Why Secular Thinkers Should Welcome Faith-Based Organizations

Sider, Ronald J. and Heidi Rolland Unruh. “Why Secular Thinkers Should Welcome Faith-Based Organizations.” Unpublished paper. January 26, 2001.

Ron Sider and Heidi Unruh answer three questions related to public-private collaboration in the delivery of social services: (1) Why is there increasing interest in faith-based social service providers?, (2) What problems emerge and how might these be resolved?, and (3) Should secular people welcome this expanding role of faith-based organizations? <p> Today, there is increasing interest in faith-based organizations (FBO) as social service providers because past solutions have largely failed, FBOs often prove successful in combating social problems, religious groups already provide social services, and many today believe that socio-economic ills have in part moral and religious roots. Problems with such social service collaboration stem from political and administrative weaknesses some religious groups bring to the table as well as issues related to church-state separation and religious tolerance. <p> In the end, though, secular thinkers should welcome FBOs’ expanded role because: (1) such a position is most consistent with the civic value of tolerance; (2) religious neutrality is best served by providing equal access to benefits for all successful social programs, religious or non-religious; (3) the 1996 Charitable Choice legislation provides a model which safeguards against non-religious funders financially supporting the religious aspects of FBOs; (4) broadening the range of providers will help prove which organizations and programs best meet social needs; and (5) expanding resources and opportunities to FBOs furthers the common goal of meeting human social needs.