September 1999 – Vice President Al Gore now says he thinks churches and faith-based organizations should partner with government to do charity work, but only if they leave out their spiritual component when they do so. Speaking from personal experience as a former welfare mother, I think Gore made a big mistake when he added that “but only if.”
Letting private religious charities administer welfare services is a commonsense approach to the transition from welfare to independence. But they need to be allowed to offer their clients spiritual support. The first step welfare mothers must take if they are to mainstream their lives is to understand that they have a moral obligation to be personally responsible and self-sufficient. You cannot understand morality without God.
Such support was vital for me during my transition from welfare. The government told me I was the victim. It was a local faith-based organization that helped me get off welfare by providing the spiritual dimension, which put the onus on me.
But leftist organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union are fighting the charitable-choice provision of the 1996 welfare reform law that says states that contract out welfare services must not discriminate against faith-based organizations and private charities. Democrats claim to care about liberating poor people, yet they are willing to cut off black welfare mothers from the very organ that will enable them to heal themselves: the church. Government officials continue to say they care about the plight of these women and will do anything to make the transition easier, yet they too are intimidated by the hostility of separatist groups who fight faith-based participation.
The reason outreach programs such as the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and Payne Memorial Outreach in Baltimore are so successful is simple: They allow people to reform their lives by first establishing a relationship with God. These groups administer their services with very low overhead and administrative cost. Many of the counselors and staff are volunteers and former recipients themselves. They know firsthand what to do.
Government has tried charity work without God. It found out it doesn’t work well.
Instead, we should let taxpayers decide where their charitable money goes. Allow individuals to receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for their financial support of local outreach ministries and community-based organizations that assist welfare mothers in the transition from welfare to work. Give recipients the right to choose what facility they want to assist in the reformation of their lives and whether that assistance will include spiritual aid.
Churches and local community groups are the only ones that can give these women the emotional and spiritual support they need while they change their lives for the better.
Star Parker (email@example.com) is founder and president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, an educational center and research foundation in Los Angeles.