The Case Against 'Charitable Choice'

Bad Public Policy
Bad for Religion

Related ADL Articles:
School Vouchers
Separation of Church and State

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The Case Against 'Charitable Choice'
Why Government funding for faith-based social services
endangers religious freedom
'Charitable Choice' is Unconstitutional

Before the passage of "charitable choice," in order to receive government funding, religious organizations were required to establish firewalls between their social service initiatives and their sectarian mission programs to ensure that these services were provided without a specific religious message and with appropriate constitutional safeguards. Previously, religious organizations had to establish a separately incorporated agency and offer services to all without regard to religious belief, and were not permitted to discriminate in the hiring of staff.

"Charitable choice" programs plainly violate the First Amendment's prohibition against funding that promotes religious beliefs. Allowing sectarian institutions to take the place of government as the provider of essential services in a community will likely result in the kind of coercion that the Establishment Clause was designed to prevent.

"Charitable choice" threatens to subject a large segment of American society to religious coercion -- at taxpayers' expense. Needy citizens may be directed to religious institutions where they may feel pressured to participate in religious practice or proselytization in order to receive their benefits. "Charitable choice" could result, for example, in Jewish families being encouraged to listen to Christian evangelists in order to receive government assistance.

Although many of society's most needy are likely to be the least informed about their rights -- including their right under "charitable choice" to request another benefit site -- the law does not require that service providers inform beneficiaries of their right to attend non-religious programs. A drug addict seeking court-ordered rehabilitation counseling may be directed toward a faith-based program without understanding that he has the option of attending a secular alternative instead. Once in the program, he may keep quiet about his own beliefs rather than risk being sent back to jail.

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