The issue of government support for faith-based human services is full of complications, dangers, ambiguities, and subtleties. The beauty of religiously-oriented social ministries is the potential for dealing with people as whole selves, i. e., giving them food for the soul as well as for the body. But this very unity poses the problem of how it is Constitutionally licit for the government to enable the providing of secular bread without funding sectarian religion. If, on the other hand, the delivery of goods and services to the needy is totally divorced from the religious dimension, in what meaningful sense is it any longer faith-based, apart from merely being sponsored by a religious group? Why shouldn't the government fund a church soup kitchen if all that is dispensed is soup? Because, we say, what the church would spend on soup can now be spent on the church bus. But maybe they would just serve more soup. Maybe the soup itself is a witness to the faith behind it, but if it is, is that not a sponsorship of religion? Would the government discriminate against some religious groups? Would giving government money to churches tend to dull the prophetic urge to be critical of the state? Would the government require conformity to certain rules that would restrict church autonomy? What is a religious group? What does faith-based mean? Can we think our way through this thicket without falling into confusion?
A strict and purist position on these matters is impossible in practical terms. Many lines have to be drawn in shades of gray. We have to do a lot of British "muddling through." Those who look for absolutely clear prescriptions requiring no delicate balancing acts are doomed to perpetual frustration. Or they may be tempted to resort to desperate efforts to find purity of doctrine by suppressing legitimate elements in the total ensemble of principles that govern the nation.