Acton Institute Powerblog

Faith-Based Funding Politicizes Religion

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Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at the Bush Faith-Based Initiative following the departure of Jim Towey, who headed the office. “I would far rather see a president rally people to give more to charity than rally voters to support government programs that go to religious organizations, and to create incentives and lessen penalties when they do give,” Rev. Sirico writes.

Read Rev. Sirico’s commentary here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • William Gissy

    Shock and horrors I am in agreement with Rev. Sirico. There is one trusim that supports of tax-dollars for religious charities need to keep in mind, “If you put your hand in the public wallet the state will stick its nose in your affairs”. At this time Catholic Institutions are under attack from those who believe freedom of religion is limited to the right to go to church on Sunday.

    In California, the state supreme court declared that Catholic Charities was not a religious organization and therefore had to provide insurance benefits that cover birth control. The next step would be use that same reasoning to require Catholic institutions to provide health benefits that cover elective abortion. In fact there is a law pending in another state that would require hospitals to carry the morning after pill with no exceptions for Catholic hospitals.

    Catholic institutions are already under assault. The last thing we need to do is give the secularists another reason to further secularize them.

  • Barbara Tullis,R.N.B.S

    Dear Rev. Sirico,

    I appreciate your well thought out message. The one thing you did not mention is "Why" the Bush administration wants the Faith Based Iniative in the first place.

    The Adm wants to end Welfare. We all know that and expect it. Government is taking taxes from us to do it’s constitutional requirement to provide for the General Welfare of it’s citizens.
    It does not want to do this and instead decided to place the burden of welfare on the Churches, Synagogues and Mosgues.

    The Church is not a charity. In fact we are commanded to give in secret that God may reward us openly. We are givers because God GAVE His Son and Jesus GAVE his life. Therefore, those of us in Christ give to both charities and the Church and the one who teaches us.

    We cannot give in secret if we ask the Government for money to help people. As you so wisely said, the Gov. must account for the money, and decide what is or is not "Faith Based". Where do we go to get an accounting? Some churches will be better at getting money than others.

    I believe Katrina is an example of the Faith-Based Bush welfare doctrine’s failure. Churches have no helicopters to rescue people. Most were destroyed or severly damaged and needed help themselves. At least 3000 plus people died while Bush waited for the Faith-Based welfare to work.
    This is criminal and a crime.

    I say keep the Government out of the "Faiths" and just do what the Constitution requires. Entanglement is dangerous to the integrity of all Faiths.

    Just my humble opinion,

  • Dr William Gissy

    We have two seperate issues here. First, is it advisable for faith based charities to accept public money (or you could turn it around and ask if it is appropiate for tax money to go to faith based organizations). Here I would say no.

    Ms. Tullis raises a second question, namely is it the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide income maintanence programs? This brings to the questions of the so called "elastic clause" and the implied powers doctrine. The "elastic clause" refers to the introductory statement in the article relating to the legislative powers. Madison himself stated that the introductory clause was not a general grant of power but explained why certain explicit powers were being granted to the government. The expressed powers are granted so the government may provide for the common defense and general welfare of the republic, However, if that clause was itself a grant of power (the government is free to do whatever it deems necessary to provide for the common defense and general welfare) then there would be no need to grant explicit powers. The remainder of the article would be redundant.
    However there is, at the end of the article, a clause that states that Congress make enact any law deemed necessary and proper to carry out the explicit powers. This is the implied powers doctrine. For example, if Congress deems it necessary to draft individuals into the military so they may fulfill the expressed duty of raising an army, then the power is within the scope of their constitutional powers.
    Federal income maintanence programs must be reviewed in like manner. The social contract is just that, an agreed granting of power from the people to the state. It is not a litany of things government can’t do. What expressed power is there to provide income support programs? I find none. What explicit power is enhanced by such programs so that their existence could be an implied power? Again, I find none. The burden of proof lies with those who argue for the use of power.

  • James Schaeffer

    "Power tends to corrupt…", as Acton’s famous quote begins. Very little is more powerful in a free market economy than money. It is the same whether it’s lobbyists spreading around payola to politicians or if it’s the Government with its purely secular, political agenda doling out money to religious groups. Religious institutions have enough trouble keeping themselves straight without adding the unavoidably corrupting influence of government/political funding.

  • Bill C

    Ahh….. the question "Why Bush wants faith based initiatives in the first place" and statments like Bush stalled/people died. Me smells a theoacracy conspiracy theory is afoot.

  • Tim

    Everything the government does is inherently political – by definition. That means everything that is done by the government is done by politicians. If you want your religious activities to be controlled by people like Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, Clinton, Clinton, or G.W. Bush then by all means accept the governmental redistribution of other’s property. You can not take the money without selling your soul.