Acton Institute Powerblog

Complexities of Government Funding

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Thorny issues arise when non-profits take government funding, especially when said non-profits have an explicitly Christian (and evangelistic) purpose. Case in point: “The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit yesterday against the Department of Health and Human Services, accusing the Bush administration of spending federal tax dollars on an abstinence education program that promotes Christianity,” aka Silver Ring Thing.

I first heard about the Silver Ring Thing via a special documentary broadcast on NPR, “With This Ring: Pledging Abstinence.” All in all it looks like a praiseworthy effort communicating the message of Christian holiness…in policy lingo “a faith-based abstinence message.” I don’t know if they still do it or not, but the NPR documentary said that at the end of the event students are given a Bible compliments of SRT.

I’m inclined to think that the SRT mission would be better served if it didn’t rely on the government for funding…even if that funding is legal and the government wants to give it. Consider it a form of forbidden fruit (with strings attached, of course). If the ACLU wins the suit, SRT might be faced with the decision to abandon the explicitly evangelistic elements to remain eligible for funding. And other faith-based non-profits might be tempted to do so preemptively, to avoid the tangles and confusions of litigation.

HT: The Corner

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

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Comments

  • I’ve talked before about the complexities of government funding before with regard to the abstinence-program called the Silver Ring Thing.

    Now, on the heels of an ACLU suit, SRT is being faced with a cut-off in federal funding. The AP reports tha

  • It may not seem like it, but the settlement reached between the ACLU and the US Department of Health and Human Services is really going to be good news in the long run for the abstinence-program Silver Ring Thing.

    In a deal struck yesterday, Silver Ri