The government has long helped churches, neighborhood religious groups, and faith-related charities to pursue their public goals. However, the recent expansion of government funding for faith-based social programs has raised concerns about the constitutionality of such assistance. While most scholars agree that the establishment clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from favoring a particular faith, they differ as to whether the government's efforts to obtain help from religious social service organizations threaten the healthy separation of church and state, which the establishment clause protects. In the 1990s, the perception that religious organizations were both more effective service providers and closer to their beneficiaries than government bureaucracies led Congress to enact “charitable choice” provisions.
Previously, government regulations required religious groups to establish completely secular affiliates or modify their religious character before receiving funding. During the 2000 presidential campaign, the two candidates from the major parties called for the creation of carefully designed partnerships between the government and religious groups. Upon taking office, President George W. Bush unveiled a faith-based initiative that significantly expanded federal funding opportunities.
Despite initial bipartisan support, the initiative stalled in Congress. Bush then issued a series of executive orders demanding equal treatment for religious organizations seeking federal funding, allowing them to use religious beliefs to select employees and methods, but not to choose clients, and prohibited religious worship in subsidized social programs. Funding is available through grants, contracts, and individual vouchers. By 2004, more than 10 percent of all federal grants went to religious organizations.
Faith-based initiatives raise several constitutional and political questions. Critics say the initiatives violate the establishment clause by delegating government functions to religious organizations and funding institutions whose secular and religious activities are inseparable. They fear that the religious freedoms of the recipients will be threatened by religious indoctrination. They also claim that labor law exemptions blur the line between private and governmental discrimination.
Advocates say that the government must help faith-based social programs as long as it does so in a non-discriminatory way, without any kind of support or coercion. They recognize that the redeeming power of religion is fundamental to the effectiveness of these organizations, but they trust that these organizations will distinguish between allowed social services and unacceptable proselytizing. Advocates are also certain that the government's requirement that initiatives include secular alternatives protects beneficiaries from undue religious pressure. And they defend religion-based hiring as crucial to the success of such programs. The Supreme Court has never rejected a faith-based, government-funded social program.
It confirmed a federal grant for the construction of a Catholic hospital in Bradfield v. Roberts (189), a federal grant for a religious counseling program for adolescents in Bowen v. Kendrick (198) and, more recently, a series of programs involving indirect help. The current Court is satisfied if government assistance is neutral, that is, if religious and non-religious organizations are equally eligible to compete for funding and beneficiaries are offered genuine options on where to go for assistance. Based on the lemon test modified by Agostini v.
Felton (199), the Court accepts as a sufficient secular purpose to combat social and economic problems. The Court requires safeguards to prevent the diversion of public funds for religious purposes. However, it presumes that religious organizations will comply with government restrictions and therefore that little oversight is necessary. Meanwhile, controversies in this area continue to surface. Freedom from Religion Foundation (200), the Court dismissed a challenge to charitable election initiatives for lack of legitimacy.
That said, the battle for government aid to religious organizations is likely to be more political than legal. The public supports such assistance, but important groups from both political parties are wary of it. Secular opponents fear that these programs will hinder social progress. Sectarian opponents fear that the alliance of religious groups with secular authorities will trivialize or dilute the message of religion. Explore the First Amendment encyclopedia Nearly 1,700 articles on First Amendment topics, court cases, and history The Center for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy center dedicated to fostering an understanding of the five First Amendment freedoms through education, information, and participation. Formerly known as Tennessee Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities Diocese of Nashville has a rich history that spans decades. While its reach has changed drastically over time in order to meet changing needs in its communities served, Catholic Charities has always focused on its mission: serving all people of God in need with preferential option for those who are poor.
With its staff and volunteers' faithful service Catholic Charities will continue helping God's people regardless of race or religion with dignity and respect. In simple terms nonprofit organizations are entities which exist not to make a profit but rather promote a mission or shared goal. While people often refer to them as charities other types of organizations can also qualify as nonprofits such as civic leagues or volunteer fire departments. State governments have primary responsibility for governing and regulating nonprofit organizations while The National Council on Nonprofit Organizations provides state-by-state resources links so people can find best practice resources for nonprofits. Nonprofits fill gaps in services which ordinary people wouldn't be able to access otherwise; President Bush signed executive orders in 2002 promoting his faith-based initiative at a meeting with religious leaders in Philadelphia; SAMHSA has been actively participating in supporting faith-based community based organizations involved in substance use mental health services since 1992. The initiative emphasizes key role played by FBCI organizations providing substance use prevention addiction treatment mental health services particularly underserved communities culturally diverse populations. Hoping to more deeply involve churches and religious organizations in government efforts to...