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In good faith – Two-year initiative

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After two years of study, a handful of religious and public-interest groups have divided sharply on the extent to which government should fund social services delivered by religious organizations.

Groups participating in the study agreed that “religious organizations and the government can work together in productive ways to bring about the greater good of society.”

But the groups also had major disagreements involving the “constitutional interpretation and policy implementation” involving the collaboration of government and religious groups.

The groups’ report, “In Good Faith,” spells out areas of agreement and disagreement among the participants.

For example, participants agreed on a number of issues involving non-financial government cooperation with religious groups, such as government providing to provide information to the public about religious programs, and making education and training accessible for staff and volunteers of religious groups.

Participants also agreed on a range of issues involving government funding of religious groups, such as the need for groups receiving funding not to discriminate based on the faith of people seeking services.

But the report also spells out areas of conflict among the participants.

Advocates of government support for religious groups said it was “an innovative and carefully crafted means to expand government financial collaboration with religious organizations to meet critical social needs, while protecting beneficiaries, providers, the public trust and constitutional values.”

Opponents said the strategy “undermines governmental neutrality toward religious and promotes government funded discrimination. It also jeopardizes beneficiaries’ rights to religious liberty, and threatens the autonomy and vitality of religious and religious liberty.”

The study was co-sponsored by The American Jewish Committee and the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University, and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Participants included groups representing Baptists, Evangelicals, Catholics and Muslims.

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