[Hpn] Homeless Ministries and President Bush

JReynalds@aol.com JReynalds@aol.com
Sun, 28 Jan 2001 21:51:09 EST


Date:   Sunday January 28 2001   
Contact: Jeremy Reynalds                            
Tel: 505) 877-6967, or (505) 463-2873.
Learn about Joy Junction
on the World Wide Web at: www.joyjunction.org

    Bush Meets with Religious Leaders to Discuss Possible Funding: Joy 
Junction Chief Says "No Thanks." 
    

    (Albuquerque) On Monday January 29 at 11.00 a.m. (EST) President Bush is 
meeting in Washington D.C., to discuss possible funding of faith based 
programs by the federal government. Joy Junction Director is vehemently 
opposed to what he believes will end up being unwarranted government 
intrusion into religion and is advising leaders of faith based ministries not 
to take the funds but rather to ask the government for help in decreasing 
burdensome government regulations. Please find below his response contained 
in its entirety.  


    Government rules make it tougher to help people. So much so that the head 
of one charitable agency in San Francisco recently told ABC's John Stossel 
that "if Jesus Christ wanted to start Christianity (today), he wouldn't be 
able to do it, because there are too many regulations."     How true. We just 
saw that demonstrated first hand at Joy Junction, New Mexico's  largest 
emergency homeless shelter. We have no quibble with the individual; we 
realize that she was just doing her job. However, as a result of that visit 
we've got a whole lot of work to do. For example. We will no longer be able 
to use an old  mobile home to temporarily store donations, and we have to 
move a structure that wasn't placed quite exactly in accordance with 
government required site plan.
    We'll be complying with the requirements, just as we've always done so. 
But that notwithstanding, it's rules of that nature that make running a 
charitable shelter so much harder than it needs to be. Remember that at Joy 
Junction we don't receive any government funding of any type and we're still 
obligated to deal with rules like that. Can you imagine the rules and 
bureaucratic hoops we'd be forced to jump through if we DID take federal 
funds? 
    In spite of having to face a potential Red Sea of bureaucracy if they opt 
for government funding (and their ability to ask the Lord to bail them out 
may be compromised in the process, as even to call upon His Name may subject 
those around them to "unwanted religious proselytizing,") a number of faith 
based ministry leaders seem to be jumping at the prospect. (It's surprising 
what dangling dollars before human beings will do to their integrity).  
    On Monday January 29th there was a meeting between President Bush and a 
number of Christian leaders to  discuss possible government support for faith 
based ministries. One writer said that the issue about such proposed 
government funding for faith based ministries is whether it can occur without 
them being turned into, as one writer so succinctly articulated, "secular 
wards of the welfare state." My guess is that is exactly what WOULD happen. 
The only help that I want from the government is a willingness to reduce or 
remove burdensome government regulations which make my usage of the private 
funds that I DO have less effective than they might otherwise be.
    This apparent governmental willingness to bankroll religious charities is 
the result of the historic 1996 welfare reform legislation which in addition 
to allowing the states to require work in return for welfare payments, also 
encouraged the recipients to more heavily rely on church assistance as well 
as that offered by faith based ministries such as America's rescue missions. 
    Now it's no secret that much of what the government does it is regarded 
by many as doing poorly. For example, as was pointed out by John Stossel 
during a recent program on government incompetence. 
    "The Interior Department spent billions to help American Indians, yet 
they are still the poorest people in America. Billions more have been spent 
on public housing, but instead of living in safe homes, low-income families 
often end up in dilapidated, unsafe buildings," Stossel said. 
    One of the names that frequently crops up in connection with the failure 
of today's government to help the poor is University of Texas Professor 
Marvin Olasky's very well documented 1992 resource, "The Tragedy of American 
Compassion."  The book is basically a chronology of how the poor were helped 
in 19th-century America. 
    Olasky points out that in comparison with today's ideology of 
non-accountability, that workers of this era used a tough-love approach that 
was geared toward saving souls —  not just bodies. That same approach also 
demanded behavioral changes – in stark contrast to the government's current 
bottomless feeding trough of entitlements. 
    Not surprisingly, a number of scholars agree with Olasky's approach. 
Commenting in an article by Capital Research Center Fellow Martin Morse 
Wooster in the  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, University of Pennsylvania 
Political Scientist John J. DiIulio Jr., a leading advocate of faith-based 
charities, pointed out that "the crux of compassionate conservatism is the 
will to promote active benevolence in all sectors of civil society and to 
institute results-driven competition within social-welfare bureaucracies, 
federal, state, and local. If implemented faithfully, the policies and 
programs that flow from compassionate conservatism might bring about lasting 
progress against our worst social ills-notably, enormous improvement in how 
government helps children and poor families." 
    At Joy Junction, we not only believe in "compassionate conservatism," we 
feel that  thanks to the prayers and financial support of a very generous 
community that we exemplify the concept.   But the sort of compassionate 
conservatism in which we believe and the sort which I believe Olasky promotes 
in his book is a behavior in which families, communities and businesses are 
integrally involved. It's an activity in which caring neighbors pitch in to 
help a neighbor down on his luck, or a family up the street whose house has 
been burned down. It is a behavior which has people at its core and one that 
is initiated and maintained by community generosity --- not by government 
mandate. 
    Government intrusion into faith based ministries by way of funding has 
the potential to be a devastating scenario. It has the capacity to rip the 
very heart out of the ministry and reduce it to something akin to the "dry 
bones" described in the Biblical Book of Ezekiel. While President Bush is 
agog to open up the federal coffers to faith based ministries, he is by far 
the final arbiter on the matter. Because there is currently inadequate 
guidance on permissible usages of federal funds by faith based ministries, 
any disbursements that do happen will probably end up getting tied up in the 
courts rather quickly.
    Such a scenario is rather ominous, because as Wooster pointed out, there 
is very little case law concerning the government funding of religious 
charities. While there have been a number of court cases dealing with what 
sort of government aid parochial schools can and cannot receive, the U.S. 
Supreme Court has only heard two cases other than schools regarding aid to 
religious non profits. 
    Commenting on the three-pronged test devised in 1971 for government aid 
to parochial schools, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist 
wrote that aid must fulfill "a secular legislative purpose," "its principal 
or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion," 
and "the statute must not foster an excessive government entanglement with 
religion." It is not a violation of the constitution to federally fund non 
profits,  Rehnquist observed, as long as funds are not used for purposes that 
are either "pervasively sectarian" or provide counseling that "amounts to the 
teaching of religion." 
    Wooster said that a while a number of experts believe that the Charitable 
Choice provisions of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act protect faith based 
ministries against unwarranted government intrusion that others believe the 
religious nature of faith based groups will be compromised by the acceptance 
of government funding. 
    For example, Wooster writes, "Also weighing in against Charitable Choice 
is James Q. Wilson, who writes, ‘Federal money brings federal rules, and 
federal rules can harm, distort, or even crush religious experience and 
greatly burden the small ministries of most churches.' He predicts that, 
‘left unchecked,' Charitable Choice will likely subject churches to minority 
set-asides, employment-discrimination regulation, and the Americans With 
Disabilities Act."    
    So as those 25 leaders who met with President Bush head back to their 
home towns, I hope they will consider the real essence of compassionate 
conservatism: privately funded assistance being responsibly disbursed to 
needy community members. And just think what the government could do with the 
funds saved by NOT funding faith based ministries: give it all back to us in 
the form of a tax cut and then WE could decide which agencies we wanted to 
fund and religion wouldn't even be an issue. Boy, what a concept!   
    For additional information, please call Jeremy Reynalds at (505) 463-2873 
or 
(505) 877-6967.