Compassion Capital Fund Denied Funding from Government (Yay!)

A few years ago, President Bush said he would create a $700,000,000 “Compassion Capital Fund” which would launch faith-based programs in inner cities.

… The initiative was supposed to help churches pursue their “focused and noble mission” of stamping out teen pregnancy, drug addition, illiteracy, and homelessness.

It was pledged but the money never appeared.

More recently, that same Compassion Capital Fund was mentioned in the House version of the economic-stimulus bill.

While the $900-billion stimulus package being considered in the Senate does not have funding for faith-based programs, the bill that passed the House includes $500 million for the “Compassion Capital Fund” to go to eligible faith-based and community groups. Among that allocation, $250 million would be spent immediately after the start of fiscal year 2010, in October.

Not good. That money would have been given to groups who support religious discrimination — most likely Christian groups who don’t like gays or Jews or anyone else not in their club.

Thankfully, we won’t have to see their bigotry play out.

The compromise economic-stimulus package passed [Friday] by the House of Representatives would provide $50-million for a new program to strengthen nonprofit groups so they can help people suffering from the economic downturn.

Where is that money coming from…?

The $50-million for nonprofit groups is earmarked for “capacity-building” grants, according to a report by the House-Senate conference committee that drew up the compromise. “The conferees expect that grantees have clear and measurable goals, and must be able to evaluate the success of their program,” they wrote. This money comes in place of $100-million that the House proposed for the Compassion Capital Fund, a program created by President Bush to provide money to religious and other charities.

That’s a victory for advocates of separation of church and state.

Congratulations to Americans United, the Secular Coalition for America, and all other groups who were doing all they could to make sure the money didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

If churches want to provide services to help communities, they’re welcome to receive funding. Some of them might do a great job. But if they want federal money, they cannot be allowed to discriminate in their hiring and they shouldn’t be receiving special treatment when getting the money. Our government should only give taxpayer money to groups that help and hire all types of people regardless of beliefs or orientation, groups that don’t proselytize when providing services — People need real help in these times, not a god.

(Thanks to Sasha for the link!)

  • Epistaxis

    That money would have been given to groups who support religious discrimination — most likely Christian groups who don’t like gays or Jews or anyone else not in their club

    I don’t doubt that, but what evidence do you have for the claim?

    If churches want to provide services to help communities, they’re welcome to receive funding

    Oh? That’s not excessive entanglement? Then the least they could do is to form a separate nonprofit organization for their federally funded community work, bound by the laws of 501(c)(3) private charities, which aren’t as permissive of discrimination as the laws for religious organizations, and which require more thorough financial reporting.

  • Miko

    The phrase “capacity building” is a dangerous one, since it can be used by organizations that are not currently providing charitable services at all. Under the Faith-Based Initiatives, there’s been a sizable problem with churches asking for money for “capacity building” under the implication that they might at some point in the future decide to start doing charitable work. Then they use the money to have the vestibule recarpeted or to buy computers for their staff and then later decide against doing any actual charitable work. “Measurable goals” is a step up, except that bureaucrats are typically bad at determining whether goals are realistic. Personally, I’d be happier if they were focusing on groups with proven track records rather than throwing funds at new groups for “capacity building,” since a group that only forms in response to free money from the government is likely to fold just as soon as that money dries up.

  • inkadu

    I don’t think religions are allowed to discriminate on the “federally funded” side of their organization … I don’t know if things are different with the Faith Based funding. Even though I’m an atheist, I can’t help but notice that a lot of private social services are run by churches. I respect that. However, a lot of church-based services operate under non-profit guidelines. I see no reason to single out churches for a special program of funding. If non-profit social service agencies are too expensive and difficult to legally create, then change the law.

  • Hal Merz

    As a former peer reviewer and panel supervisor (a contractor hired to review government grants and supervise other reviewers)for the much-maligned Compassion Capital program, I need to say that the program did not give preference to churches, religious organizations, or (as Miko alludes)organizations that do not appear to have a track record in providing actual public-benefit social services.

    Many of the organizations that received these grants were secular nonprofits with no religious background. Those grant recipients with religious connections were required to serve their clients in different places and times from where religious teaching/services were conducted.The vast majority of those grantees had set up separate nonprofit organizations with independent boards of directors. Those organizations whose executives and boards were only pastors, had little chance of obtaining the grant because they could not document expertise in project management, etc.

    With such safeguards, I do not understand why anyone who is objective would be troubled by this program. However, I must say that one reason that the Bush administration established this program was that some “faith-based” social services organizations were not getting a fair hearing in obtaining federal grants. The objective was to “level the playing field,” not to create a special advantage for religious groups.

  • Judi Dale

    I am wondering if someone, particulary Mr. Mertz, can help me understand where the funds from the Compassion Capital Fund came from and where the new 50M fromthe Capacity Building Capital Fund” will be coming from. How would I find out where to go to see the eligibility requirements and application? Under what part of the stimulus package does this fall? Thank you so much for any information you can provide.

  • Judi Dale

    Can someone tell me where to find the wording in the House-Senate Committee Report (referred to in this article)pertaining the 50M that will come from the Capacity Building Fund? I keep looking but I don’t seem to find it. Your help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • mike

    Look, for once I know something about the inside topic of what you are discussing. The Compassion Capital Fund does not, and I repeat not, give money to groups that discriminate, in fact the rules are very strict that there can be NO direct evangelizing, no direct political campaigning, etc. you heard the ex pres say compassion capital Fund,and the words “faith based” and you assume that it is govt giving church money to discriminate against you. well, thats not true. I got a job with a non profit that is a compassion capital fund grantee, and we have to be careful to NEVER do any evangelizing. Please, make the attempt to get your facts straight, though it is clear that discussion is good just for the sake of discussion….Mike

  • Dan

    Your analysis and discussion is so full of false and misleading statements I almost don’t know where to begin. I am as concerned about the effects of federal monies in religious sectars as anyone, but let’s get the facts straight. First, CCF funds cannot be granted directly to churches or other religious entities that do not already have a 501(c)(3) non-profit status; the funding criteria prohibits it. Second, no funds can be used for purposes not directly related to elevating the organizational capacity to deliver social services; when people make unsubstantiated statements like “the money will be used to re-carpet churches”, their entire point seems absurd. Third, there is a clear prohibition against using the CCF funds for anything that remotely approaches religious activity or materials, this is made clear in each of the applicable RFPs and all applicants must explain a reasonable plan for ensuring it is upheld. Fourth, the entire point of the funding is to develop sustainable increased capacity to serve the community AFTER the grant is completed, and all applicants must demonstrate a plan for sustainability in order to even be considered for funding. Most of the funds were designated for retraining of key staff from small non-profits (leadership development, organizational development, program development, community engagement); tell me again how that is a bad thing or a temporary endeavor? What are you so afraid of that you would malign this program with fictitious fallacious arguments? CCF was a good program and it did a lot of good in the community. You have no evidence that faith-based organizations are using these funds for purposes of religious discrimination , you just assume it and want us all to accept it as the intellectual position. Your obvious bias is the only religious discrimination I see here.


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