About the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy
Religious organizations have provided social services to needy Americans for generations. "Charitable Choice" requirements for a "level playing field" for faith-based contractors in large federally financed programs have been on the books since 1996. But despite the long history, and even though leaders in both major political parties have supported broadening opportunities for faith-based social services, the direct involvement of religious groups in publicly-financed programs has been a flash-point of hot debate.
Formed in January 2002 with a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy was created:
"To engage and inform government, religious and civic leaders about the role of faith-based organizations in our social welfare system by means of nonpartisan, evidence-based discussions on the potential and pitfalls of such involvement.
The Roundtable’s charge, through December 2008, was:
"to increase awareness among key stakeholders, including policy makers, religious and civic leaders, and the media, of the critical issues related to faith-based social service programs by means of in-depth analysis and discussion based on the best social service science, legal and policy research."
Over the seven years in which it was engaged in this effort, the Roundtable served as the preeminent source of expert, unbiased information on policy and legal developments concerning the involvement of faith-based organizations in social services. Drawing on a wide range of experts from government, civic, religious and research organizations, the Roundtable's events and publications helped to better define and measure the character of faith-based social services; to gauge private and public sector support for their work; and to provide new views on their comparative effectiveness.