Charitable Choice at Work: Evaluating Faith-Based Job Programs in the States

By Sheila Suess Kennedy; Wolfgang Bielefeld | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Asking the Right Questions

AS CHAPTER 1 DETAILED, CHARITABLE CHOICE LEGISLATION RAISED MANY MORE theoretical, legal, and policy issues than one research project could address. All legislative proposals—indeed, all programmatic or pol- icy responses to perceived problems, whether public or private— are based upon multiple assumptions: about the nature and ex- tent of the problem to be solved, about the choice and feasibility of appropriate or desirable solutions to the problem, and about the best way to implement the solutions selected. (Different lawmakers will also have different reasons for supporting or opposing par- ticular policies; at times, as we have noted, those motives may have more to do with political or ideological predispositions than with policy considerations.) In that sense, at least, Charitable Choice legislation was business as usual.

Section 104 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportu- nity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) grew out of a number of beliefs—some articulated, some implicit—about the causes of poverty, the effects of welfare dependence, the presumed efficacy of interventions that incorporate religious elements and values, and the reasons for government’s historic preference for larger, more professionalized contracting partners, whether religious or secular. Among those assumptions was the belief that faith-based organizations (FBOs) do a better job at lower cost; a conviction that a significant number of FBOs would act on a desire to par- ticipate in government welfare programs but for the existence of ”unnecessary and burdensome” institutional barriers; and a belief that FBOs had been discriminated against by public managers ex- cessively concerned with First Amendment issues. In an analysis of press releases and statements issued by the Bush administra- tion, one researcher identified several other assumptions as well:

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