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eNews for Faith-Based Organizations
November 16, 2010

Editor: Stanley Carlson-Thies
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in this issue
Congressional Hearing on Obama Faith-Based Initiative
FBOs More Complex Than Presumed
Administration Supports Voucher-Funded Drug Treatment
Suppressing Faith Suppresses Services
Will You Support IRFA?
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An archive of current and past eNews for FBOs can be accessed HERE.

Congressional Hearing on Thursday on Obama Faith-Based Initiative


On Nov. 18th the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the House Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on "Faith-Based Initiatives: Recommendations of the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships and Other Current Issues."  The hearing begins at 10:30 am Eastern. Live video should be available at the committee website.

The first panel will have a witness from the administration.  The second panel will have three witnesses:  Barry Lynn (Americans United for Separation of Church and State), Melissa Rogers (a former member of the President's Advisory Council and director of Wake Forest University Divinity School's Center for Religion and Public Affairs), and Prof. Douglas Laycock, a premier defender of religious freedom (University of Virginia School of Law). 

The hearing stems from a June 18th letter from CARD, the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, to Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the subcommittee, seeking an oversight hearing on the recommendations of the Advisory Council and on the "Administration's policy on federally funded religious discrimination."  CARD members include the ACLU, Americans United, Catholics for Choice, Human Rights Campaign, and People for the American Way.  CARD members believe that religious hiring by federal grantees began under George Bush's faith-based initiative and now, unaccountably, has been perpetuated by the Obama administration. 

There is no way that the lame duck session of Congress will actually do anything about whatever actual insights that the hearing may yield.  So the whole exercise might best be seen as an effort to embarass the administration for not having disowned the federal government's equal treatment rules for its collaborations with faith-based groups--even though the principles date back to the Clinton administration and are based on Supreme Court decisions.
Faith-Based Organizations More Complex Than Presumed by Public Policy and Law

On Friday, Nov. 19th, the Faith and Organizations project will release a short policy statement, "Thinking about Partnerships Among Faith-Communities, Faith-Based Organizations, and Government in a New Way." 

Here's one of the observations: 

"The reality of faith-based services--as experienced by those served by them, those who serve in them, and government officials who interact with them--is often very different than the abstract schemas assumed in constitutional law deliberations and in statutes and regulations.  Religion is not binary--present or absent--but rather is a pervading reality, sometimes obvious in rituals and symbols, at other times embedded in personnel choices, service styles, and management practices.  It is reflected in the distinctive ways that different faith communities relate to--manage, support, interact with--their faith-based service organizations.  This does not mean that organizations offer religion in place of social services but rather that their ways of serving are shaped by the ideals of their respective faith communities.  Because of those ideals, a particular nonprofit will be more, or less, inclined to work with government or organizations of other faiths; it will have access to the particular resources of some particular faith community or some ecumenical set of congregations and not other resources; it will interpret its work in one way instead of another; it will have a firm commitment about the rightness of one kind of personnel policy or another approach.  These different ways of serving, staffing, managing, and collaborating are not incidental to the organization but inherent in it; they are aspects of its faithfulness to a set of ideals that emerge out of its faith tradition."

The Faith and Organizations project grew out of the concern of a number of faith community leaders about how their communities might best maintain a tie with the nonprofit organizations those communities had founded.  The project looked at Mainline Protestant, Catholic, African-American, Jewish, Evangelical, Muslim, Quaker, and Mennonite communities, examining a range of organizations (hospitals, schools, social-service facilities, retirement homes, etc.).  In addition to reports on the various faith communities and also comparative studies, the project produced a wide range of guidance materials for congregational leaders and nonprofit leaders. 

Because the "religious ecology" revealed by the in-depth studies is so much more complex than the "binary" view assumed in public policy and law--that religion is either present or absent in a service organization, and if present, is always present in the same way--a short memo of policy-relevant observations was also produced.  Authors of the memo are Jo Anne Schneider, project director, and Stanley Carlson-Thies.  A diverse advisory committee assisted in shaping the memo.

The memo can be found on the project website:
Obama Administration Support for Voucher-Funded Drug-Treatment

Access to Recovery is an innovative federal program that uses vouchers to provide a wide range of drug-treatment and recovey-support services to addicts.  By using vouchers, which go to the people seeking help, in place of the usual government grant to a limited number of service providers, ATR maximizes choice and better matches between specific needs and specific services.  And because of the voucher payment method, the providers can include religious activities (such as spiritual counseling) in the government-funded services.  The program was stated by the Bush administration, and is now in its third round of multi-year funding.

Recently Ben O'Dell of the HHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who is familiar with ATR and also with the "conventional" drug treatment services funded by the federal SAMHA program, said this about ATR:  "By providing vouchers to clients to purchase substance abuse clinical treatment and recovery support services, Access to Recovery is expanding capacity, supporting client choice, and increasing the array of faith-based and community based providers for clinical treatment and recovery support services."  He noted the good results the program has shown, mentioning the "personal stories of positive impact" he had heard from program participants. 

Kudos to the administration for supporting this innovative program!
Suppressing Faith Suppresses Services

When policymakers propose a law or regulation that will constrict the religious freedom of parachurch ministries, a common response is:  If you harm the faith identity and practices of these ministries, you'll reduce the good they do in society.  And the common response to that is:  we don't believe it!  Some other group will step up-it isn't only religious people who care about their neighbors!


No doubt there is no simple correlation between maximizing religious freedom and maximizing service to society.  After all, the early church won social acceptance, and then religious freedom, because of how it served its hurting neighbors despite unfavorable circumstances.


Still, there is merit to the general argument, as a recent story from The Christian Institute in England documents.  The story notes that adoptions in the United Kingdom were down 4 percent in the year ending March 31, 2010, compared to the year before, and down 14 percent compared to the 2006 numbers. 


Why?  Surely one reason is that, in response to the draconian Sexual Orientation Regulations introduced in 2007, 10 of the 11 Catholic adoption agencies then in operation have had to either close up shop or secularize themselves.  The last of the 11 is currently stuck in a court fight trying to remain a distinctly Catholic adoption agency.  Many parents-those who want to adopt, those who might give up a child for adoption-no longer have an agency whose values they trust. 


Alas, the story goes on, instead of working out a way to protect the rights of both faith-based adoption agencies and gay persons, the current government is maintaining the sexual orientation regulations and contemplating only ending a ban on mixed-race adoptions.  That stance isn't a very promising way to expand adoptions, or secure religious freedom, or protect faith-based services.
Will You Support IRFA?
In this Thanksgiving season, we at IRFA invite you to join with us in celebrating the services that faith-based organizations daily provide as the "hands and feet of faith."

Will you consider a generous contribution to help us ensure that these faith heroes can always offer "faith-full" service?  Thank you for your own life of service, for your support of faith-based organizations, and for your encouragement to us.

You can donate securely on-line here:

IRFA is a 501(c)(3) organization that depends on the support of those who understand that opposition to faith-based services is growing.  That opposition requires a positive response that goes beyond courtroom defenses.   Thank you.

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What is IRFA?

The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance works to safeguard the religious identity, faith-based standards and practices, and faith-shaped services of faith-based organizations across the range of service sectors and religions, enabling them to make their distinctive and best contributions to the common good.