Bill Maher last Friday brought up on his show the question of what is a charity and what is not. The discussion was sparked by a point made on his show the week before. He had a right wing guest who claimed that Mitt Romney, the aristocrat, was not such a bad person after all, because he had given millions to "charity". For Romney, of course, that means the Mormon Church. But Maher's guest wasn't at all happy that this was even brought up.
I must say I find it stunning that the hypocrisy here is ignored. First, Romney was a Mormon bishop. He is giving to the organization he, himself, is and has been a senior member of. How much more self-serving can you get? Second, the Mormon Church spends a lot of this money on missionary activity, which essentially is meant to bring in more members and ultimately, more revenue. It is amazing that churches get to call money spent on advertising for more business "charity" while restaurants don't.
And when not busy recruiting, the church spends its money ruining the lives of gay people. Their role in financing Proposition 8 in California was the subject of a full length documentary.
So much for the claim that giving to charity makes Romney a decent person. Bill Maher said that he devoted a whole segment to this topic on his next show because of the flak that he got; "Oh, Bill, but Mormons do a lot of good work!".
But I want to go a step further. Charitable work is what criminals, money launderers, and terrorists often hide behind. Quite frankly, I find it rather despicable when I am told I should respect Mr. X for all the "charity work" that he does, regardless of what kind of person he is otherwise. Exhibit A would be the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists. They are often involved in extensive charitable activities serving the poor (and, of course, recruiting them to get involved in the "armed struggle"). That is the point Christopher Hitchens brought up when pressured by Sean Hannity to "eulogize" Jerry Falwell, and that is what I would have said in response to the smarmy praise for Mitt Romney.
The comment is about 8 minutes and 10 seconds into the video.
But the hypocrisy doesn't end even here. Only today, we learn that the state of Arizona has banned one major charitable organization, the Planned Parenthood, from receiving public funds.
Planned Parenthood does a lot of good work too, and provides health-related services to the poor that will otherwise be missing. But it has become the target of the rage of the religious right because of what is in fact a smaller part of what it does-providing abortions. It seems that those who claim that giving to their churches makes them good people understand rather clearly, that not all charity is good.