Religious Groups Receive 1/3 of Federal Drug Recovery Funds
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Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 12:03:03 PM EST
Health and Human Services reports that faith-based service providers receive 1/3 of the funds of a new federal voucher program. ATR (Access to Recovery) allows those in need of substance abuse programs to choose from a list of providers that includes religious groups (per President Bush's faith-based initiative), even if those groups don't meet licensing standards. More below...
Anne Farris at the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy reports:
Under law, government money cannot be paid directly to faith-based organizations for inherently religious activities. But ATR allows clients to spend their government vouchers at their choice of rehabilitation programs, including those infused with religion, because there is no direct payment to the organization. Instead, the payments are considered "indirect" because the client - not the government - selects the recipient from a list of approved providers that also include secular organizations.
Critics of ATR have said the program improperly expands government-funded services to faith-based programs, many of which do not meet licensing requirements or medically-sanctioned standards of state-approved services. Faith-based organizations receiving government money through vouchers are allowed to use religiously-based curriculum in treatment, and that has raised concerns about church-state separation among civil liberties groups.
The Senate Appropriations Committee last year removed funding for the program, but the final HHS appropriations bill included the funding to continue for another 3-year stint.

My question is this: if providers are not necessarily required to meet licensing standards to qualify for federal funding, how do they wind up being included on (or excluded from) a state's list of acceptable providers? Hopefully the lists aren't compiled by the same crowd that brought us the list of acceptable religious literature in prisons?

How do they ensure that no religious discrimination occurs?

When I was digging into the "Faith Based Initiative" at the ground level (where grant money was going) late last year I concluded that few people were paying much attention at all except for the groups actually getting grants.

The statement "Under law, government money cannot be paid directly to faith-based organizations for inherently religious activities." is more or less meaningless if there is no monitoring mechanism, and there is not.

by Bruce Wilson on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 01:22:06 PM EST

in theory requires procedures in place to safeguard against improper religious activity with the federal funds. But that has been lacking in execution - to put it mildly. Obviously - and sadly - that's not even a requirement for "indirect funding", but that wouldn't condone religious discrimination in determining acceptable providers. This is an unregulated system that's asking for religious preference and discrimination.

by DonByrd on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 03:30:24 PM EST

with this is not that money goes to these rehabiliation centers, even if they do have components that are based in a specific faith.  The separation of church and state does not necessarily prohibit that if: 1) it is "fair game" that all such organizations are eligible for these payments (there can still be some sort of vetting process, but it cannot be based on religious beliefs) and 2) the client, not the government, gets to pick the center from a list that contains a variety of centers, including those not affiliated with any faith group.

The red flag for me is the lack of licensing and overview requirements.   Is this just for the faith-based centers or for all the centers that receive these funds?  In either case, it appears to me that if the larger issue licensing  is addressed.  Addressing this would also address the church-state issues and religous discrimination.  
God's grace and peace, Deb K
by Pastordeb on Sat Sep 29, 2007 at 11:21:23 AM EST

Religious groups receiving federal and state funds were required to maintain secular nonprofit entities to administer those funds.

No longer.

"Is this just for the faith-based centers or for all the centers that receive these funds?" - your question has been answered by a recent New York Times report, detailing the rise of a regulatory regime biased towards the provision of social services by religious entities :

In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide "war on religion" that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations -- from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples -- enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly.

Some of the exceptions have existed for much of the nation's history, originally devised for Christian churches but expanded to other faiths as the nation has become more religiously diverse. But many have been granted in just the last 15 years -- sometimes added to legislation, anonymously and with little attention, much as are the widely criticized "earmarks" benefiting other special interests.

An analysis by The New York Times of laws passed since 1989 shows that more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation, covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration to land use. New breaks have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch.

The special breaks amount to "a sort of religious affirmative action program," said John Witte Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the Emory University law school.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Sep 30, 2007 at 01:20:53 AM EST

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