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Purchasing Faith-Based Social Services: Constitutional, Philosophical, and Practical Challenges

PAQ, Vol. 31 No. 2, (2007)

This article examines the implications of President Bush’s faith-based initiative for the delivery of social services to vulnerable populations through the mechanism of purchase of service contracting. The historic relationship between church, state, and social welfare is reviewed as this relationship provides an important context in which to understand the current initiative. The Bush initiative, however, redefines and redirects the historic relationship and poses new forms of challenges for traditional service providers, including those under sectarian auspices. The implications of opening government doors to a new set of faith-based providers are highlighted, including potential legal challenges under the First Amendment, the need for capacity-building among faith-based groups, and the possible affects of de-regulation, decreased funding, and increased competition.

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