DALLAS, March 6, (RNS)-- The National Association of Evangelicals formally added its voice to the current debate over government funding of faith-based programs, passing a resolution Monday affirming "charitable choice" legislation that has boosted such funding.

"The National Association of Evangelicals supports the concept of charitable choice, not only as effective public policy, but as a sound expession of faithful Christian discipleship," said a resolution adopted by the board of the evangelical umbrella organization.

The statement rejects the theory that denial of governmental aid to religious charities should be viewed as an effort to be neutral.

"The Establishment Clause is not violated if the government assists all social service providers, and funding is equally available to secular as well as faith-based organizations," the resolution says.

It also opposes governmental distinctions for funding between "essentially secular" programs affiliated with a religion and social welfare programs with overtly religious aspects.

"In sum, faith-based charities should not have to hide their light under a bushel in order to obtain public funds on an equal footing with secularized social service providers," the resolution reads.

But it adds a note of caution for religious organizations considering government funding, noting they "should always be vigilant" and decline funds if the aid would compromise their beliefs.

The NAE membership consists of 51 evangelical denominations and agencies.

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