• 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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