2016-06-30

(RNS) Nov. 16--A coalition of religious and civil liberties groups that have differed over church-state matters has issued a statement urging Congress to adopt tax incentives that encourage charitable giving by low- and moderate-income Americans.

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

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

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

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

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 on how to expand opportunities for needy people to get aid from faith-based and other community organizations.

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

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