White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) is a department under the Office of the President of the United States that was established by President George W. Bush through executive order [cite press release
title = President Bush Attends Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives' National Conference
publisher = The White House
date = June 26, 2008
url = http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/06/20080626-20.html
accessdate = 2008-06-30
] on January 29, 2001, and which represents one of the key domestic policies of Bush's campaign promise of "compassionate conservatism." The initiative seeks to strengthen faith-based and community organizations and expand their capacity to provide federally-funded social services, with the idea being that these groups are well-situated to meet the needs of local individuals. As Texas governor Bush had used the "Charitable Choice" provisions of the 1996 welfare reform (which allowed "faith-based" entities to compete for government contracts to deliver social services) to support faith-based groups in Texas.

The office was briefly led by Don Willett, an aide from Bush's tenure as governor of Texas, who is now a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas). The first person named as director of the OFBCI was John DiIulio, a University of Pennsylvania political science professor. DiIulio later left the office and became a critic of the Bush administration.

Critics of the OFBCI, including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union, assert that it violates the Establishment Clause by using tax money to fund religion.

For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2005, the total dollar amount of all grants awarded to FBOs increased by 21 percent (GAO 2006:43cite paper |title=Faith-Based and Community Initiative: Improvements in Monitoring Grantees and Measuring Performance Could Enhance Accountability |publisher=United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) |date=June 2006 |url=http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06616.pdf |format=PDF ] ). The majority of these grants were distributed through state agencies to local organizations in the form of formula grants (GAO 2006:17).

afeguards on faith-based organizations

Faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in federally administered social service programs to the same degree as any other group, although certain restrictions on FBOs that accept government funding have been created by the White House to protect separation of church and state.
*They may not use direct government funds to support inherently religious activities such as prayer, worship, religious instruction, or proselytization.
*Any inherently religious activities that the organizations may offer must be offered separately in time or location from services that receive federal assistance.
*FBOs cannot discriminate on the basis of religion when providing services (GAO 2006:13).

Controversy

*The preservation of separation of church and state was noted as one of major issues with the Faith-Based Initiatives laws. Critics have noted that millions in government grants have gone to ministries operated by political supporters of the Bush administration, or have been given to minority pastors who recently committed their support. ["The Washington Post", October 3, 2002, re Pat Robertson;] [ "The New York Times", May 3, 2005, re Rev. Luis Cortez;David D. Kirkpatrick] ["The New York Times", March 30, 2006, re Bishop Sedgwick Daniels] ["Los Angeles Times", January 18, 2005, re Rev. Herb Lusk, Bishop Harold Ray] [ Rev. Sun Myung Moon] [PBS.org Bill Moyer’s Now transcript, September 26, 2004 re Faith Partners]
* In October 2006, David Kuo, the former second-in-command of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, revealed that "White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly 'nonpartisan' events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15228489/] . Additionally, that "the money that was appropriated and disbursed, however, often served a political agenda [...] with organizations friendly to the administration often winning grants." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15228489/]
*According to a report from the government accountability office, four of the major federal agencies refuse to include references to the safeguards in their monitoring tools, and have stated that FBOs should not be singled out for greater oversight on the basis of their religious affiliations (GAO 2006:29,55).

*In June, 2006, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt ruled that a faith based-program at a Newton, Iowa prison called InnerChange, operated by Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries, unconstitutionally used tax money for a religious program that gave special privileges to inmates who accepted its evangelical Christian teachings and terms. “For all practical purposes," Judge Pratt said, "the state has literally established an Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one its penal institutions, giving the leaders of that congregation, i.e., InnerChange employees, authority to control the spiritual, emotional, and physical lives of hundreds of Iowa inmates.” [cite news
last = Henriques
first = Diana B.
coauthors = Andrew Lehren
title = Religion for Captive Audiences, With Taxpayers Footing the Bill
publisher = New York Times
date = December 10, 2006
url = http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/business/10faith.html?pagewanted=print
accessdate = 2008-06-30
] [See "Americans United v. Prison Fellowship Ministries", 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36970, June 2, 2006]

*On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in "Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation" that executive orders may not be challenged on Establishment Clause grounds by individuals whose sole claim to legal standing is that they are taxpayers. Both of Bush's appointees, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito, sided with the majority.
*The first head of the department, Jim Towey, in a session of "Ask the Whitehouse" dated November 26, 2003, stated in regards to a question about pagan faith-based organizations

"I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it." [http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20031126.html Jim Towey on Ask the Whitehouse] ]
Pagans reacted angrily to the label 'fringe group', the suggestion that pagans are uncompassionate, the idea that they would apply for funding only to promote ideology, and the exclusion of pagan organizations implicit in the statement. [http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-88143980.html Washington Post Article on Pagan reaction to Towey's statements] ]

References

Books

*cite book |first=Lew|last=Daly| title=God and the Welfare State | year=2006 | publisher=The MIT Press | id=ISBN 0-262-04236-3
*cite book | authorlink = David Kuo|first=David|last=Kuo| title= |year=2006 | publisher=Free Press | id=ISBN 0-7432-8712-6

External links

* [http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/fbci/ White House FBCI Office - Official site]
* [http://www.nafbi.com - National Association of Faith Based Initiatives]
* [http://msnbc.msn.com/id/15228489/ Book says Bush just using Christians] , MSNBC, Oct. 11, 2006
* "Boston Globe" series about USAID and "Faith-based initiatives": * [http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/10/08/bush_brings_faith_to_foreign_aid Part 1] * [http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/10/09/religious_right_wields_clout 2] * [http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2006/10/10/together_but_worlds_apart/?page=1 3]


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