Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Interpretive genius at the WaPo Book World

Roughly a month ago, the WaPo published this review of a book on Chuck Colson, deconstructed by the Power Line guys here and here. One of the bones of contention was the reviewer’s meritless claim that "Colson’s coffers" were "filled" by grants from the faith-based initiative.

In tomorrow’s WaPo, you’ll find this exchange, with Mark Earley, PFM’s President and CEO explicitly denying the reviewer’s claim. Here, in full, so you can see its interpretive mendacity, is the reviewer’s (David Greenberg of Rutgers University) response:

Pages 411-412 of Jonathan Aitken’s Charles W. Colson , along with many news reports, make clear that Colson’s involvement with George W. Bush’s "faith-based" program in Texas inspired the president’s current policies at the federal level.

Earley is correct that the book doesn’t claim Colson’s groups take federal funds, and I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I took care not to assert, contrary to Earley’s letter, that Prison Fellowship receives "federal funds" -- merely to quip that Colson’s "coffers" have received money from faith-based initiatives. On rereading, I can see why Earley interpreted my language as he did, and I regret that I wasn’t more careful and precise in my wording. My phrase "cashing in" was meant as a lighthearted pun on the meaning of "redemption," and I regret that in my glibness I offended Earley.

The real question isn’t one of taking "federal" money but rather of government’s entanglement with religion. News accounts have reported that Colson’s outfits have financially benefited, directly or indirectly, from state programs, including in Texas under Bush. In Iowa, a Colson group’s receipt of taxpayer funds occasioned a lawsuit. Hence, my larger point stands.

It is apparently O.K. to make a misleading claim in a book review so long as one is on the side of the separationist angels. It is O.K. to impugn Chuck Colson’s character so long as one is thereby promoting a particular vision of the separation of church and state. This from an author whose
book on Nixon won a prize. Makes me wonder about the book and about the organization that gave the award.

Update: Over at Power Line, Scott Johnson has much more, taking Greenberg the the woodshed once again.

Discussions - 1 Comment

I think Colson did more than enough to impugn his own character during Watergate.

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