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Why Oppose the "Charitable Choice" Expansion in the "Community Solutions Act of 2001"?

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would dramatically expand government funding to sectarian institutions and religious organizations

This particular measure (H.R, 7 – "Community Solutions Act of 2001) takes several serious steps backward from even the minimal protections offered in previous "charitable choice" provisions enacted into law:

  • Recipients of government contracts are explicitly permitted to discriminate in hiring and promotion decisions on the basis of religion;
  • Program participants are not ensured access to secular alternative programs;
  • Beneficiaries who receive indirect aid or vouchers for social welfare services can still be subjected to proselytizing, worship or religious instruction – under circumstances which would make such proselytizing virtually impossible to monitor;
  • Extremists and hate-mongers could receive taxpayer money.

ADL supports the measure’s very modest tax incentives to promote corporate and private charitable giving, but we strongly oppose other provisions which expand "charitable choice" without essential safeguards

While there is no currently no Senate counterpart to this measure, it is possible that the measure will come to the floor sometime during this session.

Why Oppose "Charitable Choice" without essential safeguards

"Charitable Choice" is unconstitutional. These programs plainly violate the First Amendment's prohibition against direct funding that promotes religious beliefs. Allowing churches, synagogues, and mosques 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" is bad public policy. These initiatives threaten 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 be proselytized or feel pressured to participate in religious practice in order to receive their benefits. In addition, "Charitable choice" explicitly creates, for the first time, the possibility of Federally-funded employment discrimination on the basis of religion.

"Charitable Choice" is harmful for religion. These programs raise serious concerns about the possibility of government entanglement with religious practices and are likely to result in unwelcome, divisive competition among religious groups before elected officials for scarce government funds.

"Charitable Choice" is a departure from past practice. For decades, "religiously-affiliated" social service agencies, such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities and Jewish Federations, have received very substantial direct government subsidies for providing a variety of quasi-governmental services. These groups, separately-incorporated from religious institutions (like churches and synagogues), have always operated under certain structural restrictions which guard against the possibility of any religious coercion or employment discrimination.

However, "charitable choice," first adopted as part of the 1996 welfare reform bill, mandates that whenever the Federal Government allows private organizations to perform social welfare services, the government must also allow sectarian institutions to have an equal opportunity to participate. For the first time, these provisions permit churches, synagogues, and other pervasively sectarian institutions to receive direct government funding -- without necessary safeguards -- to administer on-site social services and public health benefits on behalf of the government. In addition, "charitable choice" explicitly permits these institutions to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring, firing, and promotion decisions for these federally-funded service programs.

Updated July 24, 2001

Write to Congress Now to Voice Your Objections to "Charitable Choice" Without Essential Safeguards
Related Materials
Funding of Faith-Based Initiatives - "Charitable Choice" Questions and Answers
Urge Your Representative to Oppose this Bill. Write Now!!!
 
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