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 Bad for Religion

Finally, "charitable choice" threatens the health of American religious institutions themselves. Religion has thrived in America precisely because the government is prohibited from endorsing or burdening religious practice. "Charitable choice" raises serious concerns about the possibility of government entanglement with religious practices and is likely to result in unwelcome, divisive competition among religious groups before elected officials for scarce government funds. Many religious organizations have been rightly wary of "charitable choice," concerned that their religious ministries would be subject to intrusive government regulation, including audits, reporting requirements and compliance reviews.

On one hand, the specter of government inspectors monitoring those funded programs that take place in houses of worship is deeply disturbing. On the other hand, "charitable choice" would also seem to require religious people -- many who have devoted their lives to spreading a spiritual message through words and good deeds -- to muzzle themselves about their most fundamental beliefs while attempting to fulfill a deeply spiritual mission. Many religions are by their very nature evangelical; to require that their adherents not proselytize in these programs clearly dilutes their spiritual missions -- ultimately compromising their intended power to inspire and uplift their beneficiaries.

Moreover, churches and synagogues have traditionally provided a wide array of community health and welfare services as part of their sacred religious missions. They have been supported by the countless hours of volunteer services and social action by members of their congregations and communities. Receipt of government funds may have a negative impact on volunteer contributions and involvement of church members. Receipt of Federal funds and fierce competition for scarce resources may also compromise religion's historic role as an independent social critic.

"Charitable choice" allows for an unprecedented entanglement of government and religion -- to the detriment of both. Rather than abandon our nation's great tradition of separation of church and state which has allowed religion to flourish in the United States, the Government should encourage increased private subsidies for religious ministries, including tax incentives for charitable contributions. Every needy American should be able to receive help without being subjected to religious coercion.

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