U.S. Government funding
of charitable choice programs
A "charitable choice" or "compassionate conservatism" or "faith-based
initiative" program is an arrangement by which religious groups can compete for federal, state or local government
funding, in competition with secular non-profit organizations. 1 This involves tax money directed for the operation
of a religiously-based social service program. Examples might include funding a church's low rental housing program, or a
spiritually-oriented drug rehabilitation center.
The federal government's Department of Health &
Human Services defines "charitable choice" as resting on four principles:
||A Level Playing Field.
Faith-based providers are eligible to compete for funds on the
same basis as any other providers, neither excluded nor included
because they are religious, too religious or of the wrong
||Respect for Allies. The
religious character of faith-based providers is protected by
allowing them to retain control over the definition,
development, practice, and expression of their religious
beliefs. Neither federal nor state government can require a
religious provider to alter its form of internal governance or
remove religious art, icons, scripture or other symbols in order
to be a program participant.
||Protecting Clients. In
regard to rendering assistance, religious organization shall not
discriminate against an individual on the basis of religion, a
religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a
religious practice. If an individual objects to the religious
character of a program, a secular alternative must be provided.
All government funds must be used to fulfill the public social
service goals, and no direct government funding can be diverted
to inherently religious activities such as worship, sectarian
instruction, and proselytizing. 2
Not mentioned are two additional principles:
||Employment discrimination: Faith-based
providers can enforce any bigoted beliefs they might have by discriminating in their hiring selections on the
basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, skin color, national
origin etc., even
though these factors do not impact on the individual's ability
to perform the tasks assigned to them.
||Religious discrimination: In practice,
it appears that grants are not given to some minority religions.
Topics in this section:
Copyright © 2000, 2001 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-23
Latest update: 2004-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson