House leads way on faith-based initiative
July 24, 2001
The House of Representatives passed a bill last week to rally the "armies of compassion." as President Bush calls them, to promote charitable giving to help fight social concerns such as poverty and drug addiction.
The legislation we passed allows faith-based organizations to create a partnership with the federal government in order to help those who need it the most.
The legislation we passed in the House, the Community Solutions Act, H.R. 7, puts groups who are faith-based on a level playing field with other organizations which are eligible for government grants on everything from homeless shelters to addiction counseling.
I co-sponsored this legislation because I, like many Americans, believe the government should not have a monopoly on compassion. Local community organizations know the ills and problems of a neighborhood far better than any government agency in Washington, D.C.
Faith-based groups have a much better track record of positive results. They are a resource we should tap into, not shun just because of their religious foundation. While government programs may have compassionate intentions, these intentions are not enough when dealing with children and those in need. Our goal ought to be compassionate results.
The federal government has been giving money to faith-based groups overseas for years in order to do everything from assist with earthquake relief to feed the poor. Helping to fight poverty domestically using this same model is a natural extension of what already works well.
The faith-based groups who will voluntarily compete for federal funds will use their know-how to help people who are in need.
Last month in Brandon, Mississippi, I hosted a "Faith-Based Forum" with the Mississippi Faith-Based Coalition for Community Renewal (MFBCCR). MFBCCR is a developing organization with a broad diversity of representatives of community and faith-based groups across the state.
More than 100 concerned Mississippians attended the forum to learn more about faith and community-based programs targeting problems such as illiteracy, homelessness, substance abuse and other issues.
In order for community and faith-based initiatives to continue their work and outreach, there must be a renewed focus on volunteering and charitable giving.
In addition to the community solutions partnership with the federal government, charitable giving is promoted in the faith-based legislation last week providing incentives for charitable contributions by individuals and businesses.
For taxpayers who do not itemize their IRS forms, we allow a charitable deduction that gradually rises over 10 years. We promote a number of initiatives for companies to donate food, equipment and money to charities and allow traditional or Roth IRA holders to donate withdrawals tax-free to charities.
Faith is a powerful virtue that cannot be bought, bartered or borrowed. Combined with charity, faith can work miracles and bring hope to our inner cities, our suburbs and everywhere new solutions to old problems are needed.
Charity is a virtue that ought to be promoted everywhere. There is a great need and not enough resources to help all who truly need assistance. Encouraging charitable giving and creating a partnership with faith-based organizations is a new and innovative approach to old problems. It is an idea whose time has come.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering represents
Mississippi's Third Congressional District. Write him at 427 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, or call (202) 225-5031.