CCIL divorce from politics teaches valuable lesson
April 3, 2009

Editorial | April 2009

The wisdom of the founders in setting up a nation with separation of church and state is proven not just because religious zealotry can harm the state (the founders were all too familiar with centuries of war caused by religious differences in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), but because the involvement in the state can harm religion, too.

The Chicago Christian Industrial League (CCIL), a Presbyterian Christian organization for most of its 100 years, decided to play politics a few years ago, with disastrous results. It pulled its crucifix down from its chapel and started worshiping at the altar of political clout instead.

So a buddy of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s wanted the CCIL’s valuable gentrifying Greektown land for condos? Unlike Pacific Garden Mission in the South Loop, which fought against a move from the gentrifying South Loop for years until it could get an iron-clad better deal, the CCIL was all too quick to agree to move to the less desirable West Side and to take governmental TIF and Empowerment Zone money instead.

The guys with clout got CCIL to move—and didn’t care that CCIL didn’t get enough money to do so. Now, CCIL is in dire financial straits. Daley says it isn’t the City’s fault, of course. He blames “mismanagement” on the part of the CCIL—which was able to manage its affairs just fine for nearly a century until it got too cozy with the City.

Then CCIL turned to the State of Illinois, cozying up to Governor Rod Blagojevich by hiring his wife, Patti, who had no fundraising experience, as head fundraiser. She didn’t even last six months, and the Blagojevich connection, instead of helping the league, proved to be another black eye—and useless, as Governor Blagojevich has been removed from office.

So now, the CCIL is demonstrating wisdom by going back to its religious roots. It has rehired Rick Roberts to run strategy and communications and to fundraise. Roberts understands that the league has to quit playing footsie with the political types (some of whom are on the CCIL board and won’t be soon, if Roberts has his way), return to its spiritual foundation, focus on its public service mission, and raise money the old-fashioned way: from private donors and from granting organizations by proving the organization’s service value, not its political connection.

We support CCIL and its hiring of Roberts. In a troubled economy, this community needs the CCIL’s job training, counseling, and housing services now more than ever.

Following the motto “In God we trust” will garner the CCIL more benefits than “In Daley and Blagojevich we trust” ever did.

2 Responses »

  1. Rick Roberts certainly appears to understand the needs of the CCIL clients and also appears to have the experience and wisdom to logistically get the parts moving toward the right goals. I commend him for introducing the the right elements so quickly and for getting the organization moving so rapidly down the correct path.

  2. At long last…a move to put CCIL back on the “right track”. Someone of Mr. Roberts’ character and vision will propose moves which will, most likely, put CCIL on a fast track to recovery. Cudos to those responsible for this move.

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