Under a system based on fairness, institutions established by
American citizens who hold religious beliefs should stand on an
equal footing with those institutions established for secular
and non-religious purposes. There is absolutely no Constitutional
rationale that would permit Federal grants in excess of $100,000,000
to be paid, for example, to a secular institution like Planned
Parenthood, yet would deny Catholic and Jewish charities or the
Salvation Army the privilege of being awarded Federal funds to
aid the sick, the destitute, or the culturally deprived.
Throughout the history of the United States, faith-based
organizations have established an exemplary record of community
service. Their work is efficient, lasting, and accomplished with
an economy of scale which the federal government is unable to
The Faith-Based Initiative proposed by President Bush is an official
acknowledgment of the tremendous role that faith-based institutions
play in society as mediating agents between those in need and
what seems an enormously expensive and often coldly impersonal
governmental social service bureaucracy.
Having said that, we must realize that the genius of faith-based
organizations lies in their religious mission. Teen Challenge
achieves a remarkable eighty-percent (80%) cure rate for teenage
drug addicts because they lead the young people to faith in Jesus
Christ and then painstakingly instruct them in biblical principals
of Christian living.
Chuck Colson¡¯s Prison Fellowship achieves equally startling
results with released prison inmates for the very same reason.
It is faith in Christ plus a network of loving Christian support
groups rather than psychological rehabilitation that brings about
a recidivism rate for inmates helped by Prison Fellowship that
is four times more effective than the recidivism rate of inmates
released from government-backed, secular prisons without such
Catholic schools provide superior education in the inner
cities, not only because of superior pedagogy, but because of
the strong Christian moral teaching and discipline which pervade
Herein lies the problem with government-assisted, faith-based
charity. If government provides funding to the thousands of faith-based
institutions but, under a tortured definition of separation of
church and state, demands in return that those institutions give
up their unique religious activities, then not only the effectiveness
of these institutions but possibly their very raison d'être may
There is a second disturbing problem. Under our settled Constitutional
law, government may not engage in content discrimination of speech.
The same government grants given to Catholics, Protestants, and
Jews must also be given to the Hare Krishnas, the Church of Scientology,
or Sun Myung Moon¡¯s Unification Church¡ªno matter that
some may use brainwashing techniques, or that the founder of one
claims to be the messiah and another that he was Buddha reincarnated.
Under the proposed Faith-Based Initiative, all must receive taxpayer
funds if they provide ¡°effective¡± service to the poor.
In my mind, this creates an intolerable situation.
I propose a modest modification to the Bush plan. Those faith-based
organizations which desire federal assistance could request an
audit by the new Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, which audit
would be based on objective criteria not the least of which would
be financial integrity, record-keeping, supervision, and basic
accountability. Assuming these organizations were performing approved
services for those less fortunate in society, they could be listed
in an annual government registry, along with a list of those projects
that the government wishes to support.
Then private individuals and corporations could make donations
to the faith-based institution of their choice among those listed,
and the donations could, in turn, be designated by the donor for
a desired worthy project or projects. The charity would then be
required to segregate these designated funds and be prepared to
document the fact that the donated funds were used in the manner
In turn, the government would not be making direct grants of federal
money, but would offer dollar-for-dollar tax credits (not deductions)
to the donors who give to approved projects.
In this way, and in the spirit of volunteerism, a vast private
network of caring citizens would be participating in, and having
a degree of oversight over, the thousands of faith-based initiatives
throughout the land.
As a consequence:
• A new swarm of federal regulators would not be required
to monitor this program
• The government would not be forced to intrude upon the
religious activities of worthy charities
• The government would not be placed in the position of
directly subsidizing religious practices which might seem anathema
to most Americans.
I want the Bush Faith-Based plan to succeed. With slight modification,
it will succeed. Otherwise, I see trouble down the road.