Panel Recommends Measures to Assist Faith-Based Charities
January 16, 2002
A working group that included representatives from organizations as diverse as the Southern Baptist Convention and People for the American Way issued a report yesterday supporting several measures to assist faith-based and community social-service providers without resolving the controversial issue of charitable choice. Charitable choice would allow religious social-service groups to take federal money without changing their religious nature.
- The recommendations include allowing deductions for charitable donations by taxpayers who do not itemize on their tax returns, and establishing a "compassion fund" to provide direct technical assistance to faith-based and small community groups, to help them apply for federal grants and convert to nonprofit status.
- The House passed a bill last summer that included tax incentives, but also expanded charitable choice; among other things, the House bill would allow groups to make hiring decision based on religious beliefs without losing federal funds.
- Critics said the measure could violate First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and subsidize discriminatory hiring practices.
The working group could not reach consensus on expanding "charitable choice" because it required unanimous agreement on proposals in the report. It also included representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Teen Challenge and National Council of Churches.
The Senate has not passed the bill, but Sens. Joseph I. Leiberman (D-Conn.) and Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) are crafting a proposal in conjunction with the White House.
Source: Amy Fagan, "Panel releases suggestions for Senate's faith-based proposal," Washington Times, January 16, 2002.
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