|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 7, 2001
Compassion "In Truth and Action" How Sacred and Secular Places Serve Civic Purposes, and What Washington Should--And Should Not--Do to Help
By John J. Diiulio, Jr., speech prepared for delivery and release before the National Association of Evangelicals, Dallas, Texas, Wednesday, March 7, 2001.
Thank you ever so much. Your kind invitation to speak pre-dated my move to Washington. I feel blessed to join you.
Of course, Christian folks have special ways of making a body feel welcome. For example, as I exited a church following a speech, a little old lady stopped me. "I saw you in Christianity Today," she said. "Did you like the story?" I asked. "Oh," she replied, " I can't recall the story so well, just that big picture of your face." Then, with a knowing smile, she reached out, gave my hand a gentle squeeze, and whispered, "You're not nearly so fat in person, dear." Now that's vision touched by the Spirit.
Some four weeks ago, I was deeply honored to accept President George W. Bush's offer to serve as Assistant to the President and Director of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Before then, I used to joke that, after 20 years at Harvard, Penn, and Princeton, I knew the true definition of an Ivy League professor, namely, someone who can speak for 2 hours or 5 minutes on any subject without any essential change in content.
Now, however, I am learning the true definition of a senior Washington official, namely, someone who can speak for 2 hours or 5 minutes on any subject without saying ... anything at all!
But, kidding aside, I am truly glad to be here, for I have much to say, and I am going to say it plainly, and with as much "truth" mediated by "grace" as I can muster.
President Bush has a huge heart for helping the least, the last, and the lost of our society. He recognizes a real need for faith-based and community initiatives. As he recently stated:
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. President George W. Bush,
Rallying the Armies of Compassion, Washington, D.C., January 30,
We the People: Community Helpers and Healers
The consensus cited by the President runs wide and deep. Americans of every socioeconomic status and demographic description have faith in faith-based and community approaches to solving social problems.
Solid survey data compiled over several decades by George Gallup, Jr. and associates indicate that most citizens (in 1995, 86 percent of blacks, 60 percent of whites) believe religion can help "answer all or most of today's problems." George Gallup, Jr., "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century", Public Perspective (October-November 1995), p. 4. Also see Gallup and D. Michael Lindsay, Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1999).
The same week the President signed my office into being, the Pew Charitable Trusts released a national poll showing that most Americans believe "local churches, synagogues or mosques," together with "organizations such as the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries and Habitat for Humanity," are top problem-solving organizations "in their communities." Ready, Willing, and Able-Citizens Working for Change: A Survey for the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, The Pew Charitable Trusts, One Commerce Square, Philadelphia, PA, January 31, 2001, Tables 42 and 43. Also see Richard Morin, "Nonprofit, Faith-Based Groups Near Top of Poll on Solving Social Woes," The Washington Post, February 1, 2001.
We the People appreciate our community helpers and healers, and so should our government.
Led by Sara E. Melendez, Independent Sector, an umbrella organization representing nonprofits both religious and secular, estimates that America is home to over 300,000 community-serving religious congregations, 4 out of 5 of which provide services without regard to the religious identities--if any--of those whom they serve. Independent Sector, 1200 Eighteenth Street, NW Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 20036, or www.IndependentSector.org.
My research colleague Professor Ram A. Cnaan has documented how congregations serve needy neighbors in America's poorest urban communities. Pardonable Penn pride aside, while a dozen or so decent studies have been published, and while their somewhat disparate findings deserve notice, Professor Cnaan's remain the only suitably scientific multi-city datasets on the subject. For a brief overview, see Ram A. Cnaan and Gaynor I. Yancey, "Our Hidden Safety Net," in E.J. Dionne and John J. Dilulio, Jr., eds., What's God Got to Do with the American Experiment (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2000), chapter 21. Also see Ram A. Cnaan et al., The Newer Deal: Social Work and Religion in Partnership (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), and Cnaan, Keeping Faith in the City: How 401 Relig1ous Congregations Serve Their Neediest Neighbors, Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society, CRRUCS Report 2000-1, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, March 20, 2000.
For example, based on 3-hour site visits and
20-page questionnaires covering some 215 different social services
administered at 401 of Philadelphia's roughly 2,000 community-serving
congregations (on the way to a complete census of congregation
services), Professor Cnaan and his associates report that Cnaan,
Keeping Faith, ibid.
- over 90 percent of urban congregations provide social services, from preschools to prison ministries, from food pantries to health clinics, from literacy programs to day-care centers, and so much more;
- the replacement value of their services in Philadelphia alone is a very conservatively estimated quarter-billion dollars a year;
- their primary beneficiaries are poor neighborhood children and youth who are not members, and whose families are not members, of the congregations that serve them; urban community-serving congregations are actually slightly more likely to partner with secular nonprofits than they are to collaborate with each other; and
- almost none of the urban community-serving ministries make entering their buildings, receiving their services, or participating in their programs in any way contingent upon any immediate or eventual profession of faith, or any performance of religious rites or rituals, of any kind.
Professor Cnaan calls community-serving congregations America's "hidden safety net." Hidden, and, until recently, largely unheralded.
Likewise, try imagining America without the secular non-profit organizations, large and small, that work with and through community-based organizations to meet critical social and urban needs. American Red Cross. America's Promise. Best Friends. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Before you get out of the A's and B's, the honor roll of secular community-serving nonprofits runs into the hundreds if not the thousands, and the social good they do touches literally millions.
Take just a single example, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. It's been around for nearly a hundred years. By this summer, on any given day, some 200,000 children will have a caring, well-matched adult mentor in their lives thanks to the Bigs. A systematic evaluation found that putting a Big into a needy urban child's life cut that child's probability of first-time illegal drug use in half, reduced violent (hitting) behavior by about a third, improved school attendance, and more. Joseph Tierney and Jean Baldwin Grossman, Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters (Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, 1995). Also see Cynthia L. Sipe, Mentoring: A Synthesis of P/PV's Research, 1988-1995 (Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, 1996).
Both faith-based and secular community-serving organizations rely greatly on volunteers, and, in both cases, those volunteers are drawn largely from churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions.
As Father Andrew Greely has noted, "frequency of church attendance and membership in church organizations correlate strongly with voluntary service. People who attend services once a week or more are approximately twice as likely to volunteer as those who attend rarely if ever." Even a third of persons who volunteer for specifically secular activities also relate their service 'to the influence of a relationship based in their religion." Andrew Greely, "The Other Civic America: Religion and Social Capital," American Prospect, May-June 1997, pp. 70, 72. Or, as Gallup has observed, "churches and other religious bodies are the major supporters of voluntary services for neighborhoods and communities. Members of a church or synagogue'tend to be much more involved in charitable activity, particularly through organized groups." Gallup, "Religion in America," op. cit., p. 2.
Metaphorically speaking, community-serving faith-based organizations are the army ants of civil society, daily leveraging ten times their human and financial weight in social good. Or, as I have elsewhere described them, they are the paramedics of urban civil society, saving lives and restoring health, answering emergencies with miracles.
But, as Professor Cnaan has noted, "no matter how they exert themselves" --and, by implication, no matter how much, or how strategically, we help them'they can improve or "complement," but not replace, "state services." To dramatize the point, just consider that, even if all 353,000 religious congregations in America doubled their annual budgets and devoted them entirely to the cause, and even if, at the same time, the costs of government social welfare programs were magically cut overnight by a fifth, the congregations could barely cover a year's worth of Washington's spending on these programs, and never even come close to covering total program costs. Cnaan and Yancey, "Our Hidden," op. cit., p. 159. According to Independent Sector data (see note 5 above), in 1996 the total revenue for congregations was $81.2 billion. Following the example given, double that to $162 billion. In 1995, Washington expended $204 billion on Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, housing assistance, food and of religious nutrition, and other aid to low-income citizens; see Gary Burtless et al., "The Future of the Social Safety Net," in Robert D. Reischauer, ed., Setting Budget Priorities (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1997), p. 79. Cutting $204 billion by a fifth leaves $160 billion. And remember: that's only the federal share of social welfare program costs. For example, in 1995, on Medicaid alone, the states spent nearly $70 billion; see John J. Dilulio, Jr. and Richard P. Nathan, "Introduction," in Frank Thompson and John J. Dilulio, Jr.,eds., Medicaid and Devolution: A View From the States (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1998), p. 4.
By the same token, even the oldest and best-performing networks of secular nonprofit organizations, if they are truly to help transform lives, resurrect blighted neighborhoods, and achieve civic results at citywide or national scale, need help. For example, as Big Brothers Big Sisters Board Chairman, the Honorable former U.S. Senator Dan Coats, has noted, on any given day America is home to as many as 15 million at-risk children who could use a caring, well-matched mentor, including the hundreds of thousands of low-income urban children who have one or both parents incarcerated. Honorable Dan Coats, speaking at Greater Exodus Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA, September 15, 2000.
Compassionate Conservatism For Church-State Separation
President George W. Bush has been absolutely steadfast in articulating a caring, common sense vision of compassionate conservatism.
The President's compassionate conservatism enlists government effort but resists government growth.
His vision comprehends both the strengths and the limits of faith-based and community initiatives. It calls on the rest of us to help those who help the "least of these" by giving them more of our own time and more of our own money.
Compassionate conservatism warmly welcomes godly people back into the public square while respecting and upholding, without fail, our wise, benevolent constitutional traditions governing church, state, and civic pluralism. It fosters model public/private partnerships so that community-based organizations, religious and non-religious, can work together and across racial, denominational, urban/ suburban, and other divides to achieve civic results.
And it challenges Washington to work overtime and in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that the social programs taxpayers fund, and the networks of nonprofit organizations that help to administer those programs, are performance-managed, performance-measured, and open to competition from qualified community-serving organizations, large or small, young or old, sacred or secular.
In his July 22, 1999 speech in Indianapolis, "The Duty of Hope," then-Governor George W. Bush rejected the "destructive" idea that "if government would only get out of the way, all our problems would be solved." We should, he argued, look "first to faith-based organizations, charities, and community groups that have shown their ability to save and change lives." "There are," however, "some things government should be doing--like Medicaid for poor children." The challenges faced by community groups "are often greater than their resources." Rather than asking them to "make bricks without straw," Washington must rally support--"both public and private?"--to the "local armies of compassion" that are so often "outflanked" and "outgunned."
Compare then-Governor Bush's early words to the relevant passages (and numbers) in now-President Bush's first budget blueprint. A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America's Priorities (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001), pp. 55-57, Table S-5. This President keeps his promises. This Chief Executive won't rest until he translates his compassionate vision into concrete policy and effective action.
Likewise, from "The Duty of Hope" speech to the present, President Bush has been steadfast in stating that faith-based and community initiatives will be promoted, but in ways that honor the First Amendment. Here's a representative sample of his statements on the subject over the last four weeks:
Government cannot be replaced by charities or
government should not fund religious activities. (Speech to Congress,
February 28, 2001)
I strongly respect the separation of church
and state--I am a secular official.
(Press Conference, February 23, 2001)
Our plan will not favor religious institutions
over non-religious institutions.
As President I'm interested in what's constitutional, and I'm interested in
(Remarks at National Prayer Breakfast, February 1, 2001)
Government, of course, cannot fund, and will
not fund, religious activities.
(Remarks at Fishing School, January 30, 2001)
(W)e will not fund a church or a synagogue or
a mosque or any religion,
but instead, will be funding programs that affect people in a positive way.
(Press Conference, January 29, 2001)
We will not fund the religious activities of
any group, but when people of
faith provide social services, we will not discriminate against them.
(Remarks in Announcement of Office, January 29, 2001)
The paramount goal is compassionate results,
and 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--The delivery of social services must be
results-oriented and should value the bedrock principles of pluralism,
nondiscrimination, evenhandedness, and neutrality.
(Executive Order Establishing Office, January 29, 2001)
The President has asked former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith to assume a post at the Corporation for National Service, advise him, and assist my office. The Mayor and I have consistently echoed and amplified the President's constitutionally correct and socially sound stance on church-state separation. For example, Mayor Goldsmith at a White House Press Briefing, January 30, 2001: "Secondly, consistent with what you heard before, and consistent with the views of all of us, that government should not fund religion, period--So no money for religion." Yours, writing in The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2001: "First, nobody has suggested that--government should fund programs that make religious profession a condition of receiving services. To put it bluntly, government is not going to 'fund religion.' "
Why an Office Of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives?
So, let me just say it again: Washington's not funding religion or sectarian worship. What we are doing--or, dare I say, what we're fixin' to do--is three interrelated things.
First, we aim to boost charitable giving, both human and financial. The first financial boosts are in the President's budget plan, which, among other relevant provisions, would permit 80 million non-itemizers -- 70 percent of all taxpayers -- to deduct charitable contributions. The human boosts are embodied in the President's use of the bully pulpit in valuing volunteers, and in Mayor Goldsmith's hopes for retooling AmeriCorps in ways that put college-educated, public-spirited young adults at the disposal of the small faith-based and community organizations that need them. (AmeriCorps already has people in urban community-serving ministries and such, but we aim to refine and enlarge their participation on behalf of needy children, youth, and families.)
Second, we are authorized to form centers and conduct program audits in five Cabinet Agencies--Justice, Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development.
This is easily the most crucial, but least well-understood, part of our mission. It's about paving the path to civic results through greater government solicitude for faith-based and community organizations. It's the real civic rationale for Charitable Choice. So, please permit me to explain it a bit. For overviews, see Donald F. Kettl, Government By Proxy: (Mis)Managing Federal Programs (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1988) and Sharing Power: Public Governance and Private Markets (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993). Also see John J. Dilulio, Jr. et al., Improving Government Performance: An Owner's Manual (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993), and James Q. Wilson and John J. Dilulio, Jr., American Government, Eighth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001), chapter 13.
In sum, since the end of World War II, virtually every domestic policy program that Washington has funded in whole or in part has been administered not by federal civil servants alone (there are about 2 million of those today, roughly the same number as in 1960), but by federal workers in conjunction with state and local government employees, for-profit firms, and non-profit organizations. There are, for example, six people who work indirectly for Washington for every one federal bureaucrat who administers social programs.
Certain nonprofit organizations, both religious and secular, have long been funded in whole or in part through this federal "government-by-proxy" system. Some, no doubt, deserve their privileged positions because they have produced measurable civic results. Others, however, are in because...they're in.
Despite a far-reaching 1993 federal law (the first ever of its kind) requiring federal agencies to do performance-managed, performance-measured grant-making, you can still count on your fingers and toes the number of government-by-proxy programs that have really put nonprofit providers to the test.
Let's suppose you knew for a fact that, in a given city administrative territory or unit, a quarter of all, say, housing rehabilitation work got done each year by community-based organizations, religious and secular (or religious and secular working in tandem). Suppose, too, that you noticed that barely a penny of every federal dollar for housing rehabilitation programs reached those very community-based organizations, while 99 cents went to other government-by-proxy providers, either for-profit or non-profit. What might you conclude?
Well, some fraction of the funding disparity might well be due to such innocent variables as size (other things equal, larger organizations get funded at higher rates than smaller ones) or capacity (other things equal, organizations with a proven performance record get funded while up-start organizations go begging).
But what if, in the administrative territory or unit at hand, even large, volunteer-based organizations that have rehabbed hundreds of houses for next to nothing have never been in the federal funding loop.
What if, as well, the area, despite decades of government-by-proxy program funding, still has a fifth of its housing abandoned or dilapidated, while nearby homeless shelters are bursting at the seams.
And, finally, what if some of the community-based organizations, either individually or together, had applied for government program support but were summarily rebuffed by federal, state, or local bureaucrats on this, that, or the other procedural or regulatory grounds.
Now, repeat this thought experiment with respect to almost any federally-funded domestic government-by-proxy program you fancy--after-school literacy programs funded decade-in, decade-out in neighborhoods where the fraction of children reading at or above grade-level is lower today than it was when the programs began; work-based welfare reform programs that boast ever more "job training hours" but get few clients into paying full-time jobs; crime prevention programs founded to serve juvenile offenders on community probation but more skilled at hiring adult "youth advocates" to communicate about the ostensible root causes of crime; you name it.
If many nonprofits in the government-by-proxy network have never had any meaningful performance evaluation; if their claims of greater "capacity" are mainly proxies for their bigger staffs; and if their public poses as people who are "up close and personal" in the lives of the citizens whom they serve are belied by the fact that they have more personnel in the suites than on the streets, then, purely in the interest of helping those in need while generating a better return on the public's investment in social programs, why shouldn't the leaders of qualified community and faith-based organizations--local groups that really have been doing this work for years and really do "put their hips where their lips" are in serving the poor--be able, if they so choose, to seek partial government funding on the same basis as any other non-governmental providers of social services?
What's Charitable Choice For?
That is why the President, a government reformer who demands business-like results, has explicitly directed my office to help level the federal funding playing field to "encourage and support the work of charities and faith-based and community groups," including small ones "that offer help and love one person at a time":
These groups are working in every neighborhood in America, to fight homelessness and addiction and domestic violence, to provide a hot meal or a mentor or a safe haven for our children. Government should welcome these groups to apply for funds, not discriminate against them . (Speech to Congress, February 28, 2001)
That is also precisely what "Charitable Choice" is all about. It's what, together with related performance-based reforms, is needed not only to better serve the poor and revitalize needy neighborhoods now, but also to help usher in what Michael Joyce of the Bradley Foundation has aptly termed a new, no-nonsense, post-Great Society "science of public administration."
What, exactly, is Charitable Choice, how does it "welcome" faith-based organizations to the federal government-by-proxy fold, and what, if any, real "church-state" or other problems does it pose?
There is enormous confusion on this score, so enormous that I sometimes think, given the obvious intelligence of the persons sowing the confusion, it must be purposeful (bad for truth-telling, but good for direct mail scare-tactic fund-raising?).
My office will soon be distributing detailed information on Charitable Choice, suitable for frontline Samaritans, average citizens, and agitated lawyers. But, for now, let me just highlight some of the main points.
In brief, President Clinton signed Charitable Choice into law on August 22, 1996. It thus has been on the books for almost five years now. It was a largely bipartisan and by-consensus provision of the otherwise uproariously contentious debate over the 1996 federal welfare law (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996). Essentially, it covered Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and welfare-to-work funding. Another Charitable Choice provision passed in 1998 (part of the Community Services Block Grant), and yet another, reaching some faith-based drug treatment programs, passed twice last year. Five years ago, Charitable Choice was little-noticed but landmark. Today, it's much-noticed and still landmark, but mainstream.
Under Charitable Choice, community-serving organizations, both religious and secular, can seek federal support on the same basis as any other non-governmental providers (for-profit or not-for-profit) of those services. Sacred places that serve civic purposes can seek federal (or federal-state) funding without having to divest themselves of their religious iconography or symbols.
They can, if you will, remain "Saint Vincent DePauls," and not be forced as a condition of receiving penny one of public funding to become "Mr. Vincent DePauls."
They can hum hymns even while they rehab houses and hammer nails.
They can say "God bless you" even when nobody in the health clinic has sneezed.
Why, they can even permit nuns in habits to rub shoulders with AmeriCorps volunteers in an after-school program operating out of an inner-city church basement.
As Professor Stephen Monsma has documented, for decades the sacred and secular have mixed in the administration of hundreds of taxpayer-supported programs. Stephen Monsma, When Sacred and Secular Mix: Religious Nonprofits and Public Money (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 1996), pp. 37-41. By some estimates, for example, a third or more of all day-care utilized in low-income urban neighborhoods with high concentrations of welfare-to-work recipients is provided by faith-based organizations.
Religious participation in day-care funding is specifically authorized by a 1990 federal law. However, as Professor Monsma shows, all too many other laws and regulations do not clearly authorize such involvement. Charitable Choice gives community-serving religious nonprofits and government officials specific guidelines that legitimate and guide the participation of faith-based organizations in federal funding programs.
To wit, faith-based providers that receive penny one of public money cannot'that's not--discriminate against beneficiaries on the basis of race, color, gender, age, national origin, disability, or religion.
Regarding religion, Charitable Choice reinforces federal anti-discrimination laws by explicitly prohibiting participating faith-based organizations from denying service to people "on the basis of religion, a religious belief, or refusal to actively participate in a religious practice."
Moreover, government must provide beneficiaries with religious objections to receiving services from a faith-based organization with an equivalent secular alternative. This means that accessing the alternatives must not place an undue burden on the beneficiary (no ridiculously long drives or such).
And if, as per the statutes, government fails to ensure ample and equivalent secular alternatives, if its actions have the effect of "diminishing the religious freedom of beneficiaries of assistance," then beneficiaries may enforce their rights against the government in a private cause of action for injunctive relief.
Also, federal law has long required an independent CPA audit of any group, religious or secular, that receives more than $300,000 a year in government funds. Charitable Choice flatly prohibits federal funds from being used "for sectarian worship, instruction, or proselytization." In the case of faith-based groups, Charitable Choice favors segregated accounts -- so do I -- and limits any audits to the walled-off government funds used for public purposes.
Despite these hefty and wholesome protections, critics variously charge Charitable Choice with seven supposedly deadly sins. For memory's sake, let's alliterate them as "huge leaks, horrible louts, hiring loopholes, and hijacked faith," plus "bogus alternatives, bloated agencies, and beltway business-as-usual."
Huge leaks? Some critics of Charitable Choice assert that, even where religious organizations form 501(c)(3) entities, there is no effective way to segregate fiscal accounts. Money, they remind us, is fungible, and tax dollars will leak between Bible studies and soup kitchens.
Well, money is fungible--in the entire government-by-proxy network.
Anyone who has ever actually worked in or studied secular nonprofits that get government grants (universities, ahem, come to mind) knows that funds sometimes "leak" between projects. But government has okay ways to detect and minimize that leakage, and there is absolutely nothing about community-based organizations, religious or secular, that places them beyond the reach of personnel, procurement, and other relevant protocols.
Horrible Louts? Others wrongly suppose that disagreeable, even hate-mongering, individuals and organizations that call themselves religious will somehow suddenly become eligible for federal funding under Charitable Choice.
For starters, what the Constitution requires of government is equal treatment, neither favoring nor disfavoring groups because they are religious. Again, the federal government will not distribute funds on a religious basis. Funds must go to non-governmental providers, religious or secular, that meet all relevant anti-discrimination laws, procurement procedures, and performance protocols.
Second, before Charitable Choice, any organization that could fill out grant application forms and afford the postage could apply for federal support. Some religious or quasi-religious groups that many citizens find offensive did so, and some got contracts for particular services.
Before Charitable Choice.
With and since Charitable Choice, the law still applies. But, if anything, by making it easier for qualified community-based organizations, religious or secular, to become part Washington's government-by-proxy networks, a duly-implemented Charitable Choice will increase competition, raise performance standards, and thereby make it less likely than before that groups more interested in advocacy (whatever they're advocating) than in service will merit grants.
Third, let's remember that there are at present many federally-funded secular nonprofits that represent ideological-political (as opposed to theological-religious) worldviews offensive to many Americans. In some cases, their approach to service delivery is rather plainly anchored more in ideological-political preferences than it is in any empirical evidence about what works, or any independent evaluations of their program efficacy.
Still, the Constitution gives taxpayers no right to insist that government decisions, including procurement decisions, will not offend their moral judgments. Evenhanded performance standards, not illegal, a priori procurement black lists, have been, and continue to be, government's best constitutional method for keeping horrible louts, religious or secular, on the outs.
Hiring Loopholes? Under Section 702, Title VII, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, religious organizations are permitted to discriminate in employment decisions on the basis of religion.
Charitable Choice preserves this 37-year-old right of religious organizations to take religion into account in their employment decisions. Even so, faith-based organizations that receive penny one of public funds may not discriminate in hiring, firing, or promotion decisions based on race, color, national origin, gender, age, and disability. And, as I have already noted, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, and religion, faith-based organizations that receive any taxpayer support must serve all beneficiaries and may not require them to participate in any religious components of the program.
Still, "Title VII," as the issue is now often short-handed, is perhaps the single most contentious aspect of Charitable Choice. It was not so hotly-debated an issue in the 1995-96 debates over Charitable Choice, but because critics' church-state objections had no traction, it is hotly debated now, and it does raise legitimate concerns on all sides.
Should receiving penny one of public money require religious organizations to hire people who are not co-religionists, and who may even be actively opposed to their beliefs, benevolent traditions, and service goals?
And, practically speaking, to what extent do the urban community-serving ministries'the faith-based organizations that are most likely to seek public grants to offset the costs of their social service delivery programs--presently discriminate in hiring on religious grounds?
As Professor Jeffrey Rosen pointed out in a recent essay, "without the ability to discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring and firing staff, religious organizations lose the right to define their organizational mission enjoyed by secular organizations that receive public funds...Planned Parenthood may refuse to hire those who don't share its views about abortion; equal treatment requires that churches, mosques, and synagogues have the same right to discriminate...The Supreme Court accepted this reasoning in 1988, when it upheld religious nonprofits" exemption from the federal law prohibiting religious discrimination. And by extending this exemption to religious groups that receive government funds, the charitable-choice law is careful to insist that these groups can discriminate in the hiring of staff but not in the treatment of beneficiaries." Jeffrey Rosen, "Religious Rights," The New Republic, February 26, 2001, p. 16.
I concur and so does my friend Senator Joseph Lieberman. Critics who contend that Title VII furnishes religious organizations with a special "hiring loophole" are simply wrong, unless by "hiring loophole" they mean "equal treatment." Rhetorically and polemically, it may be effective to assert that the exemption amounts to "legalized discrimination" of the "No Catholics or Jews Need Apply" variety. But honestly and intelligently, the exemption amounts to no such thing, not anymore than Catholics who believe and follow the Church's official teachings on social issues "need not apply" to many secular nonprofits presently funded, in whole or in part, through Washington's government-by-proxy system. To accept ideological reasons for employment discrimination as legitimate while rejecting theological ones out of hand is to arbitrarily, unfairly, and--or so I believe the courts will find--unconstitutionally relegate the civil rights of religious people in the public square to a limbo of lesser moral, intellectual, and civic significance.
Besides, all government-funded nonprofit organizations, religious or secular, ought to be judged according to whether they follow all relevant laws and achieve measurable, positive civic results. For example, there are today literally hundreds of federal "children, youth, and family" programs that fund nonprofits that are ostensibly receiving public support because they get results. But do they, and, if not, why not?
According to the noted Brookings Institution scholar Isabel V. Sawhill, the best available studies indicate that the path to strengthening families and improving the life prospects of needy children and youth can best be paved by programs that encourage marriage, discourage divorce, encourage responsible parenting, and discourage teen pregnancies. Isabel V. Sawhill, "Families At Risk," in Henry J. Aaron and Robert D. Reischauer, eds., Setting National Priorities: The 2000 Election and Beyond (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2000), chapter 4. Tax-supported secular nonprofits promote "sex education" and hire like-minded people. No strongly pro-life or pro-abstinence persons, religious or not, "need apply," but that is their right. But, after a generation-plus of funding, are their civic results so great as to overwhelm any concern about their hiring practices or allay any doubts about the empirical (as opposed to ideological) character of their "intervention" expertise? Or are they so plainly in line with mass public preferences that only people with extreme ideological or religious views would question their work? Hardly:
Efforts to reduce teen pregnancy have
traditionally centered on sex
education...The few careful evaluations find a mixed record of
effectiveness...Although most people believe that contraceptives should
remain available to teenagers, polls report that more than 90 percent
of the public believes that abstinence is the right standard for
school-age youth...The greater availability of contraception and
abortion during the past twenty-five years did not prevent an increase
in teen pregnancies and births, especially those out of wedlock. Ibid., pp. 124-125.
In a recent edition of The Public Interest, Dr. Sawhill called for involving faith-based organizations more fully in the delivery of tax-supported children, youth, and family programs. Her position is purely public-spirited and pragmatic. As I mentioned earlier, a Pew-commissioned poll found that most Americans view local religious congregations among the nation's top local problem-solving organizations.
What I did not mention, however, is that, in the same poll, the public ranked the federal government 14th (next to dead last) on that same list of community problem-solving organizations.
Maybe, just maybe, if the federal government pursued what works in its government-by-proxy efforts; maybe if the nonprofit organizations it enlisted to administer its services, whether secular or religious, both followed the laws and got real results; then perhaps we could improve government performance, increase public trust in government, and demonstrably and cost-effectively enhance the life prospects of needy persons whose lives are touched by what Washington funds.
Furthermore, the "Title VII" controversy is so heated because critics assume that the extent to which community-serving ministries engage in religion-grounded employment discrimination is so vast. Especially in urban America, that is not a safe assumption.
For starters, remember, we're talking mainly about volunteer organizations. "Employment," save for the minister himself or the assistant pastor or two, is often a moot issue.
Next, while no reliable data are yet available, my last six years studying the ways and means of urban community-serving ministries all across the country tell me that theirs is typically an all-hands-on-deck world in which people of all faiths--and of no faith--are "employed" (volunteer or get hired) so long as they will enter the prisons, change the bed pans, counsel the probated juvenile, tutor the inner-city child, and so on.
Take one of my own office's Associate Directors, Reverend Mark Scott. Reverend Scott is a former Air Force Captain, an engineer, and a library scientist. For the last decade-plus, he also was one of a dozen or so Pentecostal African-American ministers in Boston who worked closely with police, probation officers, and other government authorities to drive down youth crime, launch literacy programs, get ex-prisoners reconnected to their families and into decent jobs, and more.
The success of Reverend Scott's ministry has been heralded far and wide, including in the national press. What has not been so widely reported, however, are three things. First, the single most celebrated youth outreach worker in Boston is Tenny Gross, an Israeli-born secular Jew who has worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Reverend Scott and the Church of God in Christ ministers to save the city's at-risk youth.
Second, the ministry has received enormous help and worked in close collaboration with both the Catholic Church and local Jewish organizations and leaders.
Third, the ministry, with only a dozen or so core workers (most wholly unpaid), has several 501(c)(3) entities, which Reverend Scott and his colleagues sought, not because they absolutely had to by law, and certainly not because they enjoyed the lawyers' fees and the paperwork, but because they have their own good practical/administrative and theological/religious reasons for segregating program activities and accounts.
The plural of anecdote is not data, but I am almost certain that Reverend Scott's example is far closer to the norm, at least among urban community-serving ministries that provide preschool-to-prison social services, than what I, responding to a series of "Title VII" questions raised during the course of a 3-hour meeting with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and in a not-to-be-misunderstood locution, termed solely "bible-thumping" programs that provide no or merely incidental social services. Thomas B. Edsall, "Jewish Leaders Criticize 'Faith-Based' Initiative," The Washington Post, February 27, 2001.
Finally, among other "areas of agreement concerning government funding of religious organizations to provide social services," the American Jewish Committee's In Good Faith document correctly advises:
The Supreme Court has not addressed whether a
religious organization retains
the liberty to make employment decisions on the basis of religion in the case of
employees who work in programs or activities funded (in whole or in part) by,
or paid with, government money...(W)e agree that religious organizations retain
their ability to use religious criteria in employment for those positions in
nongovernmental programs that are wholly privately funded, regardless of
whether other programs or activities of the organization receive
government funds. In Good Faith: A Dialogue on Government Funding of
Faith-Based Organizations, Philadelphia, PA, Temple University,
Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, February 2001, p. 9.
That's right, and important. We will defend the right of religious organizations to hire staff who the organization's shares core beliefs and tenets. When and if the Court does rule, we will naturally follow its decision and reasoning both in letter and in spirit. Even were it to be held that a church-based program which receives public funds thereby loses its Title VII exemption, it would not follow that the parent church itself would, in all "non-governmental programs that are wholly privately funded," would, too. And neither, of course, would the long-standing tax-exempt status of religious organizations be affected.
Hijacked Faith? Some religious leaders, especially from within conservative evangelical Christian communities of faith, have worried out loud that religious bodies that receive government support will, over time, become dependent on Caesar's coin. In turn, they fear, the government/religious partnerships will enervate the spiritual identities and characters of the participating churches and stifle their prophetic voices. Even if strictly limited to public support for specific social service delivery programs, they fear, the resulting secularizing influences put the churches on a super-slippery slope to losing the "faith" in "faith-based." And, despite how it protects participating religious organizations from having to divest themselves of their religious symbols and such, Charitable Choice, they correctly note, does require them to meet all relevant federal anti-discrimination and other laws, to ensure that program funds are not spent for religious worship, and so on.
Such concerns are entirely understandable, and, for many congregation leaders and faith communities, ought to be controlling. Charitable Choice ought to be open to all qualified community-serving groups, but not all groups ought to participate. Faith leaders, organizations, and communities that perceive the slope as secularizing and slippery ought simply to opt out.
But, in all fairness, let's remember that America's faith communities are as diverse in their traditions of public/private partnerships as they are in their theological understandings.
In particular, compared to predominantly ex-urban white evangelical churches, urban African-American and Latino faith communities have benevolent traditions and histories that make them generally more dedicated to community-serving missions, and generally more confident about engaging public and secular partners in achieving those missions without enervating their spiritual identities or religious characters. There are, to be sure, many urban clergy who want nothing whatsoever to do with government as well. But the "hijacked faith" fears expressed by some are less pointed and less prevalent in metropolitan America. As Professor Cnaan learned, when Charitable Choice is explained to them, large fractions of urban community-serving ministers say "amen." Cnaan, Keeping Faith, op. cit.
To cite a few hometown examples, if a Reverend W. Wilson Goode or a Reverend Luis Cortez want to seek public support for their services and programs on the same basis as any other non-governmental providers of those services; if their faith motivates them to be ready, willing, and joyously able to participate in public/private and religious/ secular partnerships that achieve civic results; then why should the fears or reluctance of other religious leaders debar or deter them from acting in accordance with their own best theological understandings and social commitments?
They most definitely should not.
With all due respect, and in all good fellowship, predominantly white, ex-urban evangelical and national para-church leaders, should be careful not to presume to speak for any persons other than themselves and their own churches.
As I need not tell this audience, and as I was quite explicit in telling Christianity Today, Tim Safford, "The Criminologist Who Discovered Churches," Christianity Today, July 14, 1999. there are some old wounds within the churches that have yet to heal, wounds that require greater efforts at racial reconciliation and would benefit from less talk and more wholehearted "truth and action," as in 1 John 3:17 (NRSV):
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
In all truth and grace, and speaking now only for myself and as a fellow Christian, I would call upon the National Association of Evangelicals to (as we say on the inner-city streets) get real--and get affiliated church leaders and their congregations to get real-- about helping the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and others among "the least of these."
We all have to have ears to hear and a heart to listen--and act. It's fine to fret about "hijacked faith," but to many brothers and sisters who are desperately ministering to the needs of those who the rest of us in this prosperous society have left behind, such frets would persuade more and rankle less if they were backed by real human and financial help.
It's fine to speak as if with a universally representative religious voice, but what gets spoken from afar gets duly discounted when it reaches the neighborhood "Josephs"--and "Josephines"--who have so little of anybody's resources, including the church's--let me say that again in case you missed it: including the church's--but do so much of the church's actual, on-the-ground, Christ-like service to those in dire need.
America needs Charitable Choice. Government needs better networks of social service providers, religious and secular. Faith-based and community initiatives must be promoted in the interests of improving government performance and enhancing public trust. Community helpers and healers need and deserve our individual and collective help.
But they would need it less, much less, if the church behaved like the church, unified from city to suburb, working across racial and denominational divides, on behalf of broken lives and breadless families. 1 John 3:18 asks:
How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Some say Charitable Choice places churches in "competition" with each other for public funds. Apart from the fact that nobody is placing anybody in public competition for anything, what about the fact that the private competition for funds--including the literally hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent each year by national para-church organizations'seems hardly to reach, and only weakly and episodically to benefit, the community-serving urban churches that witness "truth and action" to the poor every blessed day?
"Hijacked faith" can take many forms, few more harmful than the self-hijack that honors the poor in "word or speech" alone, if that.
There are also many slippery slopes in a faith life, like the one-way slopes to the suburbs and away from out-of-sight, out-of-mind human suffering and unmet social needs.
In Philadelphia, Reverend Herbert Hoover Lusk, III has mobilized inner-city ministries and worked with predominantly white churches in the city's suburbs and outer-rim regions on a wide range of community-serving projects, from welfare-to-work projects to mentoring prisoners' children, and more. You may remember Reverend Lusk as the minister featured on the opening night of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
It can be done. It should be done. But, whatever government does, it won't be done unless more evangelical Christians and organizations like the NAE get real--and get it done in "truth and action," all in His name. That would be a very charitable choice indeed.
Finally, the concern that nonprofit organizations can grow overly dependent on government funds must be taken seriously, but no more seriously with respect to religious than secular ones.
For example, political scientists Stephen Rathgeb Smith and Michael Lipsky studied 13 nonprofits located in New England, most of them founded before 1850, and most of them secular. Stephen Rathgeb Smith and Michael Liupsky, Nonprofits For Hire: The Welfare State in the Age of Contracting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). In 1960, only two of them received penny one of government support. By 1970, two received most of their funding from government. By 1980, ten were receiving a majority of their budgets from government.
The post-1960 phenomenon of "nonprofits for hire," as Smith and Lipsky term it, has also dramatically increased the government fraction of all funding received by any number of Catholic and Jewish social service organizations. Many believe that the government funding, either alone or in concert with other factors and trends, has had a profoundly secularizing effect on these organizations.
While there are no well-researched rules for avoiding that fate, it seems rather clear that once any organization, religious or secular, receives more than a quarter to half of its funding from any single source, it risks its independence and ability to remain faithful to core values and original missions. Among other reasons, and as I will explain momentarily, that is why performance-based contracting should be short-term, and why, with respect to the so-called Compassion Capital Fund proposed by President Bush, the federal contribution would constitute not more than a quarter in the dollar of any model public/private community-serving program, religious or secular.
Bogus alternatives? As I have already discussed, Charitable Choice requires that government provide beneficiaries with an equivalent secular alternative. Still, some worry that, even with the best intentions and strongest administrative hands, the government won't be able to honor this guarantee.
Ensuring an alternative in rural areas might be quite a challenge. So far, though, as a study last year by Amy Sherman shows, officials are doing just fine. In the nine states she investigated, there were only two instances when a person needing help requested a secular alternative to the faith-based provider, and officials immediately provided that alternative. Amy Sherman, The Growing Impact of Charitable Choice: A Catalogue of New Collaborations Between Government and Faith-Based Organizations in Nine States (Washington, D.C.: Center for Public Justice, March 2000). Since officials in the past typically contracted mainly with secular programs, Charitable Choice will most likely just add to the options available in rural and urban areas, rather than diminishing them. In any case, Charitable choice requires government officials to find a way to provide that secular alternative. We will hold to that requirement.
Bloated agencies? I have heard reports and read magazine articles asserting that my office would have over 100 employees (mostly new hires) and necessitate an explosion in state and local government employment to monitor and manage the scores of billions of dollars that we (according to one quoted source) will have coursing through the Department of Education alone.
The office opened on February 20, 2001. The core office staff, myself included, will be 7 to 10 people including support staff. The five cabinet centers won't be official/operational till 45 days following the signing of the relevant Executive Order. The five cabinet centers will have a total of not more than 40 workers, many of them assigned career public servants, not new hires. The five audits, as per the relevant Executive Order will recommend changes in regulations that discriminate against qualified community-based providers, both religious and secular. These recommendations could be accepted or rejected and, if accepted, could in due course result in government-by-proxy grant-making changes that affect billions of dollars. (We sure hope so!)
The White House Office will not be disbursing grants itself, but rather ensuring that federal programs are as accessible, open and hospitable to faith-based groups as possible. Indeed, if past experience with performance-based initiatives holds, our office will, if anything, reduce the administrative personnel needs up and down the government-by-proxy chain. After all, while tracking process protocols is a labor-intensive business, tracking performance protocols is considerably less so--and considerably more productive of cost-effective civic results to boot.
Beltway business-as-usual? Some have asserted or insinuated that, because Charitable Choice passed repeatedly, and despite the problems that we ourselves have identified with its implementation to date (for example, only one church in all of Philadelphia has yet to receive support for social service delivery under the terms of the 1996 provision), our "real endgame" is simply to ram another set of charitable choice laws through Congress, claim political credit, pacify interested constituencies, and, win or lose, be able to say we made good (or tried to make good, but...) on relevant campaign promises.
Anyone who thinks that doesn't get just how close to the President's heart faith-based and community initiatives are. That's why we're taking a deliberative approach, and focusing first on conducting our audits, studying competing ideas, weighing competing perspectives, and looking forward to forging model public/private partnerships. That's why we're following our principles, correcting misconceptions, and reaching out widely.
My good friend Joe Klein, the New Yorker political columnist, likes to quip that cynicism is what passes for profundity among the mediocre. Washington business-as-usual feeds cynicism, but there's nothing cynical about what we're hoping to achieve or how we're hoping to achieve it.
Maybe those who cynically insist otherwise missed U.S. Senator, and former Democratic candidate for Vice President, Joe Lieberman by the President's side on January 30, 2001 when, together, they visited The Fishing School, a small community-serving ministry in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. Also see Senator Lieberman's excellent remarks on faith-based and community initiatives, as delivered at the National Press Club, Washingtron, D.C., March 1, 2001, as part of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Maybe they weren't watching the President's first address to Congress when he praised Philadelphia's Mayor John Street, a Democrat who helped deliver an over 300,000-vote margin in my city to Vice President Gore.
Or maybe they think that all that's just symbolic politics or such.
Compassion Capital: Seeding Citywide Public/Private Programs
Truly, it's not. In addition to increasing charitable giving, human and financial, and beyond leveling the federal funding playing field and improving government-by-proxy programs through performance-based grant-making and Charitable Choice, our third goal is to seed or expand selected model public/private programs that involve community-based organizations in meeting civic needs.
Official Washington must look for such models beyond the beltway. It must look to mayors and local leaders like Philly's Mayor Street, who beat the President to the punch by establishing his own Office of Faith-Based and Voluntary Action in City Hall last year. This past New Year's Day, Mayor Street, joined by four-score of local clergy, visited inmates in the city's prisons. With former Philadelphia Mayor, now Reverend, W. Wilson Goode, Mayor Street, joined by several national secular nonprofit organizations and networks of community-serving ministries, has encouraged the development of model public/private programs that involve community-based organizations in meeting civic needs.
Two such Philly programs in which I have had a hand are the Amachi mentoring program and the Youth Education for Tomorrow, or YET, literacy program.
Amachi is a West African word that roughly translates into English as "who knows what God has brought us through this child." Working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and with core support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, during just its first six weeks, the program mobilized nearly 500 volunteers through local churches. Beginning this month, the volunteers, some 40 percent of them males, will be matched as Bigs with the children of incarcerated adults. Consider that, pre-Amachi, the city had a total of about 500 Bigs for all children. Consider also that, at 1,000 Bigs, half with prisoners? children in the city's poorest neighborhoods, Philly will be the country's biggest Big site. And consider that'the program is just getting started. If the religious volunteers continue to mobilize, and research on this Big program yields results equal to or greater than the program evaluation results referenced earlier, Reverend Goode will be ready. He and his community-serving crew aim to get a loving, caring adult mentor into the life of every prisoner's child whose parent or guardian requests one.
YET centers are led by Dr. Marciene Mattelman, a top literacy expert and pioneer in the field of community-based reading programs who served on President Clinton's national literacy commission. Working with public schools and through local religious organizations, Dr. Mattelman has opened 21 YETs citywide. YETs take only children who are at least two full grades below reading level. On a shoestring budget, the first YETs got rolling in the summer of 2000. The children meet after school at least three days a week. Each YET center meets two-dozen program standards. Each session lasts for 90 minutes. Testing on the first 200 YET children found that, after only a few months in the program, most had advanced by over one full grade in reading level. That's highly promising, but still preliminary. If the results stay strong, Dr. Mattelman expects to expand YETs citywide so that every child or young person who needs help reading can get it within walking distance of their schools or homes.
I suspect that it was public/private programs like Amachi and YET that the President had in the back of his mind when he told Catholic leaders about his "office's commitment to faith-based initiatives" and highlighted "mentoring initiatives and after-school programs." Remarks at Meeting with Catholic Leaders, January 31, 2001.
But these are hardly the only such initiatives that ought to excite hope and interest far and wide. For example, America today faces a huge pending problem with delivering quality services to infirm elderly persons. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey has led the way in fostering initiatives that mobilize religious volunteers into "eldercare." A two-day conference earlier this week at Duke University brought together key medical, philanthropic, and religious leaders to explore ways of refining and enlarging such community-serving partnerships.
The Compassion Capital Fund proposed by the President would provide federal support on a public/private matching basis to model initiatives that harness the strengths of community-based organizations, religious and secular, and harbor a promise of being able to address unmet civic needs at citywide or national scale.
While we are still discussing the contours of the Fund (there are several federal matching fund precedents worth examining), my hope and expectation is that it will be structured and administered so as to advance the President's idea of devolution: "Resources are to be devolved, not just to the States, but to the neighborhood healers who need them most." A Blueprint, op. cit., p. 56. Also see "The Duty of Hope," July 22, 1999. Ideally, beyond any seeding phase, Fund support would never constitute more
than a quarter in any fully operational, at-scale program dollar, with the rest coming from local government support and private, corporate, or philanthropic support. Where possible and appropriate, secular nonprofits could serve as lead agencies, much as in the Philadelphia examples.
Vouchers, Yes; Tax-Funded Sectarian Worship, No
In sum, when it comes to our three interrelated goals--increasing charitable giving, human and financial; leveling the playing field to meet civic needs and improve government performance; and seeding or expanding model public/private, religious/secular programs that promise measurable results at citywide or national scale--we could not be more eager to get rolling.
Likewise, when it comes to the anti-discrimination laws that accompany Charitable Choice, and to church-state separation itself, we're simply saying what we believe the Constitution requires, what's good for the country, and what's right, period.
Some say that my office is being cross-pressured or forced to choose between the left or secular opinion, on the one side, and conservative evangelical opinion, on the other side.
Truly, I feel no such pressure at all. The President has been absolutely steadfast. The Constitution's clear. Inter-faith, ecumenical, public/private and religious/secular opportunities to serve those in need are many and exciting. False controversies and other inevitable distractions aside, our hearts are joyous and light.
We sincerely welcome the questions and concerns about faith-based and community initiatives expressed by so many journalists, by such friends as Howard Berkowitz of the Anti-Defamation League, Melissa Rogers formerly of the Baptist Joint Committee, John Carr of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, Julie Segal formerly of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, and by so many other good people of good will.
Pluralistic dialogues, not polarizing labels, will unite us in promoting faith-based and community initiatives on behalf of the least, the last, and the lost of our society. A superb example is the document released last week by the American Jewish Committee, and which I cited earlier, In Good Faith: A Dialogue on Government Funding of Faith-Based Social Services.
The document grew out work by the noted historian and civil rights leader Dr. Murray Friedman. It was the product of three years of inter-faith, ecumenical, and religious/secular debate and joint study. It found much precious common ground while leaving plenty to argue over as well. It's available from the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University in Philadelphia. I highly recommend it.
"Proselytizing" and "evangelizing" can take many different forms. Dr. Friedman and the other signatories of In Good Faith write:
In federal statutes, this proscription (i.e.,
organizations may not
use government funds for religious activities) is commonly expressed
as a requirement not to use government funds for worship, religious
instruction, or proselytizing...In most situations, determining whether
particular activities fall into these categories will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. In Good Faith: A Dialogue on
Government Funding of Faith-Based Social Services, Philadelphia, PA,
Temple University, Feinstein Center for American Jewish History,
February 2001, p. 8.
But some situations are simpler than others:
Teaching values or beliefs as religious tenets constitutes religious instruction or proselytizing. An example would be urging a beneficiary to accept Jesus Christ or some other religious faith as the only way to move from welfare into employment. Ibid.
Religious organizations can include specifically or strictly religious activities in their programs, but they cannot use public funds to pay for such activities. It helps to think in terms of a continuum of social services and civic results.
At one end--the least problematic end from a church-state perspective--you have, say, faith-based organizations that do housing rehab work. They mobilize their volunteers from the churches. They park their lumber in the church parking lots. They may pray for good weather when working outdoors, but it's all about faith-motivated good works in the form of hammering and plumbing.
Down the continuum from the housing rehab program is, say, a youth mentoring program in which a secular nonprofit mobilizes religious volunteers directly through churches that receive small stipends for their trouble.
Still farther down the continuum is a part-religious/part-secular program where clients spend half their time with psychiatric social workers.
And, at the other pole of the continuum, there is, say, a faith-based drug treatment program that, as in the foregoing example, is all about urging each beneficiary to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Its indivisibly conversion-centered "treatment modality" takes the following form:
Your problem is X. To cure X, you must believe Y. Y is a religious belief. We help you come to believe Y. Our mission, independent of X, is to profess Y, and to bring more people to freely profess Y with us.
Recall once again that programs can receive government support only if they follow all relevant anti-discrimination laws that protect clients, duly segregate accounts, serve secular or civic purposes, and prove results. The hybrid religious/secular program can use any public pennies to fund the psychiatric social workers, but not the specifically or strictly religious activities. The indivisibly conversion-centered program that cannot separate out and privately fund its inherently religious activities, can still receive government support, but only via individual vouchers.
For instance, as a condition of parole, a state requires an adult exiting prison to receive drug treatment, secure in the knowledge that anything done to reduce substance abuse will reduce the likelihood of recidivism and otherwise improve the ex-prisoner's future life prospects as a family man, a worker, and a law-abiding citizen. The authorities give the parolee a state-approved list of two-dozen drug treatment programs within 25 minutes of his home. Most are secular and represent a range of treatment modalities, from residential counseling to coerced abstinence and beyond. Others, however, are faith-based, ranging from hybrid programs to proselytizing programs.
If the adult freely chooses to use his or her public voucher to receive services via a proselytizing program, then, provided that ample and equivalent secular alternatives are available to him or her, no constitutional or legal lines are crossed.
It is especially important for evangelical leaders to remember that the "faith" in "faith-based" can take many forms. Not all faith-based organizations and programs that have the potential to serve their communities and achieve measurable civic results are evangelizing organizations and programs. Most, in fact, are not. Programs like Amachi and YET rely on religious organizations and faith-motivated volunteers without ever encouraging or requiring anyone to profess any particular religious belief. Catholic schools perform minor miracles in inner-city neighborhoods on behalf of poor children (mostly non-Catholic) without requiring anyone to profess any particular faith.
The largest single civic comparative advantage of faith-based initiatives is their large, but largely under-mobilized, volunteer bases, not their faith-specific conversion efforts or proselytizing practices.
Some evangelical organizations perform great civic good works, but their performance in reducing drug addiction relapse rates and achieving other desirable civic goals awaits suitably scientific documentation by qualified independent researchers. I have faith in the "faith factor", but we need unflinching, empirical data that conclusively verifies strong outcomes.
Besides, as any self-respecting evangelical Christian will gladly admit, the express goal of some evangelical ministries is, indeed, conversion. The Bible gets read in evangelical literacy programs not because it's graded reading material (it's not), but because...it's the Bible! Prisoners and their children hear the Word, and program workers preach it, not because it achieves civic results, but because...it's the Word!
As I learned quite explicitly during my time serving on the Board of Prison Fellowship Ministries, evangelicals would still read the Bible, and still preach the Word, whether or not studies showed that doing so demonstrably raised reading scores, reduced recidivism, or kept prisoners' children from the cycle of crime and violence.
Spiritual evangelization cannot and should not be justified by cold empirical evaluation. Strictly conversion-focused ministries cannot be tethered to rigid performance protocols. Faith definitions of "transformation" ("he's saved") are not the same as secular ones ("he's still doing crimes").
Speaking as a born-again Catholic, I would not want genuinely evangelical ministries to be or behave otherwise. And, speaking at the same time as a taxpayer and secular official, I would never support tax-funded worship or evangelizing. The President's ambitious agenda is rooted in pluralism and voluntariness and measurable outcomes, and he welcomes good work from people of faith -- whether Methodist, Muslim or Mormon -- or good people of no faith at all.
Two Weeks and Counting
On Tuesday, my office had its two-week-old birthday. We're eager to be known by our works, but we hope that people will give us, well, at least a month or two to get rolling. We're not in this to be 90-day wonders, and so we wouldn't mind at least 90 days before reading stories about our rise or demise.
Finally, I want to thank those of you here, and the many hundreds of people all across the country, who have called or sent notice of their support for what we're trying to accomplish under the President's plan and in accordance with his "truth and action" vision.
We all appreciate your support and your prayers.
To me, the essential Christian social teaching is that there are no "strangers," only brothers and sisters we have yet to meet, greet, get to know, and come to love. I pray daily that I may honor that teaching in word and deed. I hope I have done so here today.
My favorite hymn--don't worry, I won't sing it--but my favorite hymn is "Here I Am, Lord." One verse goes,
Here I am Lord. Is it I
Lord? I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.
Together, let's hold each other and all God's children, especially our poor and needy, Christian and non-Christian alike, in our hearts.
If we do, then yesterday's disagreements and today's misunderstandings will be eclipsed tomorrow by faith-based and community initiatives so self-emptying in their obedience and love that they move the very heart of God.
If any evangelical organization can light the way to "truth and action" it is, I believe, the National Association of Evangelicals.
Thank you. God bless you.