[Hpn] more charitable choice / faith-based views

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Thu, 01 Feb 2001 13:57:27 -0700

OK Mr. Nice (or should I say uncle tom?), this article is more in line with
what constitutes "fact-based analysis."

Lucky for all of you that I've been an ordained minister since the Vietnam
draft days, and I have our answer. I'm going to get federal funding to start
the First National Bank of Christ, and bless all the poor with zero interest
rates. Our motto will be "Jesus Saves, and so will YOU at the First National
Bank of Christ." Meanwhile, I stand to make a bundle by laundering all the
Bush clan's cocaine profits. Everybody wins!


(aka Filthy McNasty)


St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press
Published: Thursday, February 1, 2001

An article of faith

In setting up his new Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,
President Bush asks us to believe he can straddle, but not cross, the line
separating church and state. Here are some early reactions.

I come not to condemn Bush's proposal but to praise it, at least in

I agree with him that we should not ignore the amazing success many
faith-based organizations have had in helping the poorest of the poor to
help themselves.

I have seen some faith-based programs help prison inmates sober up, turn
their lives around and avoid returning to jail.

We can protect constitutional freedoms without denying ourselves the
advantages of programs that work where others have not . . . The line
between church and state is not absolute, but it must be drawn fairly,
justly and without discrimination for or against any particular faith.
-- Clarence Page, Tribune Media Services

Page (e-mail: CPage@tribune.com) is a Washington columnist for the Chicago
Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Media Services.

No one denies that private charities, especially faith-based ones, can
transform lives and help lift people out of poverty and despair. Indeed,
private charities are more effective than government welfare programs in
fulfilling these roles. It seems natural, therefore, for President Bush to
want to encourage these groups. But in mixing government and charity, he
risks undermining the things that have made private charity effective.

Government standards and regulations intended to ensure accountability and
quality care are attached to government grants and contracts. In the end,
what these rules ensure is nothing more than waste and major headaches for
faith-based charities. Charities will have to prove that they are not using
government funds for proselytizing and other exclusively religious

That means government regulators will be snooping through their books,
checking for compliance. The potential for government meddling is great. But
even if the regulation is not abused, it will require a redirection of
scarce resources away from charitable activities and toward administrative
functions. Officials of these charities may end up spending more time
reading the Federal Register than the Bible.
-- Michael Tanner, Cato Institute

Tanner is director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute
(www.cato.org). Readers may write him at: Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts
Ave.NW, Washington DC 20001.

There are a dozen reasons to be nervous. When George Bush says that he
``will look first to faith-based programs and community groups'' to solve
social programs, it's worth worrying that the conservative agenda is to
privatize the responsibilities of government and shunt the homeless under a
leaky church roof.

As for funding religion itself? Stephen Goldsmith, chosen to coordinate this
effort throughout federal agencies, says government ``can fund the soup, it
can fund the shelter, it shouldn't fund the Bibles.'' But how will the
government know if there's a sermon with the soup? Do churches want those

For all the nervous reservations, there is quite simply an overriding need
to help transform lives. Sometimes that takes a leap of faith.
-- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe

Goodman (e-mail: ellengoodman@globe.com) is a columnist for the Boston
Globe, 135 Morrissey Blvd., Boston MA 02109. Distributed by Washington Post
Writers Group.

Bush's new office will violate the very basic foundation of religious
liberty in the United States -- that government must not interfere with,
support or fund religions.

There are many possible approaches to promoting aid to qualified
social-service organizations in states. This isn't one of them. Using tax
dollars to fund church organizations so they can deliver social and welfare
services is a public policy that violates the Constitution.
-- Charles Levendosky, Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune

Levendosky (e-mail: levendos@trib.com), editorial page editor of the Casper
(Wyo.) Star-Tribune, has a national reputation for First Amendment

Bush is right to ask us to acknowledge that miracles do happen every day in
scores of church basements, child-care centers and prison fellowships. Even
before the current interest in ``charitable choice'' programs to help
faith-based institutions, government money often flowed through, near or
around -- and, in some cases, into -- religiously based institutions. To
pick the obvious: Bush didn't invent the idea of Medicare and Medicaid money
flowing to religious hospitals, or of government student loans helping
students who attend private and religious colleges.

Bush also is right -- and most liberals in the trenches helping communities
and individuals know this already -- that government alone cannot expect to
solve every social problem. Our systems of public assistance would collapse
if non-governmental organizations, including the churches, weren't doing
their share.
-- E.J. Dionne, Washington Post

Dionne (e-mail: postchat@aol.com), a senior fellow at the independent
Brookings Institution, a public-policy think tank, is a columnist for the
Washington Post, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington DC 20071. Distributed by the
Washington Post Writers Group.

Simply put, Bush's new government agency would create a policy and
constitutional nightmare. While some might support the notion of houses of
worship playing a larger role in providing services to those in need,
putting those institutions on the public dole will have a series of
detrimental consequences.

First, any time tax dollars flow from the treasury to church coffers,
constitutional concerns arise. But the Office of Faith-Based Action pushes
this principle to new highs -- or in this case, lows.

Religious groups will be providing services, with your tax dollars, in areas
including after-school programs for children, job training, drug treatment,
prison rehabilitation programs and abstinence programs.

When we keep church and state separate, you choose whether to give your
money to a house of worship. If Bush has his way, a new government agency
will open the public treasury to any religious group, forcing taxpayers to
finance religious groups that many find frightening, offensive or just
theologically wrong.
-- Rev. Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Lynn is executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and
State, a Washington-based watchgroup that monitors religious liberty
concerns. Readers may write him at Americans United, 518 C St. NE,
Washington DC 20002.

I have heard feigned concerns from liberals who worry that churches that
take federal funds to provide basic services to the needy will be
manipulated and forced to submit to government intrusion in other areas.

I appreciate these concerns but I think they are offered with relatively
little sincerity as these same liberals seek to regulate every aspect of the
free exercise of religious belief in the public square.

If they want to do something to reduce harassment of religious citizens, let
them stop suing communities that display creches and menorahs, let them stop
harassing military chaplains who counsel our servicemen and women, and let
them stop force-feeding our children pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality
``training'' in public schools.
-- The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, Traditional Values Coalition

Sheldon is the chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a
nondenominational public policy organization that lobbies on behalf of
43,000 churches across the United States and Puerto Rico. Readers may write
to him at TVC, 139 C St. SE, Washington DC 20003.

It is beyond debate that programs with a life-changing spiritual element
produce the results government seeks but has yet to find in ``secular''
programs. Organizations such as Prison Fellowship, where the recidivism rate
is in single digits, and Teen Challenge, a drug rehabilitation program
President Bush praised when he was governor of Texas, change lives and
substantially reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.

This is a worthy objective and one government can support, so long as no one
is coerced into entering such programs. Why should government or anyone else
care what method is used so long as it produces results that promote the
individual's and the general welfare? Why discriminate against religion,
when secularism has failed so miserably?

My main concern is that many churches and charities might see government
involvement as a good excuse for individuals to abdicate a personal calling
to ``feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those in prison,'' as well
as caring for widows and orphans. Charity is a two-way street. It helps the
receiver but it's also supposed to transform the giver. That is what is
meant by ``it is more blessed to give than to receive.''

Government help to faith-based charities is worth a try, but let's keep a
sharp eye on it.
-- Cal Thomas, Tribuen Media Services

Thomas (e-mail: ron@ambassadoragency.com) is a syndicated columnist based in
Virginia. Contact him at P.O. Box 20809, Alexandria VA 22320-1809.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

 2001 PioneerPlanet

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