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Government Support of Faith-Based Social Services: A Look at Three Potential Pitfalls

John P. Forren


President George W. Bushs faith-based initiative, introduced with great fanfare in early 2001, may seem at first glance to represent little more than a clever rebranding of various church-state partnerships that have been mainstays on the federal domestic policy landscape for years. After all, religiously affiliated organizations such as Catholic Charities USA, Lutheran Social Services, and the Jewish Board of Family and Childrens Services have been receiving significant federal support of their charitable works since at least the early 1900s. Church-linked hospitals and nursing homes likewise have been participating in federal health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid for generations. At the local level, churches and other religious bodies have long since become the primary providers in many communities of publicly funded counseling, job training, disaster relief, and family support services. At the same time, members of the clergy now have long track records of service as mentors, counselors, spiritual leaders, and role models within the nations military and in its prisons.

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