America's charities -- especially those that claim to be
concerned about the poor and the needy -- are being dragged
reluctantly into the 21st century. They are proving to be their own
Changes are occurring in the government's role in helping the
poor, the sick and the needy. But charities - especially those
affiliated with religious denominations - are in the forefront of
resisting these changes. They do so at great risk to themselves.
Regarding proposed budget cuts by Congress, the head of
Catholic Charities said, "We can't pick up what's going to happen,
and it's unreasonable for Congress to talk like we can."
Other church leaders have even harsher criticisms.
A Maryland coalition of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups
recently said it will not play a role in welfare reform. One
minister said, "We will not participate in this dehumanizing,
misguided effort called welfare reform." Another leader claimed
that "government is trying to abdicate its responsibility and dump
everything on us."
In the 1980s, not-for-profit organizations descended on
Washington to protest reductions in tax rates. They feared
charitable giving would decline. It didn't. In Missouri,
church-affiliated charities fought the Hancock II amendment, which
would have given taxpayers more control over how their money is
And now charities are resisting the modest $500 tax credit in
the Charity Tax Credit Act proposed by Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and
Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio. The credit would apply to charities whose
primary purpose is "the prevention or alleviation of poverty."
Why do these groups oppose welfare reform, budget cuts and
changes in the tax code? Because they fear the loss of an important
source of funding - grants and contracts from federal and state
For example, Catholic Charities receives more than 60 percent
of its funds from government. Lutheran Social Ministries receives
more than 90 percent of its funds from government. Perhaps they
just find it easier to obtain money from one donor than from
millions of the faithful.
Religious charities place themselves in a vulnerable position
with this dependency on government funding. It is a violation - at
least in spirit - of the Establishment Clause of the First
Amendment and of the theory of the separation of church and state.
It ignores the biblical admonition to "Give to Caesar what is
Caesar's and to God what is God's."
Furthermore these organizations, which are in the business of
charity, betray a lack of faith in what their own religions have to
say about the responsibility all believers have to help the needy. …