One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column,"Ethics & Religion,"[emphasis mine] appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed [emphasis mine].
Responding to the latest revelation, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, announced Thursday that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn tells Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."...
...McManus, who could not be reached for comment, was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which encourages communities to combat divorce through education and counseling. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.
But wait! There's more:
With this column, I complete 20 years of writing ''Ethics & Religion.'' This is a good time to quote some of my critics, and try to answer them.
Richard Brownlee, General Presbyter of South Louisiana was offended by a column that said his denomination took ''steps toward apostasy'' at its General Assembly. He asked me for my ''credentials.'' ''Who authorized you to speak? To whom are you accountable?''
Those are fair questions. He went to a seminary and is far more qualified academically than I, who never went to a seminary. No one authorized me to speak. I am accountable to the newspapers who can cancel this column with only 30 days notice.
Ultimately, I am accountable to you, the readers.
I am a journalist who began my career 40 years ago as a reporter for small papers and was a TIME correspondent. In 1977 I began writing an economic and political column. While doing so, I heard a sermon in which my pastor asked, ''What are you doing to serve the Lord? Consider taking your talent and experience that makes you unique as a person to serve Him.''
That prompted me to consider starting Ethics & Religion. At first, I dismissed the idea because I had not been to seminary. Nor had I covered religion. It seemed arrogant to start a column with no training and no experience. But I had been a reporter covering complex national issues for two decades and I had gone to a good church, which inspired me to serve the Lord.
After 20 years, I feel qualified to judge apostasy. Webster's defines it as ''an abandoning of what one has believed in.''
Prisons are built with the Stones of Law, Brothels with the Bricks of Religion- William Blake