Faith-Based Facts

The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Faith-Based Facts


"Debunking Charitable Choice: The Evidence Doesn't Support the Political Left or Right" by Mark Chaves, in Stanford Social Innovation Review (Summer 2003), Stanford Graduate School of Business, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford, Calif. 94305-5015.

The Bush administration has championed "faith-based initiatives" to increase the flow of government dollars to grassroots religious organizations that help the needy, arguing that their charitable efforts are more intense and more effective than government programs. Yet, these advocates say, faith-based nonprofits often get short shrift when public funds are given out.

The reality is very different, argues Chaves, a sociologist at the University of Arizona and principal investigator in a study of national religious congregations. There's very little discrimination against religious groups in the competition for government grants and contracts. "In a few cases, overzealous bureaucrats have demanded that Catholic hospitals remove crucifixes or the Salvation Army refrain from using the word 'salvation,'" according to Chaves. But over the decades, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of grants and contracts have gone to religious organizations, large and small. Catholic Charities gets about 60 percent of its funds from government sources, and the Salvation Army about 20 percent.

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