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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jay Hein
Jay Hein
Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

June 25, 2008

Jay Hein
Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to participate in Ask the White House again, and I'm pleased that you joined me. Tomorrow is an exciting day for my office. We are hosting a national conference called "Innovations in Effective Compassion" and over 1,000 have registered to attend. Headlining the event, President Bush will give a landscape view of what the Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI) has achieved since he launched the Initiative over seven years ago. The conference bring together faith-based and community leaders of all stripes, as well as policymakers and others, to explore the scope and scale of the Initiative's impact and what the future holds now that this foundation has been laid. I'm pleased to take your questions.

Michael, from Powell, Tn writes:
Where is the National Conference to be held and is it open to anybody or invitation only? Thank you.

Jay Hein

The National Conference is being held in Washington, D.C., at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. As always, the event is open to the public. However, we have currently reached maximum capacity for this conference. If you are interested in future conferences, you can visit to sign up for our conferences being held in Sacramento, CA and Dallas, TX in August 2008.

John, from Savannah, GA writes:
When the OFBCI was first instituted by President Bush it was met with criticism. Please describe a few of the successes of the OFBCI and the future projects of the Office for the remainder of President Bush's term and beyond. Thank you in advance.

Jay Hein
I’m glad you asked this question, John. The President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative has brought deep change to the way America engages human need—shifting away from large, bureaucratic models to work instead in partnership with nonprofits rooted on the front lines of solving community needs. The first success of the Initiative was leveling the playing field for faith-based organizations to compete for Federal dollars. We’ve also greatly expanded opportunities for small nonprofits to partner with government through vouchers, mini-grants, intermediary grants and non-financial collaborations to grow aid to the needy. These partners are making a tremendous difference—from national reductions in chronic homelessness, to cutting prisoner recidivism, to dramatically cutting deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa. We believe this effort is only going to grow in the years ahead, with thirty five governors have followed President Bush's leadership by establishing their own Faith-Based and Community Initiative office or liaison.

Kyle, from San Francisco writes:
Hello, I was wondering when we will be able to see the winning entries of "Portraits of Compassion" on a website. Are they going to be posted on the White House website any time soon? Thank you for your time.Kyle

Jay Hein

Thanks for your interest. The "Portraits of Compassion" winners will be screened tomorrow at our National Conference here in Washington, D.C. Please check back tomorrow at for links to the winning videos.

Don, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
I am in need of grants to begin my non-profit organization. What are the initial steps needed for funding?

Jay Hein

Thank you for your desire to serve your community. Our Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers grant-writing workshops across the country (see Also, there are many resources on the White House website,, which will help point you to foundational information on how to get started. Our office will be hosting a regional conference in California in August that would also provide you with invaluable information as you begin your program. Since it is usually best to build up local support and at least some track record of success before seeking Federal grants, you may also want to see if there is an organization funded by the FBCI’s Compassion Capital Fund in your area that could help you grow and develop these elements in the near term. Best of luck as you endeavor to serve your neighbors.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Director Hein: How and in what ways are the Faith Based and Community Initiatives becoming involved in the critical and increased role in disaster preparedness and response? Thank You

Jay Hein

This is a great question. Faith-based and community groups play a vital role in responding to the greatest needs of our day, and disasters are no exception. Disaster preparation, response and recovery are most effective when working in a collaboration that draws upon the complementary strengths of the public, private and non-profit sectors. Our Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well as Faith-based and Community liaisons in various states, have been instrumental in growing partnerships with faith-based and community groups who are often first on the scene in times of distress.

Peter, from Long Island, NY writes:
Mr. Hein,Since the government is required under the Constitution to treat all citizens equally, and is specifically mandated not to do anything respecting an establishment of religion, to what extent are groups you work with required to service all citizens equally, particularly with regard to religious belief. Specifically, I ask that as an athiest, am I entitled to equal treatment in programs that your office supports, or can they bar me from that equal treatment because I believe their religion to be fundamentally wrong?

Jay Hein
Peter, thank you for your question. President Bush believes it is important we welcome all problem solvers to the table and extend a helping hand to all those in need. Before he became President, he promised he would "keep a commitment to pluralism -- not discriminating for or against Methodists or Mormons or Muslims, or good people of no faith at all." And the President has kept this promise.

At the beginning of this Administration, and for the first time in this nation’s history, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released a document outlining how faith-based and community organizations can and cannot use Federal money. It makes clear that groups receiving Federal money "may not discriminate against a person seeking help who is eligible for the service." Nor can they use any funds received directly from the Federal government for any religious activities. This principle and many other important "do's and don'ts" have been taught at each one of our 35 regional conferences held across this nation over the past seven years.

For more guidelines on what an organization can and cannot do with Federal money, please visit: /government/fbci/guidance/index.html.

Kim, from Kentucky writes:
I see that Elaine Chao will be speaking at the conference about the Prisoner Re-entry Initiative. I think that community based services to help prisoners transition back into society, could really help the recitivsm rate. Can you give a background about services that are currently operating in this capacity? Thank-you

Jay Hein
Dear Kim,

As you may know, each year, more than 650,000 inmates are released from state and Federal prisons each year, and statistics predict two out of three of these individuals will be re-arrested within three years. President Bush said in his 2004 State of the Union Address, ”America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” The Faith-Based and Community Initiative has worked to make frontline, community nonprofits central allies in helping make this a reality.

One of the most important ways we’ve done this is through the President’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative (PRI), which funds nonprofits to help ex-prisoners successfully reintegrate into their communities – including mentoring, case management, education, job training, job placement and other essential wrap-around transitional services. By partnering with faith-based and community groups men and women are being met with the needed resources and caring support to overcome the overwhelming barriers that await them outside of prison. I’m very happy to report that former prisoners served by PRI’s many faith-based and other community organization partners are re-arrested at rates much less than half the national average.

Jay Hein
Thank you all for your thoughtful questions. We're looking forward to a dynamic Conference over the next two days. I hope you'll check back tomorrow at for new materials demonstrating the Faith-Based and Community Initiative's record of results that will be released at the Conference.