Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives Have Precedents in Ohio

February 16, 2001

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

On February 16, 2001, The Columbus Dispatch reported that in Ohio religious organizations are already receiving federal money to implement social programs. "The seeds of President Bush's faith-based initiative were sown in the 1996 welfare-reform law, with a provision known as 'charitable choice.'...For years, organizations such as Catholic Charities USA have taken federal money for their services but have kept their religious components separate from their services and abided by anti-discrimination laws." Joel Potts, assistant to the director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, "estimated that 90 percent of the state's 88 counties have a relationship with local faith-based groups...In some cases, the relationship predates charitable choice, said Jack Frech, the longtime director of the Athens County Human Services Department. The department has long contracted with religious groups for services such as child care...Similarly, the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services for years has contracted with faith-based organizations for a variety of services." Those who support the use of faith-based organizations think they are okay as long as they do not proselytize to the people they are helping, and as long as there are always secular alternatives to any particular service. Opponents worry that the separation between church and state is not being honored. "Across the country, only a few lawsuits have challenged charitable-choice contracts. There have been no decisive rulings. One reason might be that most states have been slow to adopt guidelines that allow faith-based groups to compete equally for contracts, according to the Center for Public Justice. Another reason, some opponents say, is the lack of complaints."