A "Holy Mistaken Zeal"1: The Legislative History and Future of Charitable Choice
JULIE A. SEGAL
T he legislative history of "Charitable Choice" in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act 2 would make an excellent teaching tool for a course in government, politics, and the legislative process. It has everything necessary to illustrate the political process, except perhaps corruption. It has closed-door and late-night political wrangling among the highest-level elected officials. It has brazen attempts to secure power, votes, and huge quantities of money. It has good guys and bad guys on both sides of the political spectrum. And, believe it or not, the legislative history of Charitable Choice even includes a sex scandal. Charitable Choice is a lesson in and a product of political savvy, clever use of language, complex legal analysis, and chaos.
During the battle over welfare reform, Charitable Choice was a little-known provision of a much larger bill. This chapter will explain the legislative language of Charitable Choice and the various forms it took in its formation. This will reveal the original intent of Charitable Choice, and that the legislation, contrary to many reports, allows states to do far more than merely contract with faith-based organizations to perform social services on the same basis as other private organizations.
Rather, an examination of the legislative language demonstrates that Charitable Choice is far from benign. The