Saturday, December 7, 2013
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Recent surveys suggest that about one in every five Americans attends religious services on the average weekend, worshipping in about 350,000 churches, synagogues, temples and mosques.
In half of these houses of worship, there were fewer than 75 people on hand. The average number of worshippers was 186. They give an average of $14.67 a week to their congregation, or $763 a year. Much of that helps pay for salaries, mortgages, utilities and other overhead costs.
These statistics underscore how very difficult -- "impossible" is the precise word -- it would be for churches and other faith-based organizations to take over social service duties now paid for by the federal government.
That's what the Republican Party platform calls for. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, support the concept.
Americans give a whole lot of money to causes that directly help the poor and needy.
Churches and faith-based groups got 32 percent of the $300 billion given away in 2011. The next-biggest percentage -- 13 percent -- went to educational institutions. Groups providing human services got 12 percent. Health and hospitals and international affairs got 8 percent each. Arts, culture and the humanities got 4 percent. Environmental and animal causes got 3 percent.
Of course there are fraudulent charities and organizations that don't deserve to be charities -- athletic booster clubs come to mind.
But most charitable giving does public good, which is why it's tax-deductible. But to argue that private charity can pick up the nation's obligation to the least among us is simply absurd.