Complexities of government funding
Religion & Liberty Online

Complexities of government funding

Thorny issues arise when non-profits take government funding, especially when said non-profits have an explicitly Christian (and evangelistic) purpose. Case in point: “The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit yesterday against the Department of Health and Human Services, accusing the Bush administration of spending federal tax dollars on an abstinence education program that promotes Christianity,” aka Silver Ring Thing.

I first heard about the Silver Ring Thing via a special documentary broadcast on NPR, “With This Ring: Pledging Abstinence.” All in all it looks like a praiseworthy effort communicating the message of Christian holiness…in policy lingo “a faith-based abstinence message.” I don’t know if they still do it or not, but the NPR documentary said that at the end of the event students are given a Bible compliments of SRT.

I’m inclined to think that the SRT mission would be better served if it didn’t rely on the government for funding…even if that funding is legal and the government wants to give it. Consider it a form of forbidden fruit (with strings attached, of course). If the ACLU wins the suit, SRT might be faced with the decision to abandon the explicitly evangelistic elements to remain eligible for funding. And other faith-based non-profits might be tempted to do so preemptively, to avoid the tangles and confusions of litigation.

HT: The Corner

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.