Subj: Re: AANEWS #164 To: All From: Christopher Baker Date: 9/23/96

Date: Mon, 23 Sep 1996 from:

Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for September 23, 1996 ............. e-mail:

* Religious "Charity" Uses Your Money


Religious partisans have often argued that "faith based charity" is proof of the good work done by churches. But increasingly, religious charity has turned out to be a government (i.e. taxpayer) funded program which churches often take credit for. That fact was underscored in a new report released yesterday during the annual gathering of Catholic Charities USA, described as "the nation's largest network of independent social service organizations."

Even the president of the group, Rev. Fred Kammer, admitted that

The report admitted, for instance, that of the 47,594 housing units built by church affiliated outreaches, 47% were "assisted" by monies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Other revelations include:

* 218 "church" building projects last year involved "public partners such as HUD."

* 41% of operating income "comes from government funding" at different levels, and 3/4 of that amount originates with the federal government.

* "More than 11 million people of all religious, national, racial, social and economic backgrounds received services (from Catholic Charities USA) in 1994."

The percentage figures may actually be higher, though. Catholic Charities has admitted that over 63% of its revenues come from government grants, not the crumpled dollars bills deposited in Sunday's collection plate.

It becomes nearly impossible to trace some of the money flowing through "faith based" charities, especially since it often originates in so-called Community Development Block Grants where public funds are turned over to private (often religious) social service groups.

The involvement of religious group in the administration and creation of social service projects will probably grow in the near future, in part due to the Welfare Reform Act.

That legislation included a provision known as the "charitable choice clause" that allows individual states "to contract with religious organizations" to provide welfare services. Rev. Stephen Burger, executive director of the International Union of Gospel Missions, a coalition of 245 different "faith-based" missions, told USA TODAY earlier this month that the plan was a good idea.

"By agreeing to this welfare-reform plan, Congress and President Clinton are finally acknowledging our success in transforming lives by providing the type of help the government does not, and cannot, provide -- spiritual guidance." "Material" and "Spiritual" Help One problem with government subsidies for "faith based" charity (a favorite slogan of Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed) has been the intrusion of religious ritual into those taxpayer-funded social programs. Religious groups gain considerable notoriety for "their" charitable works which are, in reality, funded by the public.

And religious proselytization is often a feature of such "faith based" projects. Rev. Burger, for instance, points out one shelter known as Harvest Home which provides shelter, food and clothing to homeless women and children. "It also provides rehabilitative services that include education classes, life-skills training and Bible study."

The Welfare Reform Act -- until challenged in court -- will make it easier for government funds to flow into the coffers of religious groups, minus the traditional caveats about state-church separation.

Meanwhile, the public will continue to subsidize a reputation enjoyed by religious groups that their "charitable" outreaches are beneficial to society.