There is much controversy over the recent initiative to have the government fund faith-based charities. The proposal is to allocate about $10 billion of taxpayers’ money to religious charities in the hope that they will efficiently distribute aid to the needy .(Miga).
The people who want to pass this bill claim that the aid will reach more people with more efficiency than through federal charities. However, most experts, both religious and secular, disagree. federal funding of faith-based charities will deprive people of rightful government aid. If this initiative is passed, then the federal money may not all go to its intended use –– aiding the poor and needy –– but may sponsor religious discrimination by both the church and the federal government.
Religious charities could discriminate against some of those in need; they might give aid mostly to people of the same faith. On a general basis, people who agree with each other have more in common. With this bond come more trust and sympathy between the people who agree than an outsider with a different ideology. This also applies to religion. Nothing is stopping the government funded charity workers from taking more of a liking to people of the same faith than to an atheist or a person of another religion. With trust comes friendship. With friendship comes favoritism. When favoritism enters the process, aid gets distributed unfairly, with people of the same faith as the charity getting more help than people of a different faith. The non-believers may either be converted or ignored if the charity workers have strong beliefs in their own religion. “Teen Challenge achieves a remarkable eighty-percent (80%) cure rate for teenage drug addicts because they lead the young people to faith in Jesus Christ and then painstakingly instruct them in biblical principals of Christian living,” said Pat Robertson, a popular Christian televangelist (Robertson).
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This approach to charity could also force change in people’s lifestyles. In Iowa, a program exists called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative for prison inmates. Every inmate is allowed in as long as they are approved by the prison, but once in the course, they are required to continue to change their lifestyle into one that is more Christian, and their rights to all television and sexually explicit materials are waived (Goodstein).
This proves that if this program were funded by the government, at least some religious organizations would attempt to change people’s lifestyles.
Besides discrimination, it is likely that aid may not be the top priority of some religious charities. Some could try to use the money to lobby. “Father Fred Kammer, S.J., the president of the Catholic Charities, has listed ‘advocacy for those in need,’ –– i.e., lobbying for greater social spending –– as one of the ten religious components of the organization,” wrote Terrence Scanlon, President of the Capital Research Center. Religious charities already lobby with federal dollars, meaning that money does not go to the people who need it. This also involves the charity in politics, possibly giving it an advantage over legislative decisions. Lobbying is not the intended use of the government funds, but it certainly is possible. The money could also be used for private interests. Some selfish religious leader or charity worker might use the money to buy a new car, lobby for something they want, or just pocket some of it. The money might be used to fund other purely religious programs. InnerChange is a religious program determined to change peoples lives into lives more Christian. “At InnerChange’s core is the idea that law-breakers can be changed if they embrace the teachings on ethics and morality drawn from a Christian understanding of the Bible. ‘If you turn your life over to Jesus, you’ll have the tools to change your life,’ said Chris Geil, InnerChange’s program director.” (Goodstein) All this meaning that the taxpayers’ money would be funding religious study and Christian dedication.
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Apart from how the charities would distribute aid to the needy is the question of how the government would distribute funds among the charities themselves. Some religious charities would not receive money. President Bush and his administration are mainstream in their religious beliefs and would likely favor major accepted religions over others when it comes to federal funding. Pat Robertson, a leading spokesman of the Christian community, said, “The same government grants given to Catholics, Protestants, and Jews must also be given to Hare Krishnas, the Church of Scientology, or Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church –– no matter that some may use brain-washing techniques or that the founder claims to be the messiah and another that he was Buddha reincarnated.” (Robertson) This means that some people and possibly politicians would hesitate to give any money to certain, singled-out religions, simply due to their beliefs or practices. Other charities may be considered illegitimate because of their values and may cause problems in fairly distributing the money among the charities. Some charities are considered more helpful. This critical thinking may result in giving unfair amounts of funding to some charities over others. Due to mainstream support and the politicians’ hunger to be in front of it, a few faith-based charities might be allowed to use their religious message while others would not.
If the initiative for federal funding of faith-based charities passes, then the poor people who need aid may not all get it; the charities might discriminate against them and try to make them change. The funding might not all go to aid but to lobbying, private interests, or purely religious programs as well. Some charities could be treated unfairly over others both in terms of money and the tolerance of their religious message. According to many experts on the subject, “It’s federal funding for religion run amok. We’re talking about federal dollars going to a huge array of religions who may not believe what our federal civil rights laws believe,” said Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (Miga).
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In the initiative, the religious charity is an unnecessary middle-man. The government could easily fund its own programs for the needy without all the problems religious interference may cause.
Consulted Allen, Mike. “Limits Set on ‘Faith-Based’ Plan; Religious Aspects Still Face Criticism” The Washington Post 31 Jan. 2001: p. A4. Electric Library. 20 March 2001.
Chatterjee, Sumana. “Money for religion backed” The Denver Post 11 April 2001: p. 8A.
Goodstein, Laurie. “Battle Lines Grow on Plan To Assist Religious Groups” The New York Times. 9 April 2001: 22A.
Lynch, Daniel F. “Charitable Choice and the First Amendment” The Denver Post 11 March 2001: 1G.
Miga, Andrew. “Bush boosts faith-based charities” The Boston Herald 30 Jan. 2001: A2. Lycos. 20 March 2001 <http://www.BostonHerald.com>
Milbank, Dana. “Senators Slow Faith-Based Initiative” The Washington Post 14 March 2001: A1 10 April 2001. <http://www.WashingtonPost.com>
Milbank, Dana., & Edsall, Thomas B. “Faith-Based Initiative May Be Revised” The Washington Post 12 March 2001: A1 10 April 2001
Robertson, Pat. “Faith-Based Initiative” Pat Robertson 15 Feb. 2001. 8 April 2001 <http://www.PatRobertson.com>
Scanlon, Terrence. “A Word of Caution on Faith-Based Charities” 5 Jan. 2001. Lycos. 11 April 2001 <http://www.crc.com>
Schmahl, Carl R. “Federal help for faith-based groups will turn into federal chaos” The Washington Times 31 Jan. 2001: A16. Electric Library. 19 March 2001.
Witham, Larry. “Bush proposes ways faith-based groups can utilize federal funds” The Washington Times 31 Jan. 2001: A3. Electric Library. 20 March 2001