Funding Faith-Based Charities Is A Mistake

By Tom DeWeese

As with many of President George W. Bush’s proposals, the intent may be pure, but the reality is unsound. So it is with his proposal to provide federal funds to “faith-based” charities.

It is a sound and noble idea to open the door to these groups and ease their efforts in helping the needy and, at the same time, reduce government involvement. Anyone who has been a member of a church group or even a civic or service club over the past few decades is aware that it has become harder for these groups to get involved in charity work. Many tasks once regularly carried out by private groups were either taken over by the government or government regulations made the private efforts impossible. Church soup kitchens, charity housing and eye-wear programs are just a few of the noble causes that were once handled by private organizations, but now are controlled through government intrusion. In addition, because of the perception that government was handling the problem, people tended not to give money to charities, paying taxes instead. Today, many churches and private charities find their coffers empty – not because people aren’t charitable- but because of government intrusion and high taxes.

By all means, get the government out of these and many more programs. Let private organizations handle them. Private volunteers will perform their tasks more efficiently and with greater love and care for the recipients. In addition, the taxpayer’s burden will be eased and the once-strong commitment to community will be restored.

But do not give these organizations federal (or state, or local) tax dollars. Because public funds corrupt – absolutely. Fill the local church’s coffers with tax dollars and their budgets will need to be fed more every year. The Federal Government has a habit of burying fund recipients under a ton of paper work and regulations in return for the money – in the name of protecting the taxpayer, of course.

It will take staff to fill out the paper work. One-time volunteers will suddenly need salaries. And then they’ll need lobbyists in Washington to assure the funds keep flowing. Then will come the lawyers. Federal funds in the pockets of private groups will provide the way for government to invade them. The lines between private and government agencies will disappear. Government will grow bigger, while the private sector shrinks ever smaller. In short, the funding of “faith-based” charities will only do what government money always seems to do – destroy the very system it sets out to fix.

Once the system is in place, future corrupt administrations can control the flow of money to those charities who agree to play ball with its policies. Big city political machines have used these methods for years to assure voter registration and intimidation. Jesse Jackson and his ilk will figure out how to grow even richer on the system.

Most important of all, it is morally wrong to force the taking of tax dollars from the pockets of American citizens in order to funnel it to a private charity that the taxpayer may not want to support. Leave the money in the taxpayer’s pocket by cutting taxes. Then let the taxpayers voluntarily give it to the charity of their choice. History shows they will do just that.

So fine, set aside the regulations and shut down the needless government programs and allow the private organizations to perform those tasks. But let them raise their own funds and pay their own way. As in any free market operation, the good ones will find the private funding they need and the bad ones will disappear. Government, too, will grow smaller and more efficient as it no longer needs to deal with charity and welfare issues. One hopes that is President Bush’s true intent, just badly planned.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.