One of the results of being a volunteer who advocates in my county court for the well-being of kiddos in the foster care system is that I get a lot of news articles that relate to the well-being of children in foster care, and these articles are, I must admit, often written with a far different moral perspective than I have, one that tends to look down on the importance of religious freedom in an age of increasing intolerance towards moral standards of righteousness. Be that as it may, one of the articles that came my way this morning happened to address the subject of the right of a not-for-profit to act in ways that are according to its own beliefs when it takes public money. There is a widespread belief that the acceptance of public money requires an abdication of one’s freedom to act according to one’s own standards in the face of official disapproval of those moral standards. Some religious organizations, like the Roman Catholic Church, earn so much of a percentage of their income in the United States from political means–some have estimated it to be somewhere around 40% of their total proceeds in the United States–that it has crippled their ability to speak out against those political interests that lead to this government largess. To the extent that an organization wants to be free to speak out against the evils of contemporary society, that organization needs to be private and supported by people of like mind.
Yet there are definitely reasons why an organization, even one that is opposed to a large extent to contemporary societal trends, would accept federal money. An educational institution that accepted loans and grants from the federal government would be, in some way, receiving public money for its private enterprise of education, and might feel somewhat constrained by this fact in terms of its own behavior in terms of ensuring its own cultural standards on students. It is a brave and rare educational institution that entirely eschews involvement in federal money so as to be free to teach what it views to be right, which may be jeopardized by public sponsorship in the present evil age. In some cases as well there may be requirements to accept public funds in order to engage in certain business relating to the public good, such as aiding with adoption, and in such a situation it may be difficult for an organization to enforce moral standards on those who wish to adopt children in an age where people rejected for any means are likely to be quite litigious in seeking legitimacy for their lifestyles, and are likely to view rejection as an insufferable badge of dishonor that cannot be tolerated to any extent, even as they reject godly standards in their own behavior.
Indeed, the concern about moral pollution springing from the presence of so much money proceeding from higher levels of government which are operated in a corrupt and immoral fashion is a major element in the hostility that many people feel towards the presence of concentrated power at the state and federal levels. It is far easier for a community to ensure compliance with proper moral standards of living when decisions and funding are made at a lower level that is closer to the people involved. People tend to know when they are not welcome, and local institutions can maintain a great deal of pressure in favor of moral standards through the appropriate use of stigmatization and rejection against those who violate community norms of behavior and promote wickedness and vice. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but to sustain local support requires a certain degree of hostility to support and welfare being provided by more impersonal and more easily corrupted central institutions. In general, therefore, we may see a strong concern with federalism and the appropriate strengthening of accountable local institutions as being related to a strong moral concern for the well-being of local communities. Far too many people bash the close-mindedness they see in local communities without recognizing the moral good that results from such accountability and local surveillance into the behavior of those who seek aid and assistance. It is far easier to be just when one knows the character and integrity (or lack thereof) of someone who seeks to benefit from the generosity of others.
In that way, striking against the funding capabilities of powerful and corrupt governments and institutions can have a strong moral purpose. That said, it is very difficult to strike against the tendency of those who have institutional power to desire to call the tune and to seek the financial wherewithal in order to accomplish this task. The proliferation of federal agencies and pork barrel legislation over the course of the last century or so is evidence that there exists a large group of people who seek to expand the size and operation of government in order to monopolize its running and to ensure the support of their own perspective and worldview in opposition to any morally enlightened local areas who refuse to go along with every negative cultural trend. Even on a state level the absence of sufficient money has seldom been a brake on the desire of those states to regulate themselves and their people into poverty and decadence. And sadly, all too many of the people who seek to escape from the disastrous behavior of those state governments themselves bring much of the contagion with them when they swamp other states and begin the same process anew there. How this is to be successfully handled remains a contentious matter, and is the root cause of a great deal of contemporary discontent in the United States and other nations.