By Any Other Name: Neoliberalism, Post-Secularism, and Establishment Religion

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Distributed Paper
Gwendolyn Yvonne ALEXIS , Management and Decision Sciences, Monmouth University, Chester, NJ
"... The paramount goal is compassionate results, and private and charitable community groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field, so long as they achieve valid public purposes, such as curbing crime, conquering addiction, strengthening families and neighborhoods, and overcoming poverty."

                                                     …George W. Bush in 2001[1]

 Then-President Bush made this statement in connection with establishing a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (“WHO-FBI”) to cultivate contacts with the religious sector.  Under massive “welfare reform” legislation, U.S. welfare recipients may only remain on the welfare rolls for a two-year period, after which time they have to enter the workforce. It was the task of the WHO-FBI to recruit religious groups as third-party contractors to provide job-readiness skills to the nation’s welfare recipients.  Whatever euphemism one uses – be it “massive welfare reform,” “Compassionate Conservatism," or “Neoliberalism” – the retrenchment of the welfare state from providing a safety blanket for society’s downtrodden has pushed religion to the forefront of the public sphere.

By drawing upon the U.S. experiment with “colonizing the poor” under the religious sector, this paper elucidates the threat to religious liberty posed by the faith-based initiatives that are becoming the modus operandi of the Neoliberal State. [2] In addition to delving into the diminishment of individual autonomy – e.g., the right to be “free from religion” -- the paper explores the diminution of religious pluralism occurring as minority religious groups vie for space in a public square in which a majority religion has served as the prototype for what constitutes religion and religious practice.

[1] President George W. Bush, Executive Order No. 13198 (29 January 2001), Washington D.C.: White House.  8 Sep 2013. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/01/20010129-2.html

[2]Justin Beaumont and Paul Cloke, Faith-Based Organisations and Exclusion in European Cities (Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2012), 3.