April 28, 2001
INITIATIVES WILL HELP THE POOR
WASHINGTON - Sen.
Trent Lott, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, stood in the
ornately decorated Great Hall of the Library of Congress, speaking to
largely African-American pastors at a ''Summit on Charitable Choice''
The words of America's most powerful Senator were
startling: ''Two thousand years ago a man asked a wise teacher, `Who is
my neighbor?' It was not a government bureaucrat, but a stranger from
out of town who got off his horse to help an injured person in need.''
''At long last,
we have a president and a Congress who understand that faith-based
organizations are a critical part of what's needed to help give more
opportunities - to reach out to a child in need, or someone with an
addiction, who will be looked after as an individual. You are a
treasured resource to make America a better place. You can do something
government can not do. This is a great opportunity for you and for all
Hastert, Speaker of the House, compared a government-sponsored drug
treatment program which had a 96 percent recidivism rate, with a
religiously sponsored one whose rate was 36 percent, ''a great
faith-based initiative of President Bush has been surprisingly
was horrified to discover the Church of Scientology might be funded.
Other critics on the right, such as Marvin Olasky, who influenced Bush's
thinking about compassionate conservatism while he was governor of
Texas, urged revamping of proposed charitable choice rules, which
discriminate against evangelicals who provide faith-based help for the
federal funds currently can not be used to fund a drug rehabilitation
program whose centerpiece is a conversion to Christ. Of course,
Americans for Separation of Church and State, oppose any such move
On the other
hand, Sen. Rick Santorum told the Summit that he regularly asks school
children, which phrase is in the Constitution: ''separation of church
and state'' or the ''free exercise'' of religion. The kids always cite
the incorrect ''separation'' answer.
Much of what is
being proposed, however, is not controversial.
1. Expand private sector donations
by allowing 70 percent of people who file a standard deduction to also
deduct gifts to charity that could spark $14.5 billion of additional
2. Create a ''level playing
field,'' in which churches might compete with secular agencies to get
federal grants to run after school programs, rehabilitate housing, help
welfare mothers get jobs or care for the elderly. ''The President is
committed to inviting religious organizations to the table to
participate in ways that do not dilute their religious character as they
teach right from wrong and behavior modification,'' said Don Eberly,
Deputy Director of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and
3. Give those in need a voucher
for use in a church-run programs or secular competitors. If the choice
exists, a ministry like Prison Fellowship which emphasizes conversion,
would grow and be constitutional.
As one of the
attending pastors at the Summit, Rev. LeRoy Sullivan of Bread of Life
Church in Kansas City, Kansas put it, ''Don't penalize us because we are
a church. If what we are doing is working, give us an opportunity.''
Rep. J.C. Watts,
who organized the Summit, gave its keynote address: ''Since 1965, the
Federal Government has spent $5.5 trillion - not billion, but $5.5
trillion - on poverty programs. We have used all the wrong models. Many
are in deeper poverty today than 1965.
''It is time to
listen to the stories all across America about how lives are being
changed, Good Samaritan stories of true service, who are feeding the
hungry, freeing drug addicts, rescuing men from gangs. Changed lives
lead to changed communities and a changed nation.''
Pastor Sullivan shared one of those
stories in a panel at the Summit. ''Marriage is an answer to many of our
problems. Children from broken homes are 12 times as likely to be
incarcerated as those from intact homes and 14 times as likely to be
physically abused, according to the Heritage Foundation.
trained mentor couples to help other couples make it, we have had no
divorces in our church in three years. And we have worked with many
other churches to create similar mentoring programs. The divorce rate in
Kansas City, Kansas (and in a two county suburban area) has plunged 44
percent in only four years!''
applauded and shouted ''Amen!''
Copyright 2001 Michael J.