Skip Navigation

Guidelines for “Charitable Choice” Programs

WHEREAS, the term "charitable choice" entered the vocabulary of human service delivery in the United States of America (USA) in social welfare reform legislation in 1996, with particular reference to religious provider access to and utilization of public funds; and

WHEREAS, the term has come to be widely used in USA legislation, government regulations, and public discourse on the role of religious organizations as providers of publicly funded programs; and

WHEREAS, the term and its implications have become the source of ongoing debate on appropriate relations between religious organizations and governments, including the issue of church-state separation and religious nondiscrimination in hiring by religious service providers using public funds; and

WHEREAS, many United Methodist congregations, church-related institutions, and programs in the USA, are potentially or actually affected by charitable choice issues; and

WHEREAS, United Methodist agencies, related institutions, and some congregations have long histories of partnership with government in the delivery of human services; and,

WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church, through policy and practice, has developed sound and practical guidelines on the use of public funds by churches and church-related entities;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2004 General Conference urge congregations, agencies, related institutions, and programs in the USA to:

  • adhere to the minimum nondiscrimination criteria to be met by church and church-related recipients of public funds;
  • abide by the historical and prudent principle of separate nonprofit incorporation for organizations and programs receiving public service funds, including the setting up of separate service corporations by congregations so engaged, in large measure as a means of protecting the Church from liability claims;
  • carefully investigate the terms and implications of all public grants and contracts to ensure that the tasks undertaken and expected outcomes are consistent with the United Methodist Social Principles; and
  • engage in informed dialogue on the public policy and religious liberty implications of charitable choice.

Adopted 2004
readopted 2008
resolution #244, 2004 Book of Resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 164C.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.