Religious Freedom Intact at Ministries Using Federal funds.(NATION)

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Urban ministries using federal welfare funds do not lose their religious identities and are not experiencing government interference, a new study said yesterday.

The study of programs in four major cities also found that creating a secular arm to accept the funds does not dilute the religious aspects of the welfare services.

"Government officials seem willing to fund them without asking too many questions," said Stephen Monsma, a political science professor at Pepperdine University and an early researcher on religion and welfare in Europe and the United States. Mr. Monsma looked at every such project in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Commissioned by the Manhattan Institute and a University of Pennsylvania center on religion and urban life, the research contradicts the belief that small religious groups lose their religious motives and identities when using federal funds. It is one of several new studies trying to understand the number and kinds of government-aided faith-based welfare services.

Taking government money does not determine whether a group becomes secular or bureaucratic, but "the organization itself" does, said Mr. Monsma.

There still is "some discrimination" because secular welfare groups get far more funding, Mr. Monsma said. But the report otherwise portrayed a smoothly running social trend.

"The capacity of faith-based programs now is small, but they plan to expand that capacity," he said.

John DiIulio, a former Bush White House official on faith-based policy now with the university and institute, said the report is some of the best data so far on the topic. …