Religious Liberties Practice Group to Hold "Charitable Choice" Conference

The Religious Liberties Practice Group is pleased to announce a one-day conference, to be held in Indianapolis, on the constitutionality, practicality, and advisability of "charitable choice" programs and proposals. The conference should prove as stimulating as it is timely.
Several of the leading presidential candidates — including Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore — have emphasized the role that faith-based organizations should play in providing social services and assistance to the poor. Senators Dan Coats, Spencer Abraham, and John Ashcroft — to name just a few — have been instrumental at the federal level in enacting legislation that permits government to tap into the resources and experience of religious institutions in its efforts to meet societal needs. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act, for instance, included "charitable choice" provisions, as did Senator Ashcroft's 1998 amendment to the Community Block Grant Program. And Governor Bush in 1996 created a "Task Force on Faith-Based Programs" in Texas, in an effort to encourage the success of groups like Teen Challenge (a Christian drug rehabilitation program) and Chuck Colson's prison ministry.

At the heart of the charitable choice proposal is the insight that the First Amendment does not require the government, when enlisting the assistance of social service providers from the independent sector and providing them with suitable funding, to discriminate on the basis of religion. Moreover, because faith-based providers are concerned that any involvement with government will necessarily compromise their autonomy, the act goes on shield these providers from governmental interference with their essential religious character. Finally, the act protects the religious free-exercise rights of the ultimate beneficiaries at the provider of their choice.


2001 The Federalist Society