Welfare Reform & Faith-Based Organizations

By Derek Davis; Barry Hankins | Go to book overview

3
The Wrong Way to Do Right: Charitable Choice and Churches

MELISSA ROGERS

W e can all agree on at least one thing: there is much confusion about the role of religious organizations in the provision of social services. For this reason, let me briefly outline the three basic ways in which religious groups currently may provide social services in their communities.

First, pervasively sectarian entities such as houses of worship may offer privately subsidized ministries. These houses of worship and other pervasively sectarian ministries may share information with government about needs and programs, but they do not accept government funds.

Second, religiously affiliated groups may offer tax-subsidized secular services. As noted by the authors in some of the other chapters, the U.S. Supreme Court has drawn a constitutional distinction between pervasively sectarian organizations and ones that are simply affiliated with a religious body.1 The Supreme Court approved public funding for a religiously affiliated entity as early as 1899 in the case of Bradfield v. Roberts.2 In Bradfield, the Court approved the District of Columbia's use of part of a congressional appropriation to construct a building for Providence Hospital. While members of the Roman Catholic Church comprised the corporate board of the hospital, and the hospital was conducted "under the auspices" of the church,3 the Court observed that the hospital's

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