NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Faith-Based Civil Rights Struggle

June 20, 2002

Opponents of President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative claim government funding of faith-based organizations providing social welfare services violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. However, the government's failure to fund inner-city faith-based charities on the same basis it funds other non-profits violates the Equal Protection Clause, says John DiIulio.

Discrimination against faith-based groups is real, racial, illegal and unconstitutional, says DiIulio. He says the facts counter opponents' oft-cited arguments:

  • "They don't want to apply." Surveys shows three-quarters of urban minority clergy want to apply for government funds to deliver social services, by are discouraged by fuzzy warnings not to violate clients' First Amendment rights.
  • "They'll get poor results." A small but growing body of evidence documents the efficacy of local, minority-led faith-based programs.
  • "Things are improving anyway."Illiteracy remains rampant, public health problems are rising, and there are still millions of inner-city children, youth and families that need help.
  • "The First Amendment forbids it." The courts routinely uphold partnerships using public funds as long as they aren't used to advance a sectarian agenda.

This is a civil rights issue, says DiIulio, and the tools of the original civil rights campaign can be used: using the courts to protect people from continued discrimination, and publicizing, dramatizing and protesting the tangible harm done when the separation of church and state becomes an all-purpose apology for racial discrimination and social ills.

Source: John J. DiIulio, Jr. (Manhattan Institute), "The New Civil Rights Struggle," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2002


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