A bill to strengthen government support of faith-based organizations passed the Republican-led House of Representatives in July. Prospects remain cloudy in the Senate.

Barbara Elliott, founder and director of the Center for Renewal in Houston, calls passage of HR7 "a major milestone affirming faith-based groups and their remarkable work in restoring broken lives." Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs for the Family Research Council, calls the scaled-back bill "acceptable."

The Community Solutions Act would allow religious groups to apply for government money for social programs, including job training, elder care, and hunger relief. The bill provides $13 billion in current tax incentives. Under the bill, taxpayers who do not itemize—70 percent of the total—can deduct $25 in charitable gifts the first year, gradually increasing to $100 by 2010.

The original provision would have allowed 100 percent deductions by 2010, sparking an estimated $160 billion in new giving. A "compassion capital fund" to match federal funds to private and local governments' monies was dropped. The bill retains "individual development accounts," which help poor people accumulate assets.

The bill survived a last-minute challenge that it would promote government-sponsored discrimination against homosexuals in hiring.

Elliott says religious organizations must be allowed to hire people of like faith. "If that goes, so does the transformational character of faith-based work."



Related Elsewhere


Community Solutions Act bill information and status are available online. Also, take a look at the final vote results.

Christianity Today's Weblog regularly covers Bush's faith-based initiative. Recent Weblogs on the topic include:

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