A new survey of nearly 400 heads of government-funded faith-based organizations should give legislative ammunition to the White House.

Conducted by the conservative Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based think tank, the research underscored the importance of freedom to hire. In the study, "Fruitful Collaborations," 39 percent of respondents said retaining that freedom was "very important." Another 28 percent said it was "somewhat important."

Amy L. Sherman, a senior Hudson Institute fellow, and John C. Green, director of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, conducted the research.

The main opposition to faith-based legislation, Sherman says, isn't whether religious charities are less effective than their secular counterparts. It's the view that government and faith groups can't work together in a fruitful way. "We think that's too pessimistic. Our findings were very encouraging," she said. For example, the study did not support "the idea that groups would lose their prophetic voice."

Indeed, 89 percent said such contracts did not hurt a group's religious character or threaten its ability to criticize the government. Eighty percent said they kept their government-funded activities separate from proselytism. Another 62 percent reported "very little intrusion" from government officials in their programs.

Leaders of faith-based organizations also reported being sensitive to those who eschew religion. Three-quarters said they "reassure clients that they will receive all services even if they don't participate in inherently religious activities or convert to the organization's religious faith." Seventy percent said that participating in religious activities is optional and voluntary. And two-thirds said they notified clients ...

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