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Reform Jewish Movement Applauds Senate Passage of the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act

Saperstein: Passage of this bill demonstrates that the government can work with religious organizations to help eradicate poverty in ways that are constructive, cooperative, and constitutional.


Contact:
Alexis Rice or Randi Levine 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2003 - Responding to today's Senate passage of the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Today, the Senate demonstrated its commitment to religious liberty and to the eradication of poverty by passing a compromise version of the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act. The CARE Act would benefit both faith-based and secular social service providers in helping those in need by restoring sorely needed funding for social service provision, providing tax incentives for charitable giving, and offering technical assistance for small nonprofit organizations. By removing controversial charitable choice language, the Senate paved the way for passage of this bill. We applaud the elimination of these unconstitutional provisions, which would have provided direct funding for houses of worship, authorized government-funded employment discrimination on the basis of religion, and threatened the religious liberty of social service beneficiaries, who are often the most vulnerable members of society. It would have been unconscionable to jeopardize this deeply beneficial bill by miring it in a debate over the boundary separating church and state.

The CARE Act is a victory for both our nation's Constitution and our nation's poor. Passage of this bill demonstrates that the government can work with religious organizations to help eradicate poverty in ways that are constructive, cooperative, and constitutional. The government does not need to fund houses of worship to provide job training for the unemployed. The government does not need to discriminate on the basis of religion to hire staff to serve soup to the hungry. The government does not need to coerce participation in Bible study to treat drug addiction. The government does not need to violate the Constitution to pursue a compassionate agenda.

There remains one area of ambiguity that requires attention. The CARE Act authorizes the Compassion Capital Fund, which would grant funding to intermediary religious organizations. In turn, such organizations could disperse the funds to local entities, including pervasively sectarian social service providers. Congress must ensure that all government-imposed rules and accountability standards follow the money to the end user. Further, Congress must ensure that no government functions are given to faith-based intermediary organizations in violation of the Supreme Court's ruling in Larkin v. Grendel's Den.

We urge the House to swiftly introduce and pass a similar bill that invests resources in social service provision and facilitates government collaboration with faith-based and secular organizations to meet people's basic needs while upholding our cherished religious liberty. While we are encouraged by the outcome of this bill, we recognize the serious policy and constitutional dangers of the President's Faith-Based Initiative. We will continue to closely monitor the Initiative and hope that the CARE Act serves as a model for future religious-public partnerships.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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