Jim Brown and Jody Brown
One News Now
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Critics of President Obama’s new civil service bill warn that it denies funding to certain faith-based groups while increasing funding for liberal advocacy groups.
Last week, the House passed the “Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act” — the GIVE Act — which would expand the national service program, the AmeriCorps, from 75,000 to 250,000 participants. That includes not just young adults, but ages 17 to 100. (The Senate version of the bill is known as the Serve America Act.)
The legislation, which would cost an estimated $6 billion over five years, would also create additional “corps” to expand the reach of volunteerism into new sectors, including a “Clean Energy Corps.”
Larry Hart, director of government relations for The American Conservative Union, warns the increased funding for AmeriCorps also will be used to aid liberal “community” organizations and causes.
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“For example, there have been…efforts [in the past] to get people that [receive] Section 8 housing money — which is under the HUD housing program — to organize tenants to lobby for more money for the program,” Hart explains. “This is not really what people think of when they think of AmeriCorps, but unfortunately that’s [how] the program has worked out.”
A controversial amendment to the GIVE Act that has alarmed some Christians would prohibit civil service volunteers and organizations from “engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services…or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.”
Paid to volunteer?
Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), speaking on the Senate floor Tuesday, criticized the Serve America Act (the Senate version of the GIVE Act) for proposing to replace charitable volunteers with paid government workers — an approach he says will not work.
“Civil society binds communities, not by its fruits, but by its motives — charity, donations, giving without thought of getting anything in return,” said the Republican lawmaker. “This is the selfless sacrifice that happens throughout America today. This is what works — what does not work is what we are doing right here.”
In addition, said DeMint, the government cannot pay people to volunteer and expect the organization to remain focused on its mission. “Charity is a private, moral impulse — not a government program,” he said. “Government will not and, by definition, cannot strengthen and replace the civil society.”
This article was posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 9:37 am