This study analyzes narratives of welfare reform and faith-based poverty relief articulated by religious leaders in rural Mississippi congregations. These congregations are situated in and around Mississippi's Golden Triangle Region, a locale that includes a diverse group of small and mid-sized towns, as well as remote rural areas. As a state with entrenched social disadvantage, a thriving religious economy, and the nation's first faith-based welfare reform program, Mississippi is an ideal locale to study this important issue. We begin by discussing the charitable choice provision in welfare reform legislation. This legal provision bars discrimination against religious organizations as social service providers. We then briefly outline the poverty relief strategies utilized in a purposive sample of thirty Mississippi religious congregations that vary by denomination, racial composition, and size. Finally, we analyze pastors' appraisals of charitable choice, paying special attention to the various rationales they enlist to justify their evaluations of this policy initiative. We conclude by discussing our study's implications for charitable choice implementation in the rural South.

Publication Date