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Child-like faith

Issue: "Day scare," Jan. 10, 1998

It's just after lunch on a Tuesday, and Crossroads Baptist Church is finally quiet. The morning has been punctuated by singing, crying, and squealing and not because there's a healing service going on. Instead, it's just another day at CBC Daycare, and the center's little charges are finally down for a nap.

Louis Baldwin, the pastor, started the church's day-care center 2 years ago when he saw the need for affordable alternatives for working mothers in Bailey's Crossroads, a Washington suburb with a fast-growing minority population. He's proud that Crossroads is the only predominantly black church in the area offering a day-care ministry, and he understands why the issue is likely to resonate with black voters.

Mr. Baldwin estimates that 15 years ago in the white suburban church where he came to Christ, perhaps three-quarters of the women were stay-at-home moms. At Crossroads, by contrast, at least 90 percent of mothers work outside the home. Moreover, about half the women in the church are rearing children on their own. With those kinds of pressures, black mothers are desperate for day-care options, Mr. Baldwin says.

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Not that the government makes it easy for churches to meet the need. Social-service workers deployed in the public schools wonÕt recommend Crossroads because of the center's religious affiliation. Such an anti-religious bias will likely permeate President Clinton's sweeping new child-care proposals, though details are sketchy at this point.

Child-care subsidies that prohibit religious activities could hurt church-run ministries in the long run. Parents of children at the CBC Daycare center 75 percent of whom are not church members don't mind that their kids squirm through 30 minutes of Bible stories and songs every day. But would they pay for those Bible stories out-of-pocket, if Uncle Sam were willing to foot part of the bill for day-care devoid of David and Goliath or Adam and Eve?

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