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Foreword by President George W. Bush

America is rich materially, but there remains too much poverty and despair amidst abundance. Government can rally a military, but it cannot put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives.

Government has a solemn responsibility to help meet the needs of poor Americans and distressed neighborhoods, but it does not have a monopoly on compassion. America is richly blessed by the diversity and vigor of neighborhood healers: civic, social, charitable, and religious groups. These quiet heroes lift people’s lives in ways that are beyond government’s know-how, usually on shoestring budgets, and they heal our nation’s ills one heart and one act of kindness at a time.

The indispensable and transforming work of faith-based and other charitable service groups must be encouraged. Government cannot be replaced by charities, but it can and should welcome them as partners. We must heed the growing consensus across America that successful government social programs work in fruitful partnership with community-serving and faith-based organizations — whether run by Methodists, Muslims, Mormons, or good people of no faith at all.

The paramount goal must be compassionate results, not compassionate intentions. Federal policy should reject the failed formula of towering, distant bureaucracies that too often prize process over performance. We must be outcome-based, insisting on success and steering resources to the effective and to the inspired. Also, we must always value the bedrock principles of pluralism, nondiscrimination, evenhandedness and neutrality. Private and charitable groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field, so long as they achieve valid public purposes, like curbing crime, conquering addiction, strengthening families, and overcoming poverty.

In this blueprint, I outline my agenda to enlist, equip, enable, empower and expand the heroic works of faith-based and community groups across America. The building blocks are two Executive Orders, signed yesterday, that call for the creation of a high-level White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and instruct five Cabinet departments to establish Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

As President, I will lead the federal government to take bold steps to rally America’s armies of compassion. I look forward to working with Congress on these issues and am open to additional ideas to meet our shared goals. I invite all Americans to join this effort to unleash the best of America.


Rallying the Armies of Compassion

The Problem

Our Nation has a long and honorable commitment to assisting individuals, families, and communities who have not fully shared in America’s growing prosperity. Yet despite a multitude of programs and renewed commitments by the Federal and state governments to battle social distress, all too many of our neighbors still suffer poverty and despair amidst our abundance.


  • As many as 15 million young people are at risk of not reaching productive adulthood -- falling prey to crime, drugs and other problems that make it difficult to obtain an education, successfully enter the workforce, or otherwise contribute to society;
  • About 1.5 million children have a father or mother in prison;
  • Over half a million children are in foster care, more than one fifth of whom are awaiting adoption;
  • In 1997, more than one million babies were born to unwed mothers, many of them barely past their own teen years; and
  • More than one out of six American families with children live on an annual income of $17,000 or less.

Millions of Americans are enslaved to drugs or alcohol. Hundreds of thousands of our precious citizens live on the streets. And despite the many successes of welfare reform, too many families remain dependent on welfare and many of those who have left the rolls can barely make ends meet.

A great and prosperous nation can and must do better. Americans are a deeply compassionate people and will not tolerate indifference toward the poor. But they also want compassionate results, not just compassionate intentions.

Welfare Reform

The American people support a vital role for government, but they also want to see their Federal dollars making a real difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. Americans believe our society must find ways to provide healing and renewal. And they believe that government should help the needy achieve independence and personal responsibility, through its programs and those of other community and faith-based groups.

To achieve these goals, Federal assistance must become more effective and more tailored to local needs. We must not only devolve Federal support to state and local governments where appropriate, but move support out to neighborhood-based caregivers. Traditional social programs are often too bureaucratic, inflexible, and impersonal to meet the acute and complex needs of the poor. Reforms must make the Federal Government a partner with faith-based and community organizations that are close to the needs of people and trusted by those who hurt. These organizations boast uncommon successes, but they are outmanned and outflanked.

Building on Success

This Administration proposes a different role for government in social policy — a fresh start and a bold new approach. We will realign Federal policy and programs to better use, empower, and collaborate with grassroots and nonprofit groups. We will reinforce and support programs that work and increase their scale.

We must continue to ask: What are the Federal Government’s social responsibilities? What budget should be allocated to social programs? These are vital questions. Yet equally vital is the question of how the Federal Government should fulfill its social task. In social policy, the nonprofit sector — secular and religiously affiliated providers, civic groups, foundations and other grant-givers — has long been a vital and valued partner of government. We honor both nonprofit agencies and government programs. We seek to add to, not take away from, their good work.

We will focus on expanding the role in social services of faith-based and other community-serving groups that have traditionally been distant from government. We do so not because of favoritism or because they are the only important organizations, but because they typically have been neglected or excluded in Federal policy. Our aim is equal opportunity for such groups, a level playing field, a fair chance for them to participate when their programs are successful. We will encourage Federal agencies to continue to become more hospitable to grassroots and small-scale programs, both secular and faith-based, because they have unique strengths that government can’t duplicate.

The Federal Government must continue to play a prominent role in addressing poverty and social distress. But that role must move beyond funding traditional non-governmental organizations. Americans deserve a rich mix of options because when it comes to conquering addiction, poverty, recidivism, and other social ills, one size does not fit all.

Faith-based and grassroots groups that achieve good results should be eligible to compete for federal funds. And the Federal Government should do more to encourage private giving — from individuals, corporations, foundations and others — to the armies of compassion that labor daily to strengthen families and communities.


Renewing America's Strengths

Over the past decade, the public and their elected representatives have come to a renewed appreciation for the variety of civic and social groups that make up civil society. Faith-based programs, volunteers, and grassroots groups are indispensable partners with nonprofit service providers and government programs to serve the poor, renew families, and rebuild neighborhoods. As part of welfare reform and in an effort to address tough issues such as drug addiction, the federal and state governments have begun to collaborate with community and faith-based groups. We want to expand that effort, offer individuals and families more choice, and do so in a manner fully consistent with the Constitution.

Throughout America, hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths reach out every day to the hurting among their neighbors, demonstrating care and compassion through a rich diversity of programs, small and large, caring for kids after school, providing emergency food or shelter, offering mentoring and counseling, uplifting the families of prisoners, and helping to rehabilitate ex-offenders.

In Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and many other places, people of faith and other unsung local heroes have started innovative partnerships with the police and juvenile authorities to divert and rescue young men and women from gangs, violence, and dead-end streets. Hundreds of community development corporations, often connected with one or more houses of worship, work to stimulate economic activity, rebuild run-down housing, renew neighborhood pride, and revive municipal services. Faith-based programs attack dependency on drugs with faith and love, often helping men and women for whom conventional treatment seemed to provide little lasting help.

Faith-based and grassroots organizations do not always perform miracles. Some do well and others are less effective. Together, however, they are a vitally important resource in our communities, reaching out to needy neighbors and neighborhoods in thousands of ways. And when they do so, they often help in ways that government programs cannot, providing love as well as services, guidance and friendship as well as a meal or training. These are precious resources, great gifts of American society.

And yet, all too often, the Federal Government has ignored their efforts and even impeded them. With the best of intentions, but operating under an unnecessarily and improperly restrictive view of the appropriate role faith-based organizations can play in delivering needed social services, Federal policy and programs have often disregarded or hampered faith-based groups as resources for social assistance. Federal, state and local governments have often acted as if the law banishes religious providers and mandates rigid secularism instead of simple volunteerism, evenhandedness, and neutrality. Even when the Federal Government has done no harm, it also has often not done as much as it could to enlist and assist neighborhood healers, both secular and religious, and their important work.


Faith-Based and Community Organizations

Starting now, the Federal Government is adopting a new attitude to honor and not restrict faith-based and community initiatives, to accept rather than dismiss such programs, and to empower rather than ignore them.

In welfare and social policy, the Federal Government will play a new role as supporter, enabler, catalyst and collaborator with faith-based and community organizations. We will build on past innovations, most notably bipartisan Charitable Choice legislation, but move forward to make Federal programs more friendly to faith-based and community solutions.

This initiative is not anti-government, but pro-results. It is designed to make sure that faith-based community-serving groups have a seat at the table. It will eliminate the federal government’s discrimination against faith-based organizations while also applauding and aiding secular nonprofit initiatives. It will reach out to grassroots groups without marginalizing established organizations. America has a strong, thriving nonprofit sector. Recent figures indicate that the 1.4 million organizations comprising the independent sector receive over $621 billion in total annual revenue, representing six percent of the national economy. Charities and other nonprofits employ over 10 million individuals, comprising over seven percent of the American workforce.

Our goal is to energize civil society and rebuild social capital, particularly by uplifting small non-profit organizations, congregations and other faith-based institutions that are lonely outposts of energy, service, and vision in poor and declining neighborhoods and rural enclaves.

Without diminishing the important work of government agencies and the wide range of nonprofit service providers, this initiative will support the unique capacity of local faith-based and other community programs to serve people in need, not just by providing services but also by transforming lives.

This initiative is designed to improve the Federal response to need, to ensure that we draw on all good works in our Nation so that every person, every child and family, and every community can enjoy the fruits of our common prosperity.

Our faith-based and community agenda will be organized around three lines of action:

  • Identifying and eliminating improper Federal barriers to effective faith-based and community-serving programs through legislative, regulatory, and programmatic reforms;
  • Stimulating an outpouring of private giving to nonprofits, faith-based programs, and community groups by expanding tax deductions and through other initiatives; and
  • Pioneering a new model of cooperation through Federal initiatives that expand the involvement of faith-based and community groups in after-school and literacy services, help the children of prisoners, and support other citizens in need.


Eliminating Federal Barriers

Social scientists are increasingly documenting the power of faith-based groups to fortify families and communities and to conquer our toughest social problems. America must stop trying to eliminate poverty, crime and addiction with one hand tied behind its back.

The government can do many things, but it cannot put hope in our hearts or a sense of purpose in our lives. This is done by churches, synagogues, mosques and charities that warm the cold of life — a quiet river of goodness and kindness that cuts through stone. The Administration is committed to a concerted effort to identify and remove needless barriers that thwart the heroic work of faith-based groups.

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:

To help promote public/private partnerships that enable diverse sacred places and grassroots secular programs to achieve civic purposes, a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has been created. It will be the Federal Government’s lead agency in promoting a policy of respect for and cooperation with religious and grassroots groups. It will identify barriers to such groups in Federal rules and practices, propose regulatory and statutory relief, and coordinate new Federal initiatives to empower and partner with faith-based and community problem solvers. The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will work in close conjunction with new parallel centers in Federal agencies that operate social programs, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and Education.

The Office will also work with the Corporation for National Service to enlist volunteers for grassroots community service programs, including faith-based programs. This collaboration will expand a public-private partnership that already assists both secular and religious organizations to better respond to local needs.

Encouraging State-Level Offices of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:

The Administration is also committed tohelping states create their own versions of the new White House Office, and supports making Federal matching funds available to help states design and establish state-level offices to advance this empowerment agenda and assist social entrepreneurs across the country.

Expanding Charitable Choice:

In recognition of the growing success of grassroots religious charities, Congress in 1996 started to remove restrictions on faith-based action by adopting the Charitable Choice provision for welfare and other Federal programs. Charitable Choice — passed four separate times by a bipartisan Congress -- enables private, religious and charitable organizations to compete on an equal footing for Federal funding to provide services, and it protects their religious character if they choose to accept Federal funds.

Charitable Choice does little more than reflect the prevailing commitment to neutrality and nondiscrimination. Moreover, Charitable Choice is carefully designed to ensure the religious liberty of recipients of services, forbidding any religious discrimination against them and mandating a secular alternative for those who do not want services from a religious provider. Charitable Choice also preserves government accountability. It honors the constitutional prohibition on the establishment of religion by requiring that government funds not be spent on inherently religious activities like sectarian worship or proselytizing.

Charitable Choice has moved many faith-based providers from the sidelines to the front lines, enabling many to collaborate with state and local governments to assist welfare families to gain their independence.

Yet Charitable Choice applies to only a small portion of Federal social spending. Many states and localities continue to ignore the legal requirements of Charitable Choice when they spend covered Federal funds. The regulations of some Federal programs restrict the involvement of faith-based groups more than current law warrants. And beyond barriers, Federal agencies do too little to reach out to faith-based organizations and grassroots community groups that could be among their most potent allies.

This Administration will ensure that Federal agencies do not diminish or dismiss the contributions that can be made by faith-based and other community groups.


Expanding Private Giving

The independent sector is on the threshold of a great renaissance. We anticipate that America’s nonprofit sector will emerge as perhaps the most dynamic arena for creative problem solving in the 21st Century. Some envision a new "civic capital economy" in which enormous sums of money are pooled and targeted to new social enterprises. Estimates, for example, of the transfer of wealth from today’s retired generation to their children range in the tens of trillions of dollars. We must act affirmatively to capture this wealth for purposes of generating social renewal.

We should encourage the inspiring trend among America’s growing class of entrepreneurs of lending their talents as "social entrepreneurs." All across America, successful businessmen and women are creating or "adopting" local charities, supplying both funds and business management savvy.

Much of the good that religious and charitable organizations have done and always will do rightly takes place independent of government direction and government funding. America is blessed with social entrepreneurs who see a problem and set about with energy, ingenuity, and organizational savvy to provide solutions. Foundations provide private support for the public good. This is civil society at work. At the least, government must be sure not to harm such efforts by over-regulation or providing insufficient legal protections for good-faith volunteers, nonprofit groups, and philanthropic companies. The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will advise the federal government about both over-regulation, insufficient legal protections, and other disincentives that trip up Good Samaritans across America.

Yet there is more that the Federal Government can and should do to support private groups. Tax law promotes civil society by encouraging individual and corporate donations to a wide range of charitable and religious organizations through tax deductions. This Administration will help water the garden of civil society through innovative measures like these:

Granting a Charitable Deduction for Non-Itemizers:

The Federal charitable deduction will be expanded to the 80 million taxpayers — 70 percent of all filers — who do not itemize and thus currently cannot claim this benefit. This initiative will spark billions of dollars in new donations to charitable organizations.

Promoting Corporate In-Kind Donations:

The Administration seeks to limit the liability of corporations that in good faith donate equipment, facilities, vehicles, or aircraft to charitable organizations, thus enhancing the ability of those organizations to serve neighborhoods and families.

Permit Charitable Contributions from IRAs Without Penalty:

Under current law, withdrawals from Individual Retirement Accounts are subject to income tax. This creates a disincentive for retirees to contribute some or all of their IRA funds to charity. Thus, President Bush supports legislation that would permit individuals over the age of 59 to contribute IRA funds to charities without having to pay income tax on their gifts.

Promote a Charitable State Tax Credit:

States would be encouraged to provide a credit (of up to 50 percent of the first $500 for individuals and $1,000 for married couples and corporations) against state income or other taxes for contributions to charities addressing poverty and its impact. States would be given the flexibility to offset the costs of a charitable state tax credit by using money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

Raise the Cap on Corporate Charitable Deductions:

Corporations would be permitted to deduct charitable donations until their value exceeds 15 percent of the company’s taxable income, instead of the 10 percent limit under current law.

Creating a Compassion Capital Fund:

This public/private partnership will match private giving with Federal dollars to achieve two aims. First, it will fund increased technical assistance to help small community and faith-based charities increase their capacity, improve their competence and expand their programs. Second, it will provide start-up capital to enable smaller groups to expand or emulate model programs.


The New Approach In Action

To illustrate and expand the Federal Government’s faith-neutral social policy stance, several new Federal programs will be initiated to test partnerships between the Federal Government and faith-based and grassroots groups to serve particular needs. These programs will pilot new approaches and new fields of collaboration. Programs will be results-oriented with systematic evaluation of outcomes and procedures.

Helping the Children of Prisoners:

Federal competitive grants will be provided for services reaching the children of prisoners. On any given day, America is home to 1.5 million children of prisoners. The low-income children of prisoners suffer disproportionate rates of many severe social problems. People of faith and others can mentor and reach out to these children, and help to heal broken families once prisoners are released.

Improving Inmate Rehabilitation:

A new pre-release pilot Program for inmates nearing release will be launched. Prisons are necessary for punishment. Too often, however, inmates leave them unprepared to take up productive roles in their communities. Congregations of various faiths already play an important informal role in rehabilitating former prisoners. Federal funds will be made available on a competitive basis for faith-based pre-release programs at Federal facilities, to make sure inmates avoid old habits, old haunts and old friendships.

Support "Second Chance" Maternity Group Homes:

Funds would be provided to states for pilot maternity group homes. States would be authorized to make funds available either as certificates to individuals, or as competitive grants to providers, who will be able to use the funds to purchase or operate a facility.

More After-School Opportunities:

Provide more after-school programs for low-income children: The federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program should open 100 percent of its funding to competitive bidding. In addition to schools, faith-based and neighborhood groups should be able to apply for such funds. Also, we should allocate Federal funds to create community technology centers to help bridge the digital divide in poor neighborhoods. Finally, low-income parents will be provided certificates to help defray the costs of after-school programs, whether run by a community group, neighborhood church, synagogue or mosque, or a local school.


Creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

To lead and develop the Administration’s agenda to strengthen and expand grassroots and faith-based services, President Bush has created by Executive Order a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Located within the Executive Office of the President and operational within 30 days, the OFBCI will take the lead responsibility in the Executive Branch to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Federal Government’s effort to enlist, expand, equip, empower and enable the work of faith-based and community service groups.

It is a long, honored, and successful tradition for the Federal Government to work with nonprofit organizations to serve the needy. The new Office will promote initiatives and reforms throughout the Executive Branch not to diminish the federal role in assistance but to enrich it. The Office and the Administration’s initiative will benefit all nonprofit service organizations, but especially small and faith-based groups that have traditionally been neglected or excluded in the past.

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will be headed by an Assistant to the President, who will direct a small staff of proven innovators and policy experts who both respect the indispensable role of government and have a passion to unleash the power of faith-based and community solutions.

In cooperation with parallel Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that are being created in five major Cabinet agencies concerned with social policy, the Office will:

  • Identify and act to remedy statutory, regulatory, and bureaucratic barriers that stand in the way of effective faith-based and community social programs;
  • Ensure that, consistent with the law, faith-based programs have equal opportunity to compete for federal funding and other support;
  • Work to improve, harmonize, and as appropriate, expand Charitable Choice, and promote its implementation by federal, state, and local authorities;
  • Coordinate public education and outreach activities to mobilize public support for charitable organizations through volunteerism, public-private partnerships, and increased financial giving;
  • Bring concerns, ideas, and policy options to the President concerning Federal cooperation with and strengthening of successful faith-based and community organizations;
  • Provide policy guidance to state and local officials and other policymakers seeking ways to empower faith-based and grass roots programs and to improve the opportunities and expertise of service providers;
  • Develop and implement strategic new programs that exemplify the President’s agenda to strengthen civil society and America’s communities;
  • Highlight and herald innovative grassroots nonprofit organizations and civic initiatives; and
  • Monitor implementation of the President’s agenda concerning faith-based and community groups.

The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will advance new recommendations for increasing the capacity of small-scale organizations. We recognize that many small, but effective nonprofits are in need of technical assistance in order to bring their programming to scale.

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will be the engine that drives the Administration’s goal of reorienting Federal social policy across the board. And it will coordinate and nurture in Federal agencies these new attitudes of empowerment and fruitful partnership.


Making Federal Agencies More Receptive to Faith and Community-Based Solutions

By Executive Order, President Bush has also called for each of the following Cabinet agencies to create a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:

  • Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development;
  • Department of Labor;
  • Department of Justice; and
  • Department of Education.

These Centers will work with and under the direction of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to make these agencies as open and supportive as possible to successful faith-based and grassroots organizations.

Within their respective agencies, each Center, which will be operational within 45 days, will coordinate efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the full participation of faith-based and community organizations in the provision of social services. The Centers will also work positively to create a hospitable environment for groups that have not traditionally collaborated with government, make sure that departmental communications and technical assistance efforts are open to faith-based and community organizations, and implement special programs designed to showcase and pioneer innovative efforts.

The Centers located in the Department of Health and Human Services and in the Department of Labor will have the additional responsibilities to review departmental policies and practices concerning compliance with Charitable Choice as it applies to funds under their control and to promote compliance by its partners in state and local governments.

The Center in the Department of Education will be concerned with the agency’s social programs, such as after-school programs and efforts to link public schools with community partners, including neighborhood faith-based groups. It will not work on K-12 or higher education policy as such.

Each Center will be supervised by a Director, appointed by the respective Department heads in consultation with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Each Center will have a small staff of experts in the area of the Department’s responsibility and in respecting faith and community solutions.

Each Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will, within 180 days, and then annually thereafter, report to the White House Office on barriers it has identified to the participation of faith-based and community groups in the delivery of social services and on the solutions it has identified; provide a summary of technical assistance and other information that is offered to faith-based and community organizations that desire to work with the Department; and develop and issue a set of performance indicators and measurable objectives for the reform of the Department’s policies and practices.