July 13th, 2008 at 4:57 pm
One of the most contentious religious liberty issues in the past several years has been government aid to religious entities that provide social services. The most noticeable effort to promote such aid has been through the president’s Faith-Based Initiative. For many, government funds for religious-based social services put two heartfelt desires at odds; to promote ministering to the least of these among us, and to uphold the value of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. While religious charities have received government grants for years, the recent Faith-Based Initiative has sought to change some essential rules governing the cooperation.
Over the last decade or so, Congress has debated many aspects of the issue. Of particular focus for some religious liberty advocates has been the right of religious entities to hire or fire employees on the basis of religion whose positions are funded by tax dollars. Religious entities and churches have the right to hire only those who share their beliefs when using their own funds such as tithes and offerings. Changes called for under the Faith-Based Initiative raises the question as to if that right is extended to service positions funded by government grants?
In July, a group of organizations working together as the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, sent a description of their concerns regarding the implementation of the Faith-Based Initiatives to both Senator McCain and Senator Obama. Their summary recites a short history of cooperation between the government and religious social service providers. The letter then addresses some problems the authors see in the current Faith-Based Initiative and urges both candidates to make reforms during the next administration. To read the letter and gain a greater understanding of a religious liberty issue being debated during this political season please click here.