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Weekly Review: New HHS Rules for Faith-Based Orgs, Charities and Civil Society, Race Matters, and Remembering a Lawyer for the Kingdom

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Federal Dollars and Christian Ministries.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing rule changes that the Trump Administration hopes will help faith-based organizations get government funds.  The proposal, announced Thursday, Jan 16, is designed to implement an executive order issued by President Trump on May 3, 2018.  HHS Secretary Alex Azar called the new rules “historic action to protect religious social service providers from discrimination in federal regulations.”  My own reaction is that this is a bone to President Trump’s political base, but there’s no meat on it.  For one thing, it is not – as Azar said – “historic.”  Leveling the playing field for faith-based organizations was an innovation of the Bush Administration (W, not GHWB) and his Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.   Secondly, note the language and the timeline:  this is a proposed rule change, and it follows an executive order President Trump signed last year but which has so far apparently not been implemented.  Making it easier for Christian ministries to get federal dollars has historically not been good for the ministries, because federal dollars always come with strings attached.  It’s also not good for civil society, which becomes weak when it depends too heavily on the government to solve its problems. 

Charities Build Civil Society.  According to an editorial in Philanthropy Roundtable,  “America has just completed a banner year for private giving. The 10 largest donations in 2019 amounted to $6.2 billion, up 8 percent from 2018.”  The report goes on to say, “When the total of all U.S. philanthropy becomes available this summer, it will show that Americans voluntarily gave away around $430 billion in 2019. Private giving builds institutions of civil society that provide valuable services, alleviating many pressing public problems.”   The article goes on to talk about the contributions of charities to civil society: “The New York Public Library has operated as a charity since its founding 125 years ago, and Central Park is run by a donor-funded conservancy that rescued it from decay in 1980.”  The article concludes: “Quietly effective philanthropies get little visibility, though, and scant credit from journalists, academics and politicians. Instead, progressive editorialists and political candidates openly call for deep cuts in the charitable deduction, an end to tax protections for churches and other charities, the taxing down of personal fortunes, and new regimes in which government becomes the sole ministrant of societal needs.”  Though this editorial was written for a secular publication and has a limitation of its own – it neglects the unique impact of Christian ministries — it is still more-or-less singing our song.  I commend the entire editorial to you. 

Race Matters.  The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described 11 o’clock on Sunday morning as the “most segregated hour in America.  He said that more than a half-century ago, and for many evangelical churches and Christian ministries, it remains true today.  But the Southern Baptist Church, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, things are changing.  About 18 percent of the approximately 47,000 SBC churches are predominantly non-white.  Religion News Service has a story about how Southern Baptist congregations are working to be more racially and ethnically diverse, and often succeeding.  This story is one in a series by Religion News Service about the future of segregation and integration in American religion, produced in partnership with Sacred Writes, a project that helps scholars share their research with a broader audience. The rest of the series can be found here.  

Former Lawyer for Boy Scouts and TrailLife USA Passes TrailLife USA announced the death of Richard Mathews, former and first General Counsel and Lifetime Charter Member of Trail Life USA. He died of heart attack.  He was 62 years old.  Mathews also served as General Counsel of the Boy Scouts of America before leaving the BSA to assist in the launch of TLUSA in 2013.  According to TLUSA President Mark Hancock, “Richard’s fingerprints are all over our founding documents, and his passion for youth protection still influences our thoughts, guidelines, and care for boys.”  A staunch advocate for life, he also served on the board of Human Life International. 

Ministry Updates.  The financial information for the following ministries have been updated in the MinistryWatch database:  Children’s Hunger Fund (5 Stars and a 2019 Shining Light Awardee), E3 Partners (4 Stars and a 2019 Shining Light Awardee), Educational Media Foundation/K-Love/Radio One (3 Stars), Entrust (3 Stars)Feed The Children (5 Stars)Fellowship of Christian Athletes (4 Stars), and Focus on the Family (3 Stars).   

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Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.