Florida's recently passed AB 998, discussed by Naomi here, essentially blocks politically motivated interest groups from forcing foundations to engage in a preferred-minority head count -- in terms of their board make-up, their staffs, and the organizations they choose to support. It is a reasonable law that protects private charitable foundations from unwarranted state intrusion undertaken in the name of that tattered, but still imposing, battle flag, "diversity."
Critics of the law seem not to understand -- or perhaps do not care -- that its impact is precisely to protect philanthropic diversity. The effect of forcing all foundations to honor a highly particular, and of course ideological, definition of "diversity" would, after all, have been to make them more and more the same; at the very least, it would have forced all of them to subscribe, at least implicitly, to the same contested definition of "diversity" and its alleged benefits. In other words, the law would have made things more uniform.
As things stand, nothing impedes Florida's -- and the nation's -- private foundations from pursuing their diverse charitable goals in diverse ways and according to the diverse beliefs that animate them. And that is precisely what they do; no one who honestly examines the giving patterns, goals, and beliefs of America's 75,000 foundations can fail to be impressed by Americans' charitable pluralism. In other words, freedom of association -- besides being an ancient, pre-political right -- leads to diversity. But diversity ideologues, as we are reminded today by the Supreme Court's decision in CLS v. Martinez, actually want uniformity.
All of that is old news, I suppose, but it has been interesting to follow the reaction to the passage of AB 998, as it no doubt will the reaction to the CLS v. Martinez ruling. Al Pina -- oh, if he didn't exist, we'd have to invent him! -- even showed up on John Miller's blog to react with an entertaining mix of self-righteous pique and charming irrelevancies.
Let me ASSURE YOU that the battle in Florida is not over. We will fight those like you who lack the sensibility towards the suffering of others to the gates of hell and back for this is our country too. Anybody with a pen or computer can spew reality as they see it. But that does not make it so. I personally challenge you or anybody with your views to a public debate and to have that debate in our distressed low income communities. I served my country with distinction in the US Air Force and I continue to fight for my country by increasing the economic standing of my fellows in these poor communities so they too can contribute to the economic stability of our nation. I suggest you get yourself to a poor community and live there for a month that will enable you to get a grasp of reality. Again, the fight has JUST BEGUN in Florida.
I would love to see Mr. Miller debate Mr. Pina, but I must say that the above post does not give me much confidence in the latter's skill in verbal persuasion.
Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center, has weighed in with a tad more reserve. Much to his credit, he defends the principle of philanthropic freedom. At the same time, he makes much of the Center's efforts to promote the kind of "transparency" that activists like Pina would like to see enshrined in law. Foundations' voluntary disclosure of data pertaining to diversity, as the term is politically defined, is much preferable, I suppose, to involuntary disclosure. But if we are going to ask for such information, shouldn't we also have an open and honest debate about what we mean by diversity, and why? And shouldn't that discussion include those who remain skeptical as to the concept's usefulness (not to mention its coherence), including its helpfulness precisely for those whom it allegedly is meant to serve: the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable?
After all, following CLS v. Martinez, the "marginalized" and "vulnerable" may soon include Christians and others who cling to views unpopular with American elites. But I somehow doubt that Al Pina will be speaking up for them.