A Religion Today Special Edition, by Cal Thomas
President Bush wants to help what he calls "faith-based" charities help others. He says they often do a better job than government programs in producing the objectives government seeks, but often does not find.
I'm not opposed to this in principal, but I have some concerns. As a Christian, I see no biblical mandate for government to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those in prison. That's our job. Money would go not only to Christian organizations, who would share the gospel of Christ in order to transform people, but to charities whose theology is wrong.
I guest-hosted the Michael Reagan radio show last week and took a call from a woman in Montana who said she was a witch. The woman asked whether Christians would be happy if federal money went to her coven. It was a good question.
Another caller wondered how happy some conservative religious groups would be if money went to Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH, which has just hired former Congressman Mel Reynolds, who served time for having sex with a minor girl and fraud. President Clinton pardoned Reynolds. How would you like your tax dollars going to pay his salary?
The Supreme Court has ruled that government cannot discriminate between religions. If it is going to aid one, it must have money available to aid all. President Bush has said only those charities that demonstrate success would get funds. But one charity might define success differently from another. Who decides? Charities need to think about this before taking money from the government.
Government programs have largely failed to produce their expensive and advertised results. If the objective is to change lives, the evidence is that so-called "faith-based" programs succeed more than their secular counterparts. But what happens if charities become dependent on the favor of a particular party or president and water down their primary calling, or the charity is punished by a competing party or president? Government aide can be a two-edged sword. We should be careful and move ahead slowly.