Acton Institute Powerblog

A Golden Opportunity for ‘The Silver Ring Thing’

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Touting the success of his faith-based initiative last week, President Bush noted that faith-based charities received more than $2 billion last year from the federal government. But even as Bush announced that the Department of Homeland Security would be the 11th agency to establish an office for the faith-based initiative, some groups are finding the money to be a mixed blessing.

An example is The Silver Ring Thing (SRT), which following a settlement between the ACLU and the Department of Health and Human Services, can no longer recieve federal funds under its current program. In this week’s Acton Commentary, “A Golden Opportunity for ‘The Silver Ring Thing’,” I note the temptation facing SRT “to acquiesce to the HHS regulations and attempt to rigorously separate the faith element out of the program.”

I conclude that “the temporary setback of the loss of government funding has the potential to be a long-term opportunity for The Silver Ring Thing,” in the sense that SRT can seek out private sources of funding and evade the strings that are inevitably attached to government funding.

“You can’t be a faith-based program if you don’t practice your faith,” said President Bush. He also said, according to the AP, “It used to be that groups were prohibited from receiving any federal funding whatsoever because they had a cross or a star or a crescent on the wall. And that’s changed, for the better.”

We can hope, however, that the faith element in religious charities is not merely restricted to mere display of a religious symbol, but pervades the charitable work of the organization. It’s this “damaging form of secularization: the kind that separates Christian faith from works,” that The Silver Ring Thing must resist.

David Kuo, a former deputy director of the White House faith-based office, criticized the administration for allowing the initiative to become “a whisper of what was promised.” Acton senior fellow Marvin Olasky, in an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, expressed disappointment with the lower priority the faith-based initiative from the Bush White House.

But at least part of the difficulty the program faces comes from the problems posed by the enforcement of secularizing regulations by government bureaucracy. When asked about the impediments that governmental regulations put on their charitable work, one non-profit worker responded: “The complexities of the laws affecting part-time workers have made it impossible for us to hire candidates we could afford to pay. We have been amazed to learn that hiring even one part-time employee makes us a ‘pen-pal’ with a complicated array of government agencies.”

Read the whole commentary here.

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. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. 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.


  • Jordan

    Links have been added to the commentary to SRT’s website. Their support page is [url=]here[/url].

  • Troy Ernst

    Thanks for a thought-provoking article on a topic that would be easy to react incorrectly to. With some publicity, it seems that donations from supportive Christians around the country would more than offset the loss of federal grant dollars. Does anyone have information on how best to support this organization?

  • Jenna Anderson

    I am the Program Director for Silver Ring Thing Grand Rapids. We would absolutely love to partner with local people who are willing to donate funds to continue our program. If someone wishes to donate specifically for the Grand Rapids SRT program, it is tax-deductable, — they will need to make checks payable to Silver Ring Thing and send them to 2438 28th Street SW Suite A2 Wyoming MI, 49519. We also need volunteers to support us as well. Thank you!

  • Ulisses Papa (from Brazil)

    Can a foreign citizen donate funds to this worthpraising initiative, from abroad, through credit card debits? That’s how institutions like this ought to act, never depending on Caesar’s follies, who might dictate what to do and specially under what conditions, but rather on private fund.
    Moreover, I’d like to be acquainted with the works The Silver Ring Thing often have upon needed people.

  • Joe Knippenberg raises three issues with respect to my critique of the faith-based initiative (here and here). He writes first, “any activity that depends upon money is potentially corrupting, whether the source is governmental or private…. Why go

  • Denny Pattyn

    I am the president and founder of the Silver Ring Thing. Supporting the SRT program is critical at this time because of the simple calling God has placed on our ministry. The calling is this…. “To create a culture shift in America and around the world where abstinence becomes the norm again rather than the exception.” We are attempting to implement this vision in 7 years, God willing, and have developed a rollout plan to see this happen. To view the executive summary of the plan, simply click on and you will see how we plan to see this vision accomplished in America. The international vision is not included in the executive summary but is included as part of the full plan. Please remember us in your prayers. Denny

  • Lizzy

    I’m interning with Silver Ring Thing this summer, and I would like to thank you, Jordan, for your insight into the importance of demonstrating faith through the truth that SRT brings to the world. And Troy, the best way to support this organization is definitely to pray for us. Also, talk to your church or churces or in your area and see if they’re interested in hosting an SRT event!

  • DillyDong

    Don’t Believe Everything You Read!!!!