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No faith-based service group has an automatic right to obtain Federal funding either through direct discretionary grants or through State and local governments' provision of Federal formula grants. Similarly, community-based organizations have no automatic right to Federal funding. But both faith-based and community organizations should have an equal opportunity to obtain such funding, if they choose to seek it. A sensible, results-driven policy requires the Government to examine outcomes-that is, what an organization achieves with the funds-rather than to the character of the organization. That is, whether it is too religious, "too religious," or "secular enough." Federal agencies should use grants to underwrite the most effective programs. Because grassroots organizations, sacred and secular, are close to, and trusted by, communities, families, and individuals in need, the Federal grants process should welcome rather than discourage the contributions of such groups that offer effective programs.
The Federal Grants process, despite a few exceptions and a growing sensitivity to and openness toward both faith-based and community groups, does more to discourage than to welcome the participation of faith-based and community groups. That is the overwhelming message trumpeted in the reports of the Centers for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives at HUD, HHS, Justice, Education, and Labor. Too much is done that discourages or actually excludes good organizations that simply appear "too religious"; too little is done to include groups that meet local needs with vigor and creativity but are not as large, established, or bureaucratic as the traditional partners of the Federal government. This is not the best way for government to fulfill its responsibilities to come to the aid of needy families, individuals, and communities.
Government must do a far better job at equipping and empowering America's social entrepreneurs-the quiet heroes, from North Central Philadelphia to South Central Los Angeles, that are conquering social ills in every corner of America.