Gwendolyn Mink




Faith in Government?

The author raises concerns about the dangers of mixing church and state in the funding and support of community-based services. To promote religious alternatives to government, President George W. Bush launched his faith-based initiative on January 29, 2001. The initiative includes establishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, centers in five cabinet departments to facilitate church-state cooperation, tax cuts for charitable donations, and grants to religious groups. The new White House office would review and propose revisions to government regulations that impede participation in government programs by groups with a religious character and mission. It was also to lead the effort to proliferate charitable choice provisions in social welfare policy. Mink outlines the controversies this provoked: charitable choice crosses the church-state divide by publicly financing institutions that convey religious messages, bringing government directly into the business of establishing religion. Civil libertarians worry about the theocratic implications of government-sponsored religion, while some on the Right wonder whether government grants for faith activities might sap the vitality of religious social programs. In addition, charitable choice invites government to express dangerous preferences among religions, as government must decide which faith-based programs to fund. Moreover, charitable choice requires government to acquiesce to the employment discrimination it prohibits under the Civil Rights Act, because groups with a religious mission are exempted from major Title VII prohibitions. It reorients social policy away from ensuring opportunity and security and toward assuring faith and moral rescue. A fifth objection, Mink notes, is that charitable choice moves us down the road toward a government of heavy-handed faith-based rules implemented through privatized, faith-based social service delivery.

social welfare, charitable choice, faith-based welfare programs, Bush, George W., public welfare — United States, United States — religion, religious Right

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 28, No. 1 (2001): 5-10