In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", I want to identify an emerging issue in Washington that deals with removing or reducing the tax deduction for charitable contributions - there was an important meeting in the nation's capital this week. Also, pro-life legislation has been passed regularly during this legislative session in North Dakota, and another one was passed this week. And, the top story involves a development in the endorsement of the Boy Scouts' current policy not allowing openly homosexual behavior - a new coalition has been formed to try to oppose changes to that policy.
3 - Rescue mission representatives visit the nation's capital
There has been quite a bit of concern expressed by representatives of non-profit ministries about the possibility of the tax deduction for charitable contributions being reduced or eliminated as a way to increase revenue for the Federal government. This deduction can be a powerful incentive for donors, especially those with a great capacity to give, and therefore the provision can be of great assistance in helping charities carry out the powerful work that they do. If charities are not able to do their work as effectively, then the safety net of government will have to be expanded. The net effect could be greater dependency on government at the expense of charities who are well-positioned to assist.
According to ASSISTNews.net, representatives of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), representing some 275 such missions nationwide, organized a gathering in the nation's capital this past week, where 22 rescue mission leaders, representing some of the nation's largest cities and AGRM staff discussed public policy issues relevant to their organizations, met with Capitol Hill politicians to educate them about their missions' work, and prayed for the country and its leaders. One of the issues discussed was the potential reduction in the amount that could be deducted from taxes for charitable contributions.
AGRM President John Ashmen is quoted as saying that a cap or limit to the charitable deduction would result in a loss of billions of dollars each year in private contributions to serve communities' critical needs. He said that, “Everything rescue missions do for hundreds of thousands of people - feeding, sheltering, rehabilitating, counseling, life-skills programs, job training and more - would end up in the government's lap. Frankly, with its black-hole debt, the government cannot take this on. Moreover, the government does not know how - and definitely shouldn't attempt - to handle relational and spiritual poverty, which are keys to unlocking the prison doors of destitution for so many of our citizens.”
This is an important debate that could affect hundreds, even thousands, of churches and charities nationwide. Another chapter took place this past week in Washington, DC, and as various charity sectors make their voices heard, it is hoped that it could open the eyes of lawmakers who are considering this action.
2 - North Dakota Legislature passes bill affirming life begins at conception
The North Dakota Legislature seems to be pulling out all the stops in attempting to limit abortion in the state. Just days after passage of a bill that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected - generally thought to be 6 or7 weeks - lawmakers took another bold step in passing a bill that recognizes that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.” It's been described as a "personhood" bill, and according to WORLDmag.com, it's one of multiple pieces of legislation that have made their way through the Legislature. Before passing the personhood and heartbeat bills, the legislature also passed bans on abortion once a fetus can feel pain (at 20 weeks), or because of genetic defects such as Down syndrome. North Dakota now has the strictest anti-abortion laws in the nation.
Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, is quoted as saying, "We applaud North Dakota for defending life. The bills in North Dakota protect the lives of the most innocent Americans, those without a voice, in the womb.”
But pro-abortionists claim that outlawing abortions not only violates a woman’s right to choose but will only lead to an increase in illegal, dangerous procedures. They have pledged to fight in court if Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signs any of these bills into law. The governor has not said whether or not he will sign the latest pro-life bill to pass the North Dakota Legislature.
1 - New coalition formed to defend Boy Scouts' traditional values
An important development concerning the Boy Scouts of America potentially considering allowing openly homosexual members and leaders took place over the weekend in Orlando. According to The Christian Post, parents, Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts and other Scouting leaders from across the country, who are supportive of the BSA's current policy, were due to announce the launch of a national organization and a coalition of concerned BSA members.
In January, the Scouts announced that they would reconsider their national policy banning openly gay leaders and members. The new proposal would strike down the national ban and allow local chapters to decide whether or not to admit openly gay members.
Deron Smith, BSA's director of public relations, said: "This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."
According to the BSA website, more than 70 percent of the organization's 100,000 scouting units are chartered to faith-based groups, and leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and Roman Catholic Church have voiced their opposition to the change.
The Family Research Council and 41 other allied organizations recently released an ad in USA Today urging the BSA to keep the ban in place, saying that the organization must "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality." Changing the policy would force troops and individual Scouts to be exposed to behavior that they and/or their parents do not condone and would severely alter the time-honored morality that has characterized Scouting.
Attorneys for the BSA are expected to draft a resolution to be released next month to be voted on by the national council on May 22-23 in Grapevine, Texas, as to whether or not to allow open homosexuality in the Boy Scout program.
Having a coalition representing Scouts who advocate the current policy can lend some strength to the effort to prevent the BSA from instituting what many believe to be a devastating move.