The most recent issue of NUVO features a lengthy exploration of a curious relationship between the Indiana Family Institute–the virulently anti-gay, anti-choice, “traditional values” organization–and the State of Indiana.
According to NUVO, IFI contracts with the State of Indiana to the tune of 1.5 million dollars, to provide a “Healthy Marriage Demonstration Project.” The purported goal is to strengthen child support enforcement by “promoting healthy marriages and healthy parental relationships.”
Leaving aside my personal conviction that IFI–which traffics in religious bigotry and extremism–and “healthy” are contradictions in terms, this article raises a number of questions.
First of all, as a matter of policy, why in the world are we spending scarce Medicaid dollars on marriage, healthy or not? Medicaid is supposed to provide a safety net for people too old, poor and/or disabled to pay for needed medical care. The Governor routinely bemoans its expense, and we hear constantly that fiscal realities require reducing payments to nursing homes and doctors who are providing these medical services. Why would we take a million and half dollars away from those pressing needs for a dubious social experiment?
This unsavory relationship isn’t simply bad policy. It raises substantial constitutional concerns.
No one who has ever encountered IFI, or Sue Swayze, the project director, is left with any doubt about their positions, or the explicitly religious roots of those positions. That’s not a problem when they are lobbying the legislature–like all Americans, they have the right to voice their opinions and attempt to persuade lawmakers to pass or defeat measures in which they have an interest. But it is a big problem if they are taking tax dollars to provide religiously-infused services to the State.
The rules that govern contracting-out are clear: faith-based and religious organizations are entitled to contract with government to provide secular services. The government can support the soup kitchen in the church basement, so long as what is being served is soup, not theology. Tax dollars can buy beds for elderly patients in religiously-affiliated nursing homes, so long as those tax dollars are being spent for housing and nursing care, not religious services. And whether it’s a good idea or a boondoggle, IFI could constitutionally provide counseling about healthy marriage–if that counseling was based upon sound psychology and professional counseling standards.
It is inconceivable that IFI would operate on that basis.
This is an organization permeated with a religious extremism that views gay people with horror and loathing, and still attacks the American Psychological Association for its 1975 decision removing homosexuality from its index of mental illnesses. IFI wants to outlaw abortion and many forms of birth control. It wants to destroy Planned Parenthood. Their representatives and their website are candid about these goals, and filled with conspiratorial accusations–most recently, they defended Rep. Bob Morris’ attack on the “commie lesbian feminist” Girl Scouts and their “connections” to Planned Parenthood.
If there’s someone out there who thinks IFI can deliver programming that doesn’t incorporate these and other religious elements, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.
According to Andy Kopsa, who wrote the NUVO story, the Daniels’ Administration was unable to provide any evidence of monitoring or oversight of this contract, and IFI refused repeated requests for interviews.
So–we have a lot of tax money being siphoned away from needy Medicaid patients into a contract with an extremist organization that is philosophically incapable of providing its (dubious) services in a constitutionally acceptable manner.
The question is, why?
Perhaps the answer might be found in the photos of supportive politicians that accompany the article–Dennis Kruse, Eric Turner, Jim Banks, Larry Bucshon, Todd Rokita, Dan Burton, Todd Young, and of course, Mike Pence–aka “the usual suspects.”
Looks like they’re buying “street cred” with their base. With our money.