Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America

Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America

Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America

Piety and Public Funding: Evangelicals and the State in Modern America

Synopsis

How is it that some conservative groups are viscerally antigovernment even while enjoying the benefits of government funding? Schafer offers a compelling answer to this question by chronicling how conservative evangelical groups became increasingly adept at accommodating their hostility to the state with federal support."

Excerpt

In the past seven decades a remarkable transformation has taken place in the United States in the relationship between the federal government and religious charitable organizations in general, and between the state and evangelical agencies in particular. During the 1930s and 1940s, New Deal social programs largely excluded religious charities from receiving federal funds; the Supreme Court renewed the nation’s commitment to the separation of church and state; and evangelicals assailed Catholic efforts to obtain public aid. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, however, the scene looked very different. Policy makers from both parties lauded the role of religious organizations in a system of government-subsidized social provision; the Supreme Court had largely upheld public funding of sectarian agencies; and evangelical charities were prominent beneficiaries of federal aid funneled through policies such as the “Charitable Choice” provision of Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reforms and the George W. Bush administration’s “Faith-Based Initiative.”

At the heart of this transformation in church-state relations was the coalescence of two seminal political developments in post-World War II American history: the dramatic growth of the national security and welfare state on the one hand, and the resurgence of evangelical religion on the other. Eager to ensure a stable socioeconomic climate and to safeguard America’s global role, postwar policy makers sought to mobilize the administrative and spiritual resources of religious agencies for their political aims. “Subsidiarist” social policies made billions of dollars of public funds available to religiously affiliated hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, and social services. At the same time, government support for religious international aid agencies and various efforts to fund missionary work helped integrate sectarian groups into the foreign policy framework.

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