Despite America's traditional emphasis on the separation of church and state, both in theory and practice, few are aware of the hundreds of millions of public dollars that flow annually to religiously based nonprofit organizations. Based on a nation-wide survey of nearly 800 such groups, Stephen V. Monsma's study explores the implications of this financial partnership. Although most religiously based groups currently receiving tax dollars do not compromise the autonomy of their religious beliefs, the author argues that the legal principles under which the Supreme Court has approved public funding has placed their religious freedom in a legally vulnerable position. The author develops a new legal principle, positive neutrality, that both justifies public funds going to religious nonprofit groups and draws boundaries between permissible and impermissible use of public funds. This text should be useful for anyone interested in the relationship between church and state.
Stephen Monsma provides powerful historical, legal, constitutional, and practical support for the idea that religious institutions should be more involved in the delivery of needed public services to all Americans. I hope the Supreme Court is reading.--Michael W. McConnell, William B. Graham Professor of Law, University of Chicago