After days of argument, debate, and contention, we are finally prepared to issue our opinion: We approve of charitable donations. Some may question our stance, but we stand by it. Charitable donations are okay by us. This is about as bold as a group of 33 national leaders could be in mid-January as they tried to agree on how the government could help faith-based organizations serve the needy.
The participants were not all known for building consensus and are rarely on the same side of any church-state issue. Representatives came from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the Southern Baptist Convention, People for the American Way, Teen Challenge, the Freedom Forum, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Everyone had veto power—unanimity, not majority, ruled the day.
Out of the meeting came several recommendations, none terribly remarkable. The largest governmental item was allowing deductions for charitable givers who do not itemize their tax returns. It's a good idea but hardly the stuff of "mobilizing the armies of compassion."
Ronald J. Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action and one of the 33 participants, pointed out that the Senate requires only a majority vote—not the unanimity required by the group. "Therefore our recommendations represent the minimum, not the maximum, that is politically possible," Sider wrote. "It is simply nonsense to suggest that the minimal, unanimous recommendations of this exceedingly diverse group represent all that Senators [Rick] Santorum and [Joseph] Lieberman can persuade a majority to pass."
Unfortunately, the Senate wasn't willing to push any harder. The Santorum-Lieberman bill dropped not only the House bill's hiring protections for religious groups, but ...1