Ralph Reed Asks For Federal Funding

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WASHINGTON, D.C: Hoping to claim a piece of the federal pie, Ralph Reed has weighed in with a Christian Coalition agenda for the 105th Congress that more than pushes the limits on the separation of church and state, by asking the federal government to finance its charitable activities. TIME’s Laurence Barrett reports that Reed’s new Samaritan Project seeks to capitalize on President Clinton’s drive to encourage volunteerism and community activity, while also broadening the Christian Coalition’s influence in the black and hispanic communities. Flanked by black and hispanic clergy at a press conference, Reed proposed allowing a $500 tax credit for charitable contributions, a term redefined to include donations of time and effort, such as serving meals in a soup kitchen. The proposal also seeks to remove legal obstacles barring federal funding of church-run schools and charities. For example, many local churches would like federal funding for their anti-drug programs and faith-based abstinence programs that seek to control teenage pregnancy without providing birth control. Questions are already being asked, however, about why taxpayers should fund church-run social programs that their representatives do not control or supervise. Conspicuously absent from Reed's proposal: An estimate of the cost to U.S. taxpayers. That, he said, is an issue for Congressional committees. The constitutional issues raised by his idea may interest the judiciary as well.