Brother Ron Barnes
Founder and Pastor
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Federal Money for Faith-based Organizations
Dear Brother Ron
Having prayed very, very hard, I now put on my helmet, faceguard and chest protector and venture into an area in which I was deemed knowledgeable in a former life. In my new life, I try and avoid legal and political work like the bubonic plague.
It seems to me that, if an organization accepts federal funds, it must therefore be open to all. That is a great idea and I wish that it were so, truly I do. Based on my understanding of the program which provides federal funds for faith- based social service agencies, there is no obligation for them to cease their religious activities which "assist" those the organization deems undesirable in finding a more appropriate place to live. Is this right? No. Is it legal? No. But can they do it? More than likely. Will they loose their funding? No.
The true idea behind this act was to allow religious organizations to help out with the huge burden that has social services agencies floundering in piles of cases. This has a price and the price may not be monetary. The faith-based organization would probably insist on including some theological input into the program. To me, this violates the principle of separation of church and state.
What do you think?
I am a strong supporter of the separation of church and state. But I am also a strong fiscal conservative who believes the government should practice good stewardship. While there is much which is wrong about the conduct of faith-based programs, let me take a moment to tell you what is right with them.
Let's say my family is starving to death and needs $100 worth of groceries. If the church provides the groceries, their administrative overhead will be $7 (secretary's salary, light bills, etc.). If the groceries come from a United Way agency, their administrative cost will be $20. Most of the difference is fund-raising expenses. For the government to provide $100 worth of food, they will spend over $300 in administrative costs. This is a very conservative estimate. Obviously, the church is able to deliver more bang for the buck.
As far as the church using social welfare programs to promote an ideology or a political agenda, your only hope there is a first amendment lawsuit which would have to be heard by the Supreme Court. Your only other hope is, believe it or not, the IRS. In order to be recognized as a church by the IRS, the church must refrain from political activities. You can find out more by downloading IRS Publication 1828, "IRS Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations". If you could prove the church was conducting political activities, their tax-exempt status would be threatened.
Given the lax interpretation of this statute, I don't hold out much hope for you. If the churches can let presidential candidates into the pulpit, they can probably enforce their housing policies.