Welfare shift lags – Resistance to change

Four years after Congress passed legislation to prompt religious groups to seek federal funds to help poor people move from welfare to work, churches and other faith-based groups have been slow to seek federal financing for social services, The New York Times reported Oct. 17.

Church leaders told the Times they were reluctant or just not ready to face the tough rules for becoming government contractors, while others said they didn’t know about the initiative and few states actively participate in the effort.

“Politicians or anyone else who thinks that there were thousands of faith-based organizations raring to go, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” said Stanley W. Carlson-Thies, a senior fellow at the Center for Public Justice, a nonprofit Christian policy research group in Annapolis, Md., that has promoted church programs. “I don’t see that.”

In states such as Indiana that have worked to reach out to churches, however, church-state teamwork is on the rise.

The biggest response has come from black churches, many of which have been serving needy people for years, the Times said.

The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 provides for so-called “charitable choice,” which lets religious groups receive government money for social programs without forcing them to curb their religious expression or give up their religious identify.

Critics say the measure allows the use of tax dollars to pay for proselytizing.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore both say that, if elected president, they will push to expand the approach.

For full story, go to The New York Times.

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