Although it's the law, most states haven't met all the requirements of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Its "charitable choice" policy requires states to allow religious organizations to apply for tax dollars to obtain funds for social service programs.
A Center for Public Justice report shows that nearly 40 states haven't changed policies that limit or prevent faith-based organizations from providing welfare services.
Some religious leaders are reluctant or unprepared to meet the rigorous guidelines. "In the ELCA, we have social services agencies that are doing this type of work without the help of charitable choices," says Kay Bengston of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C. "Some churches feel there is too much red tape involved in getting government funds." In a recent survey of ELCA congregations, LOGA found none using charitable choice. "A church in Pennsylvania was told it had to fill out a 40-page document to apply," Bengston explained. "There are churches that would like to apply for grant money, but it would take additional staff to write grants."
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