Government Shekels without Government Shackles? The Administrative Challenges of Charitable Choice



As President Bush plans to expand “Charitable Choice,” civil libertarians worry that the legislation is part of a new assault on separation of church and state. Religious Right activists demand assurances that funds will not flow to groups like the Nation of Islam or Scientologists. African American pastors in urban areas—arguably the main targets of the initiative—are concerned that “government shekels” will be accompanied by “government shackles,” that the costs and regulatory burdens accompanying collaborations with government will divert resources from client services and mute their prophetic voice.

Caught in the middle are public managers, who must make the legislation work in the face of significant administrative challenges. Those challenges occur in three areas: contracting procedures, contract administration, and evaluation. In each of these categories, political realities and constitutional constraints will significantly complicate the manager's job.