The good news is that charitable choice legislation allowing religious organizations to compete for federal social service funds has made it out of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 20 to 5. The bad news is that the legislation isn't nearly what was promised. Weblog hasn't heard from John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, nor from deputy director Don Eberly, but it seems to Weblog that in large measure, the heart has been ripped out of President Bush's faith-based initiative.
The amended legislation, which is also being debated in the House Ways and Means Committee, now requires that any program receiving federal funds must carefully distinguish its social services from its religious components, including religious instruction, prayer, worship, or evangelism. And it must allow anyone who wants to opt out of such religious activities to do so.
That means that Teen Challenge and other organizations that integrate religion throughout their work won't be eligible for federal funds. (Although it seems like they've been excluded from any discussion of direct grants ever since DiIulio's famous speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. But even then, DiIulio and others were at least talking about substituting direct grants in such cases with vouchers, which seems to have dropped off the table completely.) Wasn't allowing such groups to compete for funding one of the basic points of the faith-based initiative? Weren't drug counseling programs permeated with the yeast of biblical teachings touted as more effective than secular alternatives just a few months ago? Didn't Eberly just tell reporters, "These are the groups where ...1
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