Compromise or Compassion?

    Frankly, I'm amazed at the number of Christians who've raised questions about President Bush's plan for faith-based solutions. "We don't want to be entangled with government" is the most common refrain. What am I missing? Aren't we already entangled with government? Every Christian ministry and church in this country is incorporated by government authorities. We abide by municipal laws and ordinances and zoning requirements. We all have tax exemptions, and some churches are exempt from paying local property taxes as well. We collect Social Security from our employees and pay it to the government, and we're subject to the same laws that affect all other employers. So why are we afraid that faith-based solutions means the government would be running our business? For over a hundred years, the Salvation Army has received millions in government support to provide faith-based services to needy Americans. Have they been compromised? Well, I spoke to the International Congress of the Salvation Army last summer and found them to be one of the most excited evangelical groups I've ever talked to. When challenged by government -- as they were in New York some years ago -- and told they had to hire anyone who applied to work with them, they simply turned down the government funds. Prison Fellowship did exactly the same thing in Michigan. We were told that we could have a million- dollar grant to help with our aftercare program in Detroit, so long as we didn't have a religious test in hiring. We said "no thanks." In situations like these, our own integrity is our best protection. And aren't Christians in favor of what the President is trying to do in urging industries to get rid of the restrictions on private giving? Many large corporations -- like General Motors, Ford, Exxon, IBM, AT&T -- refuse to make charitable gifts to Christian organizations. I say that's wrong. And the President wants to end that kind of discrimination. Shouldn't Christian groups be treated like everyone else? Isn't it time to end religious discrimination? Mr. Bush wants to get rid of federal regulations that discriminate against ministries. He also wants all taxpayers who make charitable contributions to get deductions, and not just those who itemize. That could produce millions in additional charitable gifts every year. Well, a bill introduced by Representative J.C. Watts -- HR 7 -- will be voted on in the House. In a nutshell, it gives Christian organizations equal opportunity to provide services. Every Christian ought to let his or her representative know we're behind this legislation. Jesus said we're to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. Well, these faith-based initiatives are trying to stop Caesar from discriminating against God's people doing what they do best. This plan can do nothing but help ministries and level the playing field. And if we want to end America's dependence on big government and get back to "people helping people," this is the way to do it. It's how we reinvigorate one of the most important virtues of American life: civic duty. And it's how we marshal the "little platoons of society" that do the works of charity and mercy. So I say it's time Christians got behind this idea -- enthusiastically. If you agree, call your congressperson today and tell him or her to pass HR7.


Chuck Colson


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