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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
Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

February 25, 2008

Jay Hein
Good afternoon. This morning, I had the pleasure of presenting President Bush with a new report entitled The Quiet Revolution. This report offers the first-ever comprehensive analysis of the successful implementation of the President’s vision for his Faith-Based and Community Initiative. Although often working behind the scenes, it has reshaped the way government tackles human need and made grassroots charities central in a “determined attack on need” — from at-risk youth, addiction and prisoner reentry to malaria and AIDS abroad. The President highlighted some of the accomplishments detailed in this report to our nation’s governors during their annual National Governors Association meeting at the White House today, underscoring ways the Faith-Based and Community Initiative is taking root in communities across every state.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Director Hein: As Director how many staff members does the Office have? and how do you go about getting the Presidents message out to the communities in order to implement the initiatives? Thank You

Jay Hein
Hi, Cliff. The President has a terrific team working for his Faith-Based and Community Initiative, both at the White House and at “Centers” within 11 Federal agencies. In total, about 50 individuals help administer the Initiative. The White House Office coordinates and leads the Initiative, while the Centers engage their agency’s particular programs to implement the FBCI vision. That means there are people working within almost every Federal agency that addresses human need to remove barriers for grassroots charities, to ensure a level playing field for faith-based groups, and to re-design Federal efforts to make locally-rooted organizations central to solving social problems. In addition, the White House Office and the Centers have delivered in-person training to more than 100,000 social entrepreneurs in skills like grant writing, outcomes tracking and other knowledge important to effective service. Through websites, listservs, teleconferences, webinars, printed materials and other information designed especially for faith-based and other grassroots charities, the Initiative has reached countless more individuals.

Cody, from Boiling Springs writes:
How does faith tie in with the community, and government, and what importance does it hold for you?

Jay Hein
Dear Cody,

Thanks for the question. The President has often said that he welcomes good people of faith as well as good people of no faith at all to be government's partner in solving problems. It really takes all of us to provide service at the community level and therefore the Faith-Based and Community Initiative isn’t so much about religion as it is about addressing human need in the most effective way possible. The President’s vision for this Initiative makes both faith-based and community organizations central to his governing strategy because these groups stand among those at the front lines of addressing disease, poverty and other great ills. The President views these groups as invaluable allies and we have found that government can more effectively address needs when it joins with every willing partner, whether faith-based or secular, large or small.

Kim, from Kentucky writes:
Hi Jay, How is the success of Faith-based programs measured in the various states? Is it dependent upon the of people served or a combination of factors? Thanks and have a blessed day

Jay Hein
Hello, Kim. Thanks for your question about the states. As you may know, the President met with the nation's governors today including Governor Beshear from your home state of Kentucky. Kentucky is one of 35 states that have created a Faith-Based and Community Initiative similar to the President's effort. In addition, the Initiative is taking root in every state across the nation through policy reforms, demonstration projects and training for nonprofit leaders. All of these outcomes are captured in our new Quiet Revolution report (Chapter 5 is all about the states) and a supplemental report the President presented to the Governors today, entitled The President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative in 50 States: A Report to the Nation's Governors. These reports include statistics on Federal grants awards won by each state’s charities and their participation in Presidential programs such as the Prisoner Reentry Initiative or the Access to Recovery substance abuse recovery program. The reports also identifies innovative partnerships being formed between the Governors and faith-based and community nonprofits to serve your citizens’ needs.

Matthew, from Chicago, IL writes:
Can't this new program be seen as an overstep of the wall of separation between church and state. If the Lemon Test is applied to this, it fails the third aspect of it: Excessive entanglements between church and state are unconstitutional.

Jay Hein
Your question is very important. I appreciate you sending it in. We believe that appropriate barriers between church and state are vital to protecting the autonomy of both church and state. That is why the Faith-Based and Community Initiative has promoted clear, constitutional guidelines for government partnership with faith-based groups through “Equal Treatment” regulations. Thanks to the FBCI, there are now meaningful guidelines in place for government-funded partnership with faith-based charities. And seven years into the Faith-Based and Community Initiative, not one legal challenge against any of these guidelines has been successful. As a result, not only can faith-based organizations compete for funding on a “level playing field,” but both charities and government agencies can now form effective partnerships guided by well-established constitutional guidelines. Just as important, the religious liberties of every citizen seeking services is clearly articulated and fully respected. For more on this topic, I’d encourage you to also read Chapter 2 of the Quiet Revolution report.

Jennifer, from Phoenix, AZ writes:
It's no secret that faith-based groups, more than any other sector of society, set the standard when it comes to all manners of community support, yet we hear little about it in the news, or even from the White House. Due to the overwhelming success of FCBI and the potential for it to be a positive part of President Bush's legacy, will we finally start to hear more about FCBI?

Jay Hein

You’re right – America’s “armies of compassion” are among the first responders addressing some of our toughest community challenges. Yet, the work of faith-based and community organizations is often done with little fanfare. And, the truth is, the FBCI has been carried forward in much the same way. That’s why today’s report is called Quiet Revolution – this profound transformation of government and the partnerships formed with community nonprofits have largely happened behind the scenes. President Bush has done more than any other President to bring these stories into the national discussion and that is why his Quiet Revolution report is so important. It tells the comprehensive story of the profound impact of the Initiative on millions of lives both at home and around the world. And my hope is that this report will help spread the remarkable story of the Initiative’s 7-year record: government transformed, nonprofits strengthened, and lives changed.

John, from Texas writes:
What does the GAO say about the effectiveness of these programs vs. traditional government or private programs? Is the money doing what was intended?

Jay Hein
I am not aware of any analysis completed by the GAO on your question but it is a very useful line of inquiry. Indeed, I would encourage many research partners (universities, think tanks) to contribute similar analysis. Our belief is that it takes all sectors--government, nonprofit and private--to solve community problems. Therefore, it is less an either/or and more of a both/and. Yet, there are distinctions between the partners and it is worth understanding their unique contributions.

The President has often said that the Faith-Based and Community Initiative is not about good intentions but rather results. Therefore, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) works closely with our office to set measurable standards for the Initiative, which is evaluated under the President’s Management Agenda. This evaluation includes rigorous quarterly planning, reporting and accountability from every agency across the Federal government implementing programs under the Initiative. The Quiet Revolution report gives detail on these measurement activities and reviews national outcomes for key FBCI programs. Please see my response to Kim from Kentucky for additional insight on how we measure state-level activity.

Domenic, from Pittsburgh writes:
Greetings Director Hein - what role does your office play in coordinating faith-based community initiatives on behalf of religious organizations aside from Christian ones? Thanks very much - take care.


Jay Hein
Dear Dominic,

The goal of the Initiative is to ensure a level playing for every organization willing to partner with government to help the needy—of any faith, or of no faith at all. As the Executive Order that established the Initiative stated, we must build on “the bedrock principles of pluralism, nondiscrimination, evenhandedness, and neutrality.” Government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to figure out what beliefs motivate a charity to serve its neighbors. Rather, it should focus on whether the organization can effectively address human need in partnership with government, and in a way that respects Constitutional parameters.

Jay Hein
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful questions. I look forward to taking more of your questions on Ask the White House again soon.

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