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Government funding of Faith Based Initiatives: Why I am against it

Posted by Chance on March 22, 2006

When it comes to church and state, I do not fall back on the “separation of church and state” clause that does not exist in the Constitution, I typically like to go back to the 1st amendment itself, which argues against laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion, as well as establishing a religion. Does Government Funding of Faith Based Initiatives violate this? To me, that question is irrelevant.

Gov’t funding of faith based initiatives is a bad idea. Not to protect government from religion, but the other way around. I respect President Bush as a person and a leader, but I think he is wrong on this one. He has argued in the past that he has found that faith-based initiatives typically get the job done better than government programs, which I believe is true. However, by turning faith-based initiatives into government programs, isn’t that defeating the whole value of faith-based initiatives in the first place. Besides being inspired by charitable values, many times Christian, perhaps these initiatives are effective because they are not, in fact, government programs.

Michael Tanner, a scholar of the Cato Institute argues in Corrupting Charity: Why Government Should Not Fund Faith-Based Charities that “Government dollars come with strings attached and raise serious questions about the separation of church and state. Charities that accept government funds could find themselves overwhelmed with paperwork and subject to a host of federal regulations. The potential for government meddling is tremendous, and, even if regulatory authority is not abused, regulation will require a redirection of scarce resources from charitable activities to administrative functions. Officials of faith-based charities may end up spending more time reading the Federal Register than the Bible.”

One example of this is in the hiring and firing of employees. Typically, a private charity, to my knowledge, can hire people based on their religious affiliation, which makes sense. A Christian charity would not want to hire someone who disagrees with their mission. However, once government funds are directed to this charity, people have argued that hiring should not be discriminatory on the basis of religious beliefs. A case was brought against the Salvation Army, which the Salvation Army won, but it will not likely be the last lawsuit of this kind.

Glen Dean, when arguing why Christians should be libertarians, has this to say:
“Most people do not realize why the framers sought to separate government from religion. It wasn’t because they feared that religion would harm government, as most modern liberals seem to think. The founders actually wanted to protect religion from government. Government is not the friend of religion.”

I think he is right. Christians on both sides of the spectrum think that government is their best friend. But one does not necessarily have to be a Christian libertarian to view the government with a certain suspicion. The government that is imbued with the power to enforce Christian ideals can also do just the opposite. While I would not mind that some of my dollars go to Christian charities, I do not want them going to organizations that promote anti-Christian ideals either.

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