Help the faithful meet human needs In thinking through...

March 31, 2001

Help the faithful meet human needs

In thinking through the funneling of public money to faith-based charities, we ought to start by reading what the Constitution actually says -- rather than with some vague notion of "separation of church and state."

The Constitution prevents Congress from establishing a religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.

Stressing the former, the courts have instigated what amounts to "religious profiling": Merely because a program doesn't go along with atheist perspectives on human needs, it is disqualified from public funding regardless of its capacity to provide aid.

Constitutional guidelines could ensure public funds go only to non-instructional programs. Or vouchers could ensure each needy person could decide for himself or herself which program to use.

But let's not continue the slash-and-burn campaign against faith-based charities, which are the only proven social welfare programs in this country and abroad.

Charles Clough, Bel Air

The Sun's question is flawed because the phrase "separation of church and state" is not contained in the Constitution.

Taken from a letter by Thomas Jefferson, it is a popular interpretation of the constitutional amendment that reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

But in light of the religious fervor of our founding fathers, this interpretation is absolutely ludicrous, if not tyrannical.

Our Christian ancestors risked everything to worship as they pleased. One cannot believe these same people then sought to establish a nation in which religion was meant to be hidden, as if it were something to be ashamed of.

Wade Coley, Baltimore

The "separation of church and state" is the creation of anti-Christian zealots who read into the Constitution intentions that were never there.

I have no problem with the president or the mayor seeking out faith-based organizations doing valuable work and asking them to help government be more effective in helping people.

It's the smart thing to do, for everyone involved -- and it will prevent waste and abuse also.

Robert L. Di Stefano, Abingdon

Only in our largely inattentive role as citizens do we hear and unknowingly accept the term "separation of church and state." No literal interpretation requires such separation in matters other than that we shall have no state religion.

Thus public funds to any worthwhile faith-based charities are as legitimate as funds to secular charities or government agencies.

The good performance of all charities should be the standard.

Ridgely Todd, Catonsville

The framers thought the free expression of religion so important that the First Amendment restricts government from imposing any law that would inhibit expressing religious views.

This means that government can in no way tell anyone that he or she cannot tell anyone else about our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.

However, since the erroneous Supreme Court decisions restricting school prayer and the presence of bibles, the government has done nothing but attempt to put further restrictions on spreading the message of the gospel.

The freedom we have in Christ is the only true freedom, and it is the freedom on which this country is based. As the country drifts from Christ, we lose our liberty.

Stephen Taylor, Baltimore

I support the funding of faith-based organizations to fight society's evils.

The homeless and the wayward are better served by such groups. Drug addicts and alcoholics do better recovering under spiritual guidance than under secular programs. Children and ex-convicts do better in re-starting their lives.

This is because social problems are, by their nature, problems of the spirit, of the soul off course.

Secular programs just cannot compete. Dentists do not do brain surgery.

Michael N. Ryan, Bel Air

Faith-based groups, motivated by love for God's creation, are better able to meet human needs than secular charities.

They view each person as worthy of respect and are willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs. They usually have a personal attachment to the neighborhood, keep costs low through the use of volunteers and can innovate to meet changing needs.

Douglas Hoffman, Baltimore

Where did the notion of a wall of separation between church and state come from?

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury, Conn., Baptist Association to allay its fears that another denomination was about to be chosen the official religion of the United States. He referred to the Constitution as a "wall of separation" which would protect the churches from government control or intrusion.

But Jefferson neither signed the Constitution nor was present at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and had to rely on second-hand reports of these proceedings.

Thus, it is a glaring error to claim that a "wall of separation between church and state" exists in the First Amendment.

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