(RNS) Nov. 16--A coalition of religious and civil liberties groups that havediffered over church-state matters has issued a statement urgingCongress to adopt tax incentives that encourage charitable giving bylow- and moderate-income Americans.

"We are united on the need for changes in the tax laws that affirmthe generosity of all Americans who make charitable contributions andunleash significant new resources for America's armies of compassion,"reads a statement from the Working Group on Human Needs and Faith-Basedand Community Initiatives.

The statement, released Friday (Nov. 16), comes as the groupprepares a more comprehensive report it plans to issue in mid-January.It was released in response to Bush's recent letter to Senate leadersseeking prompt action on his faith-based initiative by providing supportfor issues such as incentives for charitable giving and equal treatmentof faith-based and community charities.

The group offered such recommendations as permitting non-itemizersto deduct their charitable contributions and easing limitations oncharitable contributions from IRAs and similar accounts.

"The changes we recommend will be powerful symbols at a time whennational unity is so important--when Americans are being asked to givefrom their time and treasure as never before," the statement said."These incentives will also generate substantial increases in revenuefor crucial community-based and faith-based organizations, groups thatwill leverage the dollars given with the time, energy and compassion ofvolunteers."

The group was formed in June by former Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa.,at the request of Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., to find common ground onhow to expand opportunities for needy people to get aid from faith-basedand other community organizations.

Signers of the statement include Wofford; Aly Abuzaakouk, executivedirector of the American Muslim Council; the Rev. Bob Edgar, generalsecretary, National Council of Churches; the Rev. Floyd Flake, seniorpastor, Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica, N.Y.; theRev. Robert Franklin, president, Interdenominational Theological Centerin Atlanta; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics andReligious Liberty Commission; the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director,Americans United for Separation of Church and State; and Rabbi DavidSaperstein, director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

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