A dozen ex-cons live at Taste-N-See Outreach Ministry in Bridgeport, Ct., says the Hartford Courant. “I tried all of the bad stuff, the alcohol, the drugs,” says Herman Carrington, on parole after serving eight years in prison for first-degree sexual assault. “I got tired of all the bad things. I never found Jesus. He found me here.” Carrington could have gone from prison to a traditional halfway house for parolees, but instead chose Taste-N-See, a faith-based residential program named from Psalms 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
It one of about 20 faith-based agencies receiving federal funds through the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Connecticut has embraced faith-based services, a Bush administration initiatives. Eleven federal agencies make money and support more accessible to faith-based and community organizations. The practice is hardly without critics. “A lot of these programs contain a significant amount of evangelizing or proselytizing, and from our position that type of outreach should never be funded with taxpayer dollars,” says Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “There should be no taxpayer-funded evangelizing, period.” Thomas Kirk, commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, understands why people get skittish about this, but insists there is a fundamental misunderstanding among the public about what faith-based programs do. “We don’t pay for prayer,” he says flatly.