Diverse Groups Decry Riders on Religious-Charity Bill
Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Religious, taxpayer-advocacy and property rights groups are opposing the Senate bill on religious charity because of an environmental tax break they say hurts them and has nothing to do with helping church groups.
The Senate-passed bill and its House-passed counterpart, are scaled-down versions of President Bush's original faith-based initiative and consist mostly of tax incentives aimed at spurring donations to faith-based and secular charities.
But the Senate bill has a few provisions that do not directly relate to religious groups, including one that would give a tax break to people who sell land for conservation purposes.
At least 34 groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union and the American Association of Christian Schools said this provision wrongly favors conservation groups over church-based social services.
"It is our belief that the Charitable Giving Act is intended to encourage and benefit faith-based institutions," reads a letter dated yesterday and signed by the groups.
"And yet incredibly, this proposal would place those very faith-based institutions, such as churches, orphanages and private schools, at a comparative disadvantage in property purchases compared to land trusts and government agencies, neither of which are faith-based."
The letter, addressed to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, urges them to "strongly oppose" the Senate bill and instead endorse the House version, which "contains no special provisions for land trusts."
The Association of Christian Schools International also wrote a letter to the two chairmen, complaining the bills were "initially designed as 'charitable choice' " measures to help religious charities gain equal footing with secular groups. …