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Faith and Family Services Amendment

At a January 29, 2001 meeting with religious conservatives and the leaders of faith-based groups from across America, President George W. Bush announced his signing of an Executive Order creating the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives ("WHOFBCI").  On February 15, 2001, GCF Founder Jim Kelly met with former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who was serving as Special Advisor to President Bush on faith-based and community initiatives. At Goldsmith's request, Jim prepared a Memorandum providing recommendations for the design of the WHOFBCI and the implementation of its agenda.

Inspired by President Bush’s remarks, action, and vision of "compassionate conservatism," Jim Kelly considered the manner in which faith-based and community initiatives could be promoted in Georgia. Early research into the subject revealed that the Constitution of Georgia contained a so-called "Blaine Amendment," which provided that "no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, cult, or religious denomination or of any sectarian institution." During the late nineteenth century, James G. Blaine, the namesake of the Blaine Amendment, had been the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. Senator from Maine, and twice Secretary of State. However, his greatest legacy was his failed attempt to have Congress pass a proposed Constitutional amendment prohibiting public funds from being used to support religious organizations. Though his proposed amendment failed, many states followed his lead and adopted their own constitutional bans on the use of public funds for religious institutions.

As state and federal governments and secular foundations became more involved in the delivery of educational and social services, because of state Blaine Amendments, religious institutions that had been the primary providers of such services were unable to gain equal access to government funds. To remedy this situation in Georgia, in 2003, Jim Kelly assisted Governor Sonny Perdue and his legal counsel (including eventual GCF Board Member and Supreme Court of Georgia Justice Harold Melton) in the drafting of a Faith and Family Services Amendment to the Georgia Constitution. Only twelve words in length, to the extent permitted under the U.S. Constitution, the Faith and Family Services Amendment would have amended the Georgia Constitution to permit the State to provide faith-based organizations with equal access to public funds for the delivery of much-needed educational and social services. Although the Georgia House of Representatives approved the Amendment, the Georgia Senate did not.

GCF believes that Georgia's Blaine Amendment is a discriminatory and unconstitutional impediment to religious liberty, which is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry. GCF continues to educate the public, politicians, and policy makers on the need to remedy this outdated and erroneous interpretation of the phrase "separation of church and state." Georgia cannot continue to bear the economic and social costs associated with the exclusion of faith-based organizations from the full range of public-private partnerships in which secular organizations can participate.