The Role of Faith-Based
THE PASSAGE OF THE CHARITABLE CHOICE LAWS USHERED IN A SUSTAINED, LIVELY, and occasionally acrimonious discussion about the capacities of faith-based organizations (FBOs) to provide social services. Proponents of Charitable Choice and the president’s Faith-Based Initiative made a number of claims about the benefits that would accrue if more faith-based service providers were encouraged to participate. They argued that broader inclusion of FBOs would increase the diversity of service delivery systems, and thus enhance government responsiveness (Wilson 2003). They claimed that FBOs are more efficient—that they make better use of resources and achieve better outcomes—than secular organizations (for sum- maries, see Sherman 2003 and White House 2001). They suggested that the inclusion of organizations “rooted” in their communities would give government program managers increased access to the infrastructures, volunteers, and existing service networks in those communities.
There were a number of assumptions implicit in these claims: that smaller, “grassroots” organizations would be less bureaucratic and more “rooted” in the communities needing services; that orga- nizations with a “faith factor” would be better, more effective, and more humane service providers than their secular counterparts; and that FBOs would be more holistic in their approach to indi- vidual clients, and thus more likely to promote the transformation of clients, than secular organizations. These organizations were de- scribed as more likely to establish personal, caring, and enduring relationships with clients than secular providers; more likely to in- clude mentoring relationships; and more likely to provide clients