Saturday, March 24, 2007


Excerpt from:

The truth, Mr. Johnson and many other social scientists say, is that there is little reliable research proving the effectiveness of religious programs. They also add that there is scant evidence showing which religious programs show the best results and how they stack up against secular programs.

"From the left to the right, everyone assumes that faith-based programs work," Mr. Johnson said. "Even the critics of DiIulio and his office haven't denied that. We hear that and just sit back and laugh. In terms of empirical evidence that they work, it's pretty much nonexistent."

"They'll hand you a three-page in-house report," Mr. Johnson said, "showing that they reached 1,300 people that year. But what does 'reach' mean? That's not going to cut it."

Social scientists have pointed out that the 86 percent success rate of Teen Challenge is misleading. It does not count the people who dropped out during the program. And like many religious and private charities, Teen Challenge picks its clients.

Before they are accepted, most of the addicts have already been through detoxification programs, said the Rev. John D. Castellani, president of Teen Challenge International U.S.A. In the program's first four-month phase, Mr. Castellani said, 25 to 30 percent drop out, and in the next eight months, 10 percent more leave.

This raises questions for David Reingold, a researcher at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. A study Mr. Reingold has just completed of social services in Indiana found that religious programs are more likely than their secular counterparts to limit the clientele they serve. As a result, Mr. Reingold said, "It's an extreme exaggeration to say that religious organizations are more effective."

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