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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.

James Towey
Director, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
June 2, 2004

James Towey
Hello, welcome to Ask the White House! I am happy to be back to answer some questions again. If you saw President Bush yesterday at our first National Conference, you saw his passion and commitment to ending discrimination against faith-based groups and making sure that the best providers of social services - sacred or secular - are funded so that addicts get treatment, the homeless get stable housing, and others in need receive compassionate care.

christy, from tenn. writes:
what religon is pres. bush ? methodist? baptist?

James Towey
He is Methodist.

Joanne, from Tampa, Florida writes:
How can I participate in the online discussion? please e-mail me at or add a link to the site. Thank you.

James Towey
Congratulations! You are participating - but since you didn't ask a question about the faith-based initiative, all I can say is that I hope you have a great day!

Cooper, from Weatherford, OK writes:
I am looking for some ideas for projects. Can you share success stories of others who receive funding?

James Towey
Good for you for thinking of ways that you can help others. The first thing you should think or pray about is: where is the need around me, in my community, in my neighborhood? If there are homeless people, or children in need of mentors, or people in need of help from a food bank, that might give you direction on where to help. There are many success stories - yesterday at our Conference we highlighted a bunch of them, and you should visit our web site at to learn more. And to find opportunities to serve in your community, go to and it will show you how. God bless you for your interest in helping others.


James Towey
Hard to say. Appeals Courts in New York and Nebraska are also considering the law that Congress just passed, and so those Courts will have to rule, and then, with the Ninth Circuit decision just announced yesterday, it is possible that these Court decisions might reach the US Supreme Court. I sure hope that the law Congress passed to ban this horrific procedure is honored so that this terrible procedure is no longer performed in the United States.

Mike, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
The president said in his speech yesterday that he wants to "accomplish the social objective of having America become a hopeful place, and a loving place." This raises two questions:

1. Where in the Constitution is the federal government charged with seeing to it that America is a "hopeful" and "loving" place?

2. Why should Americans, already the most charitable people on the face of the earth, not feel insulted that the president believes that only through the federal government's spending of our money can America become--which implies that he doesn't believe it yet is--"a hopeful place, and a loving place"?

James Towey
The beautiful Preamble to the Constitution speaks of promoting the general welfare and ensuring domestic tranquility, so I think the President's efforts to challenge Americans to look at the places in our country where there is hopelessness and loneliness, and do something about it, is entirely appropriate. I think you make a good point, Mike, that government may not always be the best at delivering compassion - that's why the President supports the compassionate efforts of faith-based and community groups. He has supported legislation to put more tax incentives for charitable giving into law so that individuals would give more to charities, and not to government in the form of higher taxes, in order to help others.

Mark, from Houston, TX writes:
Mr. Towey, I work for a church, while attending a graduate program in social work.

Currently, our church is submitting a grant proposal for money for a program for college students to create a kind of community center. I think that these kinds of grants are wonderful, and they help out faith based organizations. My concern is when social services, such as mental health services, are eliminated in an attempt to return the money and focus onto faith based organizations. Often, faith based organizations, in my experience, lack the skills and knowledge to provide counseling, mental health, and other kinds of treatment services that are necessary in helping. Can you clarify the role of faith based and community initiatives and the role of helping services, such as counseling and treatment?

James Towey
When government grants money to an organization to provide a publicly-funded service, President Bush believes the question should be not whether the organization believes in God or not, but whether the program works - is it helping addicts stay in recovery, or the homeless get housing. With respect to counseling and treatment, you surely want qualified and competent people providing these services. I think the President wants the most effective program funded. And sometimes, organizations motivated by faith can provide high quality services if they are allowed to compete for the grants, instead of being excluded from applying simply because they are faith-based.

Travis, from St. Augustine, FL writes:
Mr. Towey, Thank you for taking questions today. I am curious about yesterday's conference. How long has your office been planning this conference? How many people attended?

Also, do you do other conferences in different parts of the country--like in Florida--that I might be able to attend?

Thank you.

James Towey
Hi Travis. I grew up in Jacksonville so it is good to hear from someone near my old home! We had 2100 registered and I am not sure how many showed up, but the room was packed.

We had a regional conference in Tampa in December that was spectacular (ok, I'm biased, but it was) and Governor Jeb Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft both attended. We may be back in Florida before the end of the year - keep an eye on our web site. We have had 13 conferences so far in all regions of America and we continue to have waiting lists, so if you come, register early. Good news: it's free!

Thomas, from Racine, WI writes:
Do you seek out groups or do groups apply with you?

James Towey
We are constantly trying to educate organizations about funding opportunities. The White House doesn't receive applications because we don't award funds. The federal agencies award grants, and they are very active in soliciting proposals and applications. Our web site should help give you more info.

Jon, from Eau Claire, WI writes:
Why has all of the Bush administration's faith based grant money been awarded exclusively to Christian organizations? Shouldn't Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and other organizations be equally entitled to this pool of taxpayer money?

James Towey
Jon, I have to correct you. It simply isn't true. I think PBS reported this and now everyone thinks that only Christian groups get grants. Ask Jewish Family Service in Albuquerque, or Jewish Family and Children Services in Long Beach, CA. They all have received Compassion Capital Fund dollars, as have Buddhist and Muslim groups. Finally, while we don't track which organizations get money based on whether they are Christian or Jewish or Muslim, the fact is that the Compassion Capital Fund money went to a number of state universities - and even to the United Way of Upper Massachusetts Bay (hardly a faith-based provider, much less a Christian one). I agree with you - all groups, whether faith-based or secular, should be able to fairly compete, and let the best one win the grant.

Bianca, from Dalton, GA writes:
What is the breakdown of how much funding is given to each denominationfaith ?

James Towey
I don't know. We don't track that information. I have seen lists of grants and was able to identify a number of non-Christian grantees, and those are the ones I just cited. But we don't ask whether the group that receives a grant is of a particular denomination or faith. In fact, many grantees are interfaith and bring together in a community a number of different religions.

Christine, from Seattle, Washington writes:
Is it possible to get the text of President Bush's address to the Air Force Academy scheduled for today, June 2nd?

Thank you.

James Towey
Please check the White House web site - if it isn't posted yet, it will be later today.

SAdie, from NO writes:
Why is there no girl presedents there cooler then BOYS

James Towey
Hi Sadie! If you were born in the United States, maybe you can run one day and be President and be the first woman President (but then again, I don't know how old you are, and I'll bet we'll have a woman President before too long).

Laura, from Baldwin, Maryland writes:
How does the Faith-Based office produce such successful results with such a small staff? Does it have to do with the partnership that exists between the White House office and the Faith-Based Cabinet Centers at the US Departments?"

James Towey
Hi Laura. We have great staff here, and great people at the faith-based Centers, too! So you are right about that - and we all work for the President and are trying to carry out his plan of action, so that keeps us all on the same song sheet. You seem to know a lot about how the faith-based initiative is organized and works, and thanks for your encouragement.

James Towey
Well, it was great being with you again to answer some questions. There were a ton of questions so I couldn't answer them all, and sorry if your question didn't get answered. I urge you to check out our web site at or come to one of our regional conferences -- we will have three more this year, and the next one is in Boston on July 8. For those of you working to help others, may God bless you for your compassion and efforts. Until next time, take care! Jim Towey.

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