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Religious laws


U.S. Government funding
of charitable choice programs

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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:

bullet 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 religion.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet Church-State Separation. 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:

bullet 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.
bullet Religious discrimination: In practice, it appears that grants are not given to some minority religions.

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Topics in this section:

bullet Introduction: Quotations, Overview, Public opinion polls

bullet Potential scenarios - good and bad

bullet An expose of corruption in the faith-based initiative program

bullet Church-state separation breached: "Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation"
bullet Reactions to this case

bullet Legislation and court action
bullet 1988 to 2001-FEB
bullet 2001-FEB to present time

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  1. Marvin Olasky, George W. Bush, "Compassionate Conservativism: What it is, what it does and how it can transform America, " Free Press (2000). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. "What is Charitable Choice?," Department of Health and Human Services, 2004-JUL-26, at:

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Site navigation: Home > Religious laws > here

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Copyright 2000, 2001 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-23
Latest update: 2004-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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