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The Ambiguous Embrace

The Ambiguous Embrace: Government and Faith-Based Schools and Social Agencies

Charles L. Glenn
With a foreword by Peter L. Berger
Series: New Forum Books
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Ambiguous Embrace
    Book Description:

    This is a time of far-reaching change and debate in American education and social policy, spurred in part by a rediscovery that civil-society institutions are often better than government at meeting human needs. As Charles Glenn shows in this book, faith-based schools and social agencies have been particularly effective, especially in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. However, many oppose providing public funds for religious institutions, either on the grounds that it would threaten the constitutional separation of church and state or from concern it might dilute or secularize the distinctive character of the institutions themselves. Glenn tackles these arguments head on. He builds a uniquely comprehensive and persuasive case for faith-based organizations playing a far more active role in American schools and social agencies. And, most importantly, he shows that they could do so both while receiving public funds and while striking a workable balance between accountability and autonomy.

    Glenn is ideally placed to make this argument. A leading expert on international education policies, he was for many years the director of urban education and civil rights for the Massachusetts Department of Education, and also serves as an Associate Minister of inner-city churches in Boston. Glenn draws on all his varied experience here as he reviews the policies and practices of governments in the United States and Europe as they have worked with faith-based schools and also with such social agencies as the Salvation Army and Teen Challenge. He seeks to answer key theoretical and practical questions: Why should government make greater use of faith-based providers? How could they do so without violating First Amendment limits? What working relationships protect the goals and standards both of government and of the organizations that the government funds? Glenn shows that, with appropriate forms of accountability and a strong commitment to a distinctive vision of service, faith-based organizations can collaborate safely with government, to their mutual benefit and that of those they serve. This is a major contribution to one of the most important topics in political and social debate today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2351-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

    (pp. xi-xii)
    Peter L. Berger

    The problem discussed in Charles Glenn’s book should be seen against the background of an intriguing paradox: By any reasonable measure, the United States is the most religious country in the community of Western democracies; yet, as the result of court decisions beginning in the 1960s, it also has the most rigorous definition of the separation of church and state—more rigorous even than that prevailing in France, the country that conceived the idea oflaïcisme. This is not the place to delve into the reasons for this paradox, nor to enter into a philosophical debate over its merits. But...

    (pp. 3-12)

    This study has not one starting point, but three. Or are these, in some sense, the same issue meeting me over a dozen years in different guises? Working as a state education official responsible for civil rights and urban education, and then teaching educational policy, I have puzzled over the relationship between schools and families, between the wider world in which children must learn to live and the deeper world in which they will always to some extent be rooted. But if this is the continuing theme, I have come upon it (or it has come at me) in three...

    (pp. 13-41)

    Over the last half century, governments in Western democracies have collected an increased share of national wealth through taxation, and in turn have distributed it for such nonmilitary purposes as income subsidies, schooling, health care, and many other activities that in the past were carried out by voluntary efforts, local institutions, and for-profit organizations. This shift was most dramatic in Britain, which until World War II had a relatively inactive government compared with its Continental neighbors.

    The consolidation of the British welfare state in the mid-1940s was partly an extension of the all-pervasive powers assumed by the state in World...

    (pp. 42-61)

    It would be too simple to equate public funding with government interference. Oversight occurs in a variety of ways without funding, and funding is sometimes provided with a minimum of oversight. The necessary context for discussing the possible effects of government support upon faith-based organizations is the government supervision and interference that occurabsentpublic funding. We may find that the real issue is not the “strings” that come with funding but rather how government exercises a general oversight over the civil society. After all, “the courts have held that states already have the authority to regulate social-welfare ministries as...

    (pp. 62-73)

    Teen challenge developed out of a Protestant Pentecostal “street ministry,” seeking to reach inner-city youth gangs with a message of conversion and new life. As its work with drug addiction has become institutionalized and recognized as one of the most successful programs for substance-abusing youth and adults, Teen Challenge has retained its explicitly religious character. What is more, this character is expressed in every detail of its work. As the organization itself insists, “Leaders in Teen Challenge credit the spiritual component of the program as the key to the high success rate of Teen Challenge graduates.”¹

    The treatment strategy of...

    (pp. 74-98)

    Judicial interpretations of the religion clauses of the First Amendment to the American Constitution, though often seen as unrelievedly hostile to faith-based organizations, in fact allow public funds to go to many that serve children and youth . . . so long as they are not schools. This chapter will describe this illogical—and uniquely American—prohibition on funding religious schools, and recent developments that could affect future policies.

    While it would not be useful to venture too far into the tangled thicket of church-and-state jurisprudence, some fundamental distinctions are necessary. Three positions that may be distinguished arestrict separation,...

    (pp. 99-130)

    As we have seen, there are deep ambiguities in the American jurisprudence that determines what activities with a religious character government may and may not fund. Services for small children and for adolescents, and college-level education, receive public funding without discrimination based on the religious character of the institutions that provide them, but faith-based schools have been denied such assistance. This distinction is a peculiarly American phenomenon; other Western democracies do not to share this reluctance to provide public funds for faith-based schools.¹

    As a result, American parents who want schooling for their children based upon a secular worldview receive...

    (pp. 131-164)

    A german catholic leader in 1969 said, “The ultimate basis for the church’s legal status vis-a-vis the state rests on the fact that the pluralistic state has to turn to social groups that establish and preserve values, and this the churches are better able to do than other social groups.”¹

    In the Netherlands and Germany, the relationship between government and faith-based nonprofits has taken a different form than it has in the United States. The elaborated welfare state in these countries relies heavily upon institutions with a religious character to provide public services. “In the Netherlands, about 70 percent of...

    (pp. 165-192)

    Government regulation, criteria for funding, and accountability requirements can threaten the distinctive character of faith-based organizations in many ways. As we have seen, however, the power of government in a free society is limited, and nongovernmental organizations are by no means without legal and political ways of resisting undue interference with their mission, whether or not they receive public funding.

    Monsma and Soper, in their study of faith-based agencies in five Western democracies, conclude that the threat to their autonomy comes less from regulation by government than from what they call “changing norms of religious schools and agencies.”¹ In this...

    (pp. 193-211)

    As justice brennan pointed out in 1987, “Determining that certain activities are in furtherance of an organization’s religious mission, and that only those committed to that mission should conduct them, is . . . a means by which a religious community defines itself.”¹

    These decisions affect most decisively whether a faith-based agency or school will maintain its integrity of mission. It is safe to say that an organization whose staff are all thoroughly and consciously committed to furthering the same mission and have thought through what that means for teaching, counseling, and other services will have little difficulty using public...

    (pp. 212-240)
    Emily Nielsen Jones and Charles L. Glenn

    As policymakers explore how education and social services can become more effective by greater use of nonprofit providers, faith-based organizations stand to gain much in terms of financial support and public recognition. Many in the religious community view the recent political favor toward faith-based organizations with skepticism. Some, like Beth Kidd, director of Place of Promise, a residential treatment center for the homeless in Boston, want nothing to do at all with government funding, as they fear it will lead to inevitable infringement on their autonomy and corruption of their spiritual character: “Our identity is the most important thing to...

    (pp. 241-265)

    As luis lugo points out, government interference is not the only threat to the integrity of faith-based organizations. They are also faced with the more subtle danger of self-betrayal, voluntary abandonment of their original purpose. This may happen as a result of a kind of “loss of nerve” on the part of staff and even of boards and sponsoring organizations, as they become less clear about whether the beliefs and values upon which the organizations were founded are still relevant to present circumstances. Professional norms (discussed in chapter 5) may play a part, but so may broader forces of secularization...

    (pp. 266-296)

    This study began with seven questions:

    1. Should government make a greater use of faith-based organizations to provide social services and education?

    2. May the United States government make a greater use of faith-based organizations without overstepping the limits set by the First Amendment?

    3. If it makes a greater use of faith-based organizations to provide social services and education, how should government behave to avoid spoiling their distinctive character and contribution?

    4. What measures should government take to ensure that making a greater use of faith-based organizations does not lead to negative consequences, such as a decline in the...