Faith-Based Initiatives Will Help the Poor by Mike McManus

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Wed May 2 00:22:32 EDT 2001


Ethics & Religion

FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES WILL HELP THE POOR

by Mike McManus

WASHINGTON - Sen. Trent Lott, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate,
stood in the ornately decorated Great Hall of the Library of Congress,
speaking to largely African-American pastors at a ''Summit on
Charitable Choice'' this week.

The words of America's most powerful Senator were startling: ''Two
thousand years ago a man asked a wise teacher, `Who is my neighbor?'
It was not a government bureaucrat, but a stranger from out of town who
got off his horse to help an injured person in need.''

''At long last, we have a president and a Congress who understand that
faith-based organizations are a critical part of what's needed to help
give more opportunities - to reach out to a child in need, or someone
with an addiction, who will be looked after as an individual. You are a
treasured resource to make America a better place.  You can do
something government can not do.  This is a great opportunity for you
and for all of us.''

Rep. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, compared a government-
sponsored drug treatment program which had a 96 percent recidivism
rate, with a religiously sponsored one whose rate was 36 percent, ''a
great improvement.''

Yet the faith-based initiative of President Bush has been surprisingly
controversial.

Pat Roberston was horrified to discover the Church of Scientology might
be funded. Other critics on the right, such as Marvin Olasky, who
influenced Bush's thinking about compassionate conservatism while he
was governor of Texas, urged revamping of proposed charitable choice
rules, which discriminate against evangelicals who provide faith-based
help for the poor.

For example, federal funds currently can not be used to fund a drug
rehabilitation program whose centerpiece is a conversion to Christ. Of
course, Americans for Separation of Church and State, oppose any such
move ''unconstitutional.''

On the other hand, Sen. Rick Santorum told the Summit that he regularly
asks school children, which phrase is in the Constitution: ''separation
of church and state'' or the ''free exercise'' of religion. The kids
always cite the incorrect ''separation'' answer.

Much of what is being proposed, however, is not controversial.

1.  Expand private sector donations by allowing 70 percent of people
who file a standard deduction to also deduct gifts to charity that
could spark $14.5 billion of additional giving.

2.  Create a ''level playing field,'' in which churches might compete
with secular agencies to get federal grants to run after school
programs, rehabilitate housing, help welfare mothers get jobs or care
for the elderly. ''The President is committed to inviting religious
organizations to the table to participate in ways that do not dilute
their religious character as they teach right from wrong and behavior
modification,'' said Don Eberly, Deputy Director of the new White House
Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

3.  Give those in need a voucher for use in a church-run programs or
secular competitors. If the choice exists, a ministry like Prison
Fellowship which emphasizes conversion, would grow and be
constitutional.

As one of the attending pastors at the Summit, Rev. LeRoy Sullivan of
Bread of Life Church in Kansas City, Kansas put it, ''Don't penalize us
because we are a church. If what we are doing is working, give us an
opportunity.''

Rep. J.C. Watts, who organized the Summit, gave its keynote address:
''Since 1965, the Federal Government has spent $5.5 trillion - not
billion, but $5.5 trillion - on poverty programs. We have used all the
wrong models. Many are in deeper poverty today than 1965.

''It is time to listen to the stories all across America about how
lives are being changed, Good Samaritan stories of true service, who
are feeding the hungry, freeing drug addicts, rescuing men from gangs.
Changed lives lead to changed communities and a changed nation.''

Pastor Sullivan shared one of those stories in a panel at the Summit.
''Marriage is an answer to many of our problems.  Children from broken
homes are 12 times as likely to be incarcerated as those from intact
homes and 14 times as likely to be physically abused, according to the
Heritage Foundation.

''Since we trained mentor couples to help other couples make it, we
have had no divorces in our church in three years.  And we have worked
with many other churches to create similar mentoring programs.  The
divorce rate in Kansas City, Kansas (and in a two county suburban area)
has plunged 44 percent in only four years!''

Pastors applauded and shouted ''Amen!''

END TXT Copyright   2001 Michael J, McManus




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