Faith-Based Socialism

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No one familiar with the history of the past century can doubt
that private charities, particularly those maintained by persons
motivated by their faith to perform charitable acts, are more effective
in addressing social needs than federal programs. Therefore, the
sponsors of HR 7, the Community Solutions Act, are correct to believe
that expanding the role of voluntary, religious-based organizations
will benefit society. However, this noble goal will not be accomplished
by providing federal taxpayer funds to these organizations. Instead,
federal funding will transform these organizations into adjuncts
of the federal government and reduce voluntary giving on the part
of the people. In so doing, HR 7 will transform the majority of
private charities into carbon copies of failed federal welfare programs.

Providing federal funds to religious organizations gives the organizations
an incentive to make obedience to federal bureaucrats their number-one
priority. Religious entities may even change the religious character
of their programs in order to please their new federal paymaster.
Faith-based organizations may find federal funding diminishes their
private support as people who currently voluntarily support religious
organizations assume they “gave at the (tax) office” and will
thus reduce their levels of private giving. Thus, religious organizations
will become increasingly dependent on federal funds for support.
Since “he who pays the piper calls the tune” federal bureaucrats
and Congress will then control the content of “faith-based” programs.

Those who dismiss these concerns should consider that HR 7 explicitly
forbids proselytizing in “faith-based’ programs receiving funds
directly from the federal government. Religious organizations will
not have to remove religious income from their premises in order
to receive federal funds. However, I fail to see the point in allowing
a Catholic soup kitchen to hang a crucifix on its wall or a Jewish
day care center to hang a Star of David on its door if federal law
forbids believers from explaining the meaning of those symbols to
persons receiving assistance. Furthermore, proselytizing is what
is at the very heart of the effectiveness of many of these programs!

H.R. 7 also imposes new paperwork and audit requirements on religious
organizations, thus diverting resources away from fulfilling the
charitable mission. Supporters of HR 7 point out that any organization
that finds the conditions imposed by the federal government too
onerous does not have to accept federal grants. It is true no charity
has to accept federal grants. It is true no charity has to accept
federal funds, but a significant number will accept federal funds
in exchange for federal restrictions on their programs, especially
since the restrictions will appear “reasonable” during the program’s
first few years. Of course, history shows that Congress and the
federal bureaucracy cannot resist imposing new mandates on recipients
of federal money. For example, since the passage of the Higher Education
Act the federal government has gradually assumed control over almost
every aspect of campus life.

Just as bad money drives out good, government-funded charities
will overshadow government charities that remain independent of
federal funding. After all, a federally-funded charity has the government’s
stamp of approval and also does not have to devote resources to
appealing to the consciences of parishioners for donations. Instead,
government-funded charities can rely on forced contributions from
the taxpayers. Those who dismiss this as unlikely to occur should
remember that there are only three institutions of higher education
today that do not accept federal funds and thus do not have to obey
federal regulations.

We have seen how federal funding corrupts charity in our time.
Since the Great Society, many organizations which once were devoted
to helping the poor have instead become lobbyists for ever-expanding
government, since a bigger welfare state means more power for their
organizations. Furthermore, many charitable organizations have devoted
resources to partisan politics as part of coalitions dedicated to
expanding federal control over the American people.

Federally-funded social welfare organizations are inevitably less
effective than their counterparts because federal funding changes
the incentives of participants in these organizations. Voluntary
charities promote self-reliance, while government welfare programs
foster dependency. In fact, it is in the self-interests of the bureaucrats
and politicians who control the welfare state to encourage dependency.
After all, when a private organization moves a person off welfare,
the organization has fulfilled its mission and proved its worth
to donors. In contrast, when people leave government welfare programs,
they have deprived federal bureaucrats of power and of a justification
for a larger amount of taxpayer funding.

Accepting federal funds will corrupt religious institutions in
a fundamental manner. Religious institutions provide charity services
because they are commanded to by their faith. However, when religious
organizations accept federal funding promoting the faith may take
a back seat to fulfilling the secular goals of politicians and bureaucrats.

Some supporters of this measure have attempted to invoke the legacy
of the founding fathers in support of this legislation. Of course,
the founders recognized the importance of religion in a free society,
but not as an adjunct of the state. Instead, the founders hoped
a religious people would resist any attempts by the state to encroach
on the proper social authority of the church. The Founding Fathers
would have been horrified by any proposal to put churches on the
federal dole, as this threatens liberty by subordinating churches
to the state.

Obviously, making religious institutions dependent on federal funds
(and subject to federal regulations) violates the spirit, if not
the letter, of the first amendment. Critics of this legislation
are also correct to point out that this bill violates the first
amendment by forcing taxpayers to subsidize religious organizations
whose principles they do not believe. However, many of these critics
are inconsistent in that they support using the taxing power to
force religious citizens to subsidize secular organizations.

The primary issue both sides of this debate are avoiding is the
constitutionality of the welfare state. Nowhere in the Constitution
is the federal government given the power to level excessive taxes
on one group of citizens for the benefit of another group of citizens.
Many of the founders would have been horrified to see modern politicians
define compassion as giving away other people’s money stolen through
confiscatory taxation. After all, the words of the famous essay
by former Congressman Davy Crockett, that money is “Not Yours to
Give.”

Instead of expanding the unconstitutional welfare state, Congress
should focus on returning control over welfare to the American people.
As Marvin Olaksy, the “godfather of compassionate conservatism,”
and others have amply documented, before they were crowded out by
federal programs, private charities did an exemplary job at providing
necessary assistance to those in need. These charities not only
met the material needs of those in poverty but helped break many
of the bad habits, such as alcoholism, taught them “marketable”
skills or otherwise engaged them in productive activity, and helped
them move up the economic ladder.

Therefore, it is clear that instead of expanding the unconstitutional
welfare state, Congress should return control over charitable giving
to the American people by reducing the tax burden. This is why I
strongly support the tax cut provisions of H.R. 7, and would enthusiastically
support them if they were brought before the House as a stand alone
bill. I also proposed a substitute amendment which would have given
every taxpayer in America a $5,000 tax credit for contributions
to social services organizations which serve lower-income people.
Allowing people to use more of their own money promotes effective
charity by ensuring that charities remain true to their core mission.
After all, individual donors will likely limit their support to
those groups with a proven track record of helping the poor, whereas
government agencies may support organizations more effective at
complying with federal regulations or acquiring political influence
than actually serving the needy.

Many prominent defenders of the free society and advocates of increasing
the role of faith-based institutions in providing services to the
needy have also expressed skepticism regarding giving federal money
to religious organizations, including the Reverend Pat Robinson,
the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Star Parker, Founder and President of
the Coalition for Urban Renewal (CURE), Father Robert Sirico, President
of the Action Institute for Religious Liberty, Michael Tanner, Director
of Health and Welfare studies at the CATO Institute, and Lew Rockwell,
founder and president of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. Even Marvin
Olaksy, the above-referenced “godfather of compassionate conservatism,”
has expressed skepticism regarding this proposal.

In
conclusion, because H.R. 7 extends the reach of the immoral, unconstitutional
welfare state and thus threatens the autonomy and the effectiveness
of the very faith-based charities it claims to help, I urge my colleagues
to reject it. Instead, I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting
a constitutional and compassionate agenda of returning control over
charity to the American people through large tax cuts and tax credits.

July
28, 2001

Dr.
Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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