NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Charitable Choice Hasn't Caught On Among Churches

October 19, 2000

When Congress passed the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, it included a provision known as charitable choice which allowed religious groups to receive federal money for social programs -- such as helping the poor make the transition from welfare to work. After four years, the response has been less than impressive.

  • A report released last month by the Center for Public Justice found that 37 states had not implemented charitable choice rules to remove the restrictions on funding religious groups.
  • Awarding grades for each state's performance, the center gave its only A-plus to Texas for aggressively promoting the program.
  • But Texas is also the only state where a program financed under charitable choice has been accused of crossing the line into religious indoctrination.
  • The American Jewish Congress and the Texas Civil Rights Project have filed suit accusing the Jobs Partnership of Washington County, Texas -- which received $8,000 from the state -- of buying Bibles for students, requiring them to study Scripture and teaching them, in its own words, "to find employment through a relationship with Jesus Christ."

The dispute illustrates one of the possible pitfalls of the program -- and may help explain why it has gotten off to such a slow and unenthusiastic start. The vision of government officials meddling in Bible study groups, hiring decisions and bookkeeping has probably discouraged participation.

Many church leaders say they are reluctant or simply unprepared to submit to the rigorous guidelines of the government. Others say they were unaware of the program.

Source: Laurie Goodstein, "Many Churches Slow to Accept Government Money to Help Poor," New York Times, October 17, 2000.


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