In an address to the Dallas Conference of the National Association of Evangelists last week, John J. DiIulio Jr., the head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, outlined an approach to the funding of faith-based charity groups that, he said, would preserve the constitutional separation of church and state.
The administration's plan has drawn criticism from separation advocates, who argue that it could result in the indirect support of religious activities, in violation of the First Amendment.
DiIulio addressed the First Amendment implications of the plan by pointing out that existing law allows churches and other faith-based groups to receive taxpayer funds as long as they keep accounts for their religious work separate from those for their social service programs, and added that the administration's plan was an extension of the "charitable choice" provision of the national welfare reform law passed in 1996.
DiIulio also addressed the issue of whether faith-based charities receiving government funds could discriminate in hiring, saying they could if the discrimination was based on religious views — an exemption granted to religious groups by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But, he added, faith-based groups cannot and would not be allowed to discriminate in their delivery of services to beneficiaries. FC004018