Charity begins at home

In downtown San Antonio, at the Little Church of La Villita, for almost 40 years people like Cleo Edmonds and David Gross have given their time and resources to feed the hungry. They feed about one hundred people each day; primarily single mothers. Some people come in to get a meal; others get groceries. In addition to meeting the nutritional needs of those who come seeking help, the Little Church of La Villita meets the spiritual needs of people in our community, offering prayer and counseling to those who request it. It is just one of the many faith-based organizations in my district that are doing this kind of work. The American tradition has always been one of civic involvement and unselfish service to our neighbors. Results happen because we have the freedom to create community organizations that directly confront problems that plague our society. Americans have an unsurpassed capacity to reach out. When properly engaged, our society successfully tackles problems both large and small. And faith-based organizations play a big role. I support our nation’s faith-based organizations. These organizations are about citizens helping fellow citizens. They employ common sense solutions that assist people in need and change lives for the better. Some want to tell us that the faithful should leave their faith at the door in serving the poor among us. But everyone involved in serving the poor has faith; everyone has convictions. The only difference is that some believe in the power of God; and some believe in the power of government. The Constitution does not envision a government and a public discourse devoid of all religion; rather, it envisions a rich menagerie of faiths; a patchwork of beliefs and convictions all under the protection of one Constitution. Government cannot fund, and should not fund, religious activities. But faith-based charities should not have to sacrifice their mission. The days of discriminating against religious institutions simply because they are religious must come to an end. The House recently passed President Bush’s plan to broaden the social service role of religious charities in America. Whether or not this bill becomes law, the Little Church of La Villita will continue its work. The question is not: “Does the Little Church of La Villita need government money'” The question is: “Doesn’t the government need places like the Little Church of La Villita'”

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