Complexities of government funding
Acton Institute Powerblog

Complexities of government funding

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. 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.