In late 1999, when we began researching the effects of the Chari- table Choice provision of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, we certainly did not fore- see President George W. Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiative” or the very contentious and polarizing political debate around efforts to in- volve greater numbers of religious providers in the provision of social services. As the environment surrounding our research has changed, so have our goals for this book. Initially, we intended to produce a fairly straightforward research report, but what follows represents a more ambitious effort. We do report the results of our research, but we also attempt to place these results within a broader context, thereby—we hope—illuminating the larger social trends and policy issues involved.
Our goals in this volume are to summarize what is known about faith-based contracting thus far, to explain what we think our re- search adds to that body of knowledge, and to use the combined information to draw conclusions about the larger philosophical is- sues and policy debates. Rather than a relatively restricted discus- sion of the conclusions reached in one particular study, we hope this book will provide readers with a more comprehensive, “holis- tic” overview of the subject at hand.