Grand Rapids, MI — Following is a statement by Acton Institute president Rev. Robert A. Sirico regarding the July 19 House vote granting passage of HR 7, President Bush's "Community Solutions Act." The measure recognizes the superiority of faith-based charities over governmental programs in meeting the needs of the poor.
"The recent passage of President Bush's "Community Solutions Act" (H.R. 7) is a moment for acknowledgment of achievement, and a moment for prudential reflection.
H.R. 7 demonstrates that President Bush is seriously committed to allowing the faith communities of America to play a much-needed role in ameliorating the moral and financial problems associated with poverty, and is determined to break with the failed policies of the past.
The "Community Solutions Act" will:
- Stimulate private giving to faith-based programs; and
- Help to remove funding discrimination against private, charitable, and religious organizations.
These are concrete steps forward.
Nonetheless, we must continue to assess the extent to which some agencies of the Federal government will be tempted to infringe the religious liberty of our nation's most effective charities, and the extent to which some religious charities will also be tempted to minimize their faith-commitments and explicit moral teachings. Such a tragedy is not unthinkable and vigilance must be maintained.
There is, moreover, room for improvement in the long term. I believe that consideration should now be given to how assistance for faith-based charities may be further stimulated by indirect means which do not involve direct government assistance. Such measures preserve the autonomy of the charity while preserving the current juridical understanding of the First Amendment."