At first mention, the federal funding of groups like the USIP seems unconstitutional. After all, the group puts a heavy emphasis on religion, while being funded by the United States government.
David Smock’s first explanation of why the funding of the USIP is not unconstitutional seems weak. He states that the USIP, while funded by congress, is not under the rule of the executive branch. The government, he says, can make suggestions, but the USIP can accept or reject those suggestions at will. Yet it is hard to believe that the suggestions of the organization that funds the USIP would not influence it. Congress could decide to withhold funding from the USIP if it’s suggestions were not followed. The organization must be well aware of that fact.
Furthermore, while the fact that the USIP is not under the executive branch may satisfy the stipulations of the free-exercise clause, federal funding of the USIP seems to violate the establishment clause. Yet Smock’s later defenses show that this is not the case. The USIP does not advocate any one religion, rather, it seeks to promote interfaith activities. Most of it’s activities are research based. For instance, the USIP holds workshops to determine whether or not wars are just or to figure out what the best form of government for a certain religion is. In addition to this, the USIP seeks to promote peace throughout the world. This seems like a noble goal – one worth spending money on.
As one classmate said, “I am glad to know that Congress funds efforts for peace as well as war.” It is nice to know that political alternatives to hostility exist and even nicer to know that these alternatives are well researched. According to Smock, the USIP works with members of Islam, members of the catholic church, citizens of Iraq, citizens of Israel and citizens of Sudan. It is good to know that so many different voices are being considered by those who are in charge of promoting peace.