Dead in the water? Far from it. Still, it was inevitable that even people who MIGHT stand to benefit from government funding of faith-based programs might have second thoughts, and wonder about the strings that are ALWAYS attached when you accept tax dollars.
Now, strict Catholic Astorian does NOT automatically object to the idea of government grants to worthy programs run by religious groups he doesn’t support! If there’s a black Muslim mosque running a homeless shelter in its basement, I don’t mind if the city gives it some money. If there’s a synagogue running a food pantry for the poor, it won’t offend me if the federal government offers them some aid.
And what if the government gives money to Scientologists or the Moonies or the Wiccans? Well, that depends- what kind of social programs are the Scientologists, Moonies and Scientologists operating? Because, contrary to the scare tactics some groups are using, ANY religious social service organization that asks for government funding is going to have to demonstrate that its services provide some secular benefit for society at large. If your fear is that Louis Farrakhan or L. Ron Hubbard Jr. is simply going to stroll into the White House, demand money, and walk out with a blank check, you have nothing to worry about. ANY faith-based group is going to have to show the government what they’re doing, make a valid case that it’s a service worth funding, and provide proper accounting of how the money is spent.
I rather doubt that the Moonies, Wiccans or Scientologists offer any services that would pass that test… but if I’m wrong, and they DO have social ministries that benefit the needy, and can demonstrate fiscal responsibility, I don’t see a valid objection to funding their programs, either.
Now, Pat Robertson and other clergymen ARE quite right to wonder about the strings that are invariably attached to government funding. Karen Finley and Andres Serrano were naive (at best) when they expected taxpayer dollars without any accountability to the taxpayers. In ALL walks of life, he who pays the piper calls the tune. And, as Grove City College found out, when the government provides even the TINIEST modicum of financial aid, even indirectly, it assumes the right to dictate policy to the recipients.
So, who’s to say a future, liberal Democratic administration might not declare that…
Since inner-city medical clinics run by the Catholic Church receive large amounts of federal dollars, the clinic MUST distribute free condoms to all children who come in, and must offer abortion referrals to any pregnant woman who asks for one.
Since a group of homeless shelters run by the Baptists receives large amounts of federal dollars, the Baptists must ordain women.
IF any religion-based charity accepts government funding, it must NOT become addicted to it. If a church-based program gets a government grant, it should treat that money the way it would a one-time inheritance from a wealthy parishioner. Other wise, the danger is that the church will become reliant upon a government whose policies and priorities could change (to their detriment) at any moment.
In short, it’s not the government that runs a risk by funding church-based programs. It’s the CHURCHES that could be putting themselves behind the 8-ball if they aren’t careful.