By Scott Tibbs, December 28th, 2004
The "faith based" charities
program needs to be eliminated.
I happened to be watching the O'Reilly Factor over the holiday weekend. The topic was that the Freedom from Religion Foundation had filed a lawsuit to stop federal funding for MentorKids USA. The FFRF argues that it is a violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause to direct federal funds to a group that only allows Christians as mentors.
I do not believe that federal funding for this program is unconstitutional. The federal government isn't necessarily endorsing the beliefs of any group it funds through the President's "faith-based charities" initiative. Instead, the federal government contracts with religious groups to provide a service in a more efficient and cost-effective way than government can.
Constitutional or not, this program should be abandoned. Why? Because with government money comes government strings. It is not difficult to imagine that the federal government, at some point, would place a requirement that organizations getting federal funds be "inclusive" in hiring practices. Charities that have come to rely on federal money will then have to choose between the money and doing something that violates their beliefs. Would it happen under President Bush? Probably not, but Bush will not be President after January 20, 2009. Had John Kerry won the election last month, do you think organizations involved in the "faith-based charities" program would have been safe from government meddling?
But there is a more basic issue here. People should be free to donate to the charity of their choice, rather than having that choice made for them by federal, state or local government. Private charities do wonderful work, and I am thankful for all those charities do. They will continue to do good work without government money. I would encourage the organizations donating legal representation to MentorKids USA to instead donate to MentorKids directly, leaving government out of the equation.