Faith-based Funding Flood Continues

States Push Faith Funding

With at least half of state governors now acceding to Pres. Bush’s demand to set up state faith-based liaisons, several states are now entertaining legislation to create faith-based bureaucracies similar to the federal pattern.

Texas could become the first state to mirror the federal faith-based initiative if legislation passes to create nine state agency offices, to coordinate faith-based efforts by the governor and state agencies. A fund similar to the federal Compassion Capital Fund would be created and so-called barriers” to funding “faith-based groups” would be removed. The bill would also create a mentoring initiative involving faith-based groups in promoting marriage and “responsible fatherhood,” and a volunteer database.

The state would set up a fund, “Renewing Our Communities Account,” to seek contributions from private sources, then administer the grant. The Legislative Budget Board claims the proposal would have no fiscal impact, unlike the federal initiative, because existing staff would run it.

Although the Texas Freedom Network, which works to counter the religious right, initially opposed the scheme last year, it is not directly opposing the measure after language was added ensuring some oversight.

Other states, including Oklahoma, Missouri and Minnesota, have introduced similar legislation to designate liaisons in state agencies, to work with prison officials or social service agencies.

Ohio and Florida have previously implemented programs to promote faith-based funding. The Oklahoma House is considering a bill, the “Transformational Justice Act,” to encourage faith-based groups to establish rehab programs within prisons, although a similar measure died in the State Senate last year.

Missouri is entertaining a bill to designate regional liaisons to faith-based organizations within the state’s Department of Social Services.

Minnesota’s Educational Department budget bill would allocate $500,000 to faith-based and community groups to support “responsible fatherhood.” That idea was promoted by Lee Buckley, the state’s special advisor on faith and community service initiatives.

Georgia’s governor is promoting a constitutional amendment to eliminate a ban on public funding of faith-based organizations. (March 6 report by Claire Hughes, Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy)

New Round of Federal Faith Grants

Now in its sixth year, the federal Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) is awarding $16.5 million in grants to “strengthen the ability” of smaller faith-based and community groups to deliver government social services.

Announced by the Department and Health and Human Services in March, the grants will go to intermediary organizations, which in turn award subgrants to train faith-based and community groups how to “develop leadership, organization skills, revenue strategies, program management and community involvement techniques.” The goal is not to serve the needy, but to deliver “capacity-building skills” to faith-based groups.

Last year, for example, Pat Robertson’s charity, Operation Blessing, allegedly redirected more than a half million dollars in CCF grants to smaller faith-based and community groups to buy computers, tracking software and refrigerated walk-in boxes and trailers. It also sponsored “technical assistance” and grant-writing workshops.

HHS this year expects to give 33 demonstration program grants to new intermediaries for projects lasting three years. The ceiling is $500,000 per year to each organization.

In fiscal year 2002, when CCF began, it appropriated $30 million, which went to 21 intermediary groups to build capacity of smaller groups, also establishing a National Resource Center clearinghouse operated by Dare Mighty Things.

In total, CCF has received $64.3 million in funding. The total number of current intermediary grantees is now 44.

Grant announcements for CCF’s “Targeted Capacity Building” and “Communities Empowering Youth” programs have not been made yet. Last year, those divisions awarded $45 million in grants

Bush is seeking $75 million for CCF for fiscal year 2008. (Source: Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, report by Anne Farris, March 6, 2007)

Freedom From Religion Foundation