No Strings Attached

By Siino, Rosanne | Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

No Strings Attached


Siino, Rosanne, Stanford Social Innovation Review


POLITICAL ADVOCACY

Nonprofits not muzzled by government money

Critics of the Bush administration's "faith-based" initiatives have argued that directing public monies to religious organizations that provide social services might inhibit such organizations from engaging in political activity. By becoming dependent on such money, critics argue, religious organizations would likely become reluctant to criticize government policies for fear of losing funding.

Yet a study published last April in the American Sociological Review seems to cast doubt on that argument. University of Arizona researchers Mark Chaves, Laura Stephens, and Joseph Galaskiewicz examined nonprofits whose primary purpose is something other than political advocacy, such as religious organizations and social service agencies. Their results - entitled "Does Government Funding Suppress Nonprofits' Political Activity?" - show that government funding not only did not dampen political activity by either religious or secular nonprofits, but also seemed to increase their level of certain political activities.

The researchers analyzed data from 1,236 religious groups by the National Congregations Study, an annual survey of a representative sample of U.S. religious organizations, and from a longitudinal study of 326 secular nonprofits in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Representatives from these nonprofits were asked whether the organization had engaged in various lobbying or political activities, and whether they received government funds. Running a series of statistical logistic regressions on the data gathered through these surveys, the researchers found no evidence that government funding suppressed political activity among either the religious congregations or the Minnesota-based secular nonprofits that received funding. …

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