European visitor Alexis de Tocqueville noted a unique quality in colonial America. He marveled that, when needs developed in communities, the people voluntarily associated themselves together and organized to meet those needs.
Since our earliest days, voluntary, non-profit agencies have been part of the vital strength of the United States of America. Such agencies, including religious institutions and churches, have performed necessary functions that otherwise would have fallen to Government.
Charitable contributions to voluntary agencies have diminished considerably in recent years, with increased use of the standard deduction on the federal income tax. It has reliably been estimated that between 1970, when 50% of Americans used the standard deduction, and 1977, when 75% or more used the standard deduction, philanthropic organizations lost five billion dollars in contributions as the result of the loss of financial incentive to the bulk of middle class Americans. The price tag in 1977 alone has been placed at 1.4 billion dollars.
Believing that voluntary agencies should be strengthened and that it would be tragic if their services eventually had to be taken over by the government, the National Association of Evangelicals endorses the kind of legislation espoused by Representatives Conab1e and Fisher. Such legislation would allow all taxpayers to deduct charitable contributions “above the line,” i.e., whether or not they itemize their other deductions.