireland said. “I’m the head of a social justice women’s organization.”
It puzzles me that the YWCA would hold on to its name, given that change in the organization’s self-perception — but it has the right to do as it wishes, and the federal government has no legitimate basis to discriminate against groups based on whether they meet the religious right’s definition of “Christian.”
I wonder whether the religious right is battling for a financial monopoly over Christianity, obstructing federal funding for efforts that Jesus of Nazareth might have applauded.
Since the YWCA has committed no financial wrongdoing, the grant money appears to be in no danger.