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:

Report Finds "Widespread Bias" In Funding of Faith-Based Groups (Aug. 17, 2001)

Charitable-Choice Bill Drops Anti-Discrimination Section (Aug. 3, 2001)

Faith-Based Initiative's Real Battleground Is Local Governments, Not Senate (July 31, 2001)

House Approves Charitable Choice Bill (July 19, 2001)

Earlier Christianity Today articles about charitable choice include:

Revisiting Mt. Carmel Through Charitable Choice | Secularists and Christians should enter a "contest" to see which social philosophy produces better social results. (June 26, 2001)

Putting Faith Back in Public Service | The head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives talks about the controversy surrounding his new mission. (June 26, 2001)

DiIulio Keeps Explaining, But Is Anyone Listening? | At a media luncheon in Washington about Bush's faith-based initiatives, answered questions get asked one more time. (Apr. 9, 2001)

DiIulio Pitches Charitable Choice to Cautious NAE Delegates | Meanwhile, group suggests religious broadcasters reconsider severing ties. (Mar. 21, 2001)

Editorial: No More Excuses | Bush's faith-based initiative should reinvigorate our mission of service. (Mar. 15, 2001)

Charitable Choice Dance Begins | Faith-based organizations cautious but eager for government aid. (Mar. 15, 2001)

Should Charities Take Washington's Money? | Churches and ministries grapple with the ramifications of accepting federal funding. (Feb. 13, 2001)

The Bush Agenda | Will the White House be user-friendly for religious organizations? (Jan. 8, 2001)

Bush's Call to Prayer | After Al Gore's concession, evangelical leaders unify around faith-based initiatives, morality, and prayer as the incoming Bush administration gears up. (Dec. 14, 2000)

A Presidential Hopeful's Progress | The spiritual journey of George W. Bush starts in hardscrabble west Texas. Will the White House be his next stop? (Sept. 5, 2000)

Bush's Faith-Based Plans (Oct. 25, 1999)

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