Keeping Government out of Churches (and charities)

One of the things that has upset me for quite some time is the way that churches turn to the government to fund their “charity” programs.  I put charity in quotes because anytime force is used to accomplish a goal it can hardly be considered charity.  Just a few moments ago I read an article about how Jimmy Carter was condemning religions for being sexist and anti woman.  In particular he condemned the Catholic Church saying “How many Catholic priests do you know that are women? None,”(1)  This quote is from an article on the Gwinnett Daily Post website about an upcoming conference to be held at the Carter Center on “Mobilizing Faith for Women”. The article goes on to state that one of the participants will be a Sister Simone Campbell “who helped organize “Nuns on the Bus,” which protested budget policies seen as hurting the poor”.(2)

The implication here is that budget reforms in Washington DC are responsible for the plight of the poor.  Furthermore she seems to be making the statement that it is the rightful and just duty of the Federal Government to insure the welfare of the poor.  Some in Congress says that this power was originally given to Congress through the “General Welfare” clause of the constitution.  If this were the case how come the original Congresses, the ones that were made up of the individuals who were contemporaries of the men wrote the Constitution, did not make any effort to take money from the general public and give it to select individuals who did not have money.

In fact the history of early America was the exact opposite.  In Virginia it was Captain John Smith who is credited with saying “If you do not work, you will not eat”.  Early Congressional Lore tells the story of David Crockett who during a debate on payment of a benefit to a widow of a distinguished Navy officer made a speech that has become known as the “Not yours to give” speech.  In it he said:  “Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”  The bill, which had been projected to pass, failed with very few supporting it.

Yet, here we have a former president and a nun arguing that the government should be involved in charity.  I cannot disagree more vehemently against that point.  Charity is the responsibility of the church and other non-governmental organizations.  The problem becomes apparent when these organizations turn to the government to help fund their charitable operations.

The problem I speak of occurs when the government gives money to a Church, it in turn feels that it has the right to tell the church what it must do.  Churches must immediately refuse any and all government assistant so that they can be true to their faith.  If they cannot raise money to conduct those operations from their congregants then they must by necessity curtail their charity operations.

That being said the government needs to allow charities, whether run by churches or other organizations to conduct operations with minimal government interference.  As long as the charity does not endanger the public or the recipients of the charity, they should be free to do so.  So if the Catholic Church wants to run an adoption agency in Massachusetts, and does not offer it services to same sex couples it should be able to do so without government interference.  Government should stay out of dictating rules for a charity, as long as the charity does not take any money from the government to fund its operations.

As I mentioned in my first post a good friend of mine, who leans a little more progressive than I, says that if churches or charities take money from the government they should be required to follow all government rules.  I agree with this statement.  However, I have a stricter interpretation of what constitutes giving taxpayer’s money to a charity or church.  The government says that if they give money to a student who then gives it to a college, the college is receiving money from the taxpayer.

I disagree!  While the government should not be in the business of giving any money to individual citizens, except as payment for services rendered to the government, it is giving the money to the citizen and not the institution.  So if a student obtains student loans, or grants, that money is being given to the student not the college.  Medicaid is the same thing.

A stronger argument can be made for Medicare.  In the case of Medicare for the most part the citizen has been led to believe that he has paid premiums his entire life for the benefit.  (All though no business could operate using the actuarial tables that Medicare uses.  It, like Social Security is nothing more than a government endorsed Ponzi Scheme.  The initial investors (taxpayers) scored incredible returns to the detriment of future generations.)

Therefore, if a school lets students pay for tuition with government grants or loans it is not receiving government aid.  If a hospital takes care of a patient who has medicaid or medicare it is not receiving government aid.

Now if either of these institutions applies to a government for a grant to do a “community outreach” program then it may very well be considered receiving government aid and should rightly be subject to government requirements.  Of course this writer’s humble opinion is that the government should not be funding, nor should the organization be receiving the taxpayer’s money for such a program.

What Do You Think?

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