Daly, Lew. God’s Economy, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, p. 3.
This was one of the first priorities when Bush became president. The driving force behind the Bush initiative was to create a “level playing field” where faith-based organizations could compete on an equal footing with secular organizations for government funding of social aid programs. The federal government was attempting to encourage and support the participation of faith-based organizations in fighting crime, drug addiction, and poverty, while also strengthening families and neighborhoods.
Gore, Albert A. “Speech Delivered to the Salvation Army,” Site of the Center for Public Justice [on line], 25 May 1999, <www.cpjustice.org>, (accessed on 8 May 2009).
John Dilulio underlines that Bush and Gore were not breaking new common ground: “The first law of this sort appeared as a provision (Section 104) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, better known as the 1996 federal welfare reform law. The provision was termed ‘charitable choice.’ It had two fundamental purposes: first, citizens who received federal aid were henceforth to have wider choices among federally funded providers of financial aid or social services, including religious charities and other religious nonprofit organizations; and second, otherwise qualified faith-based organizations, even small, grassroots, community-serving ministries like the ones that both Bush and Gore would later tout during the 2000 presidential campaign, were henceforth to be permitted to administer federal antipoverty and other social services programs on the same basis that all other nonprofit organizations were permitted to do so. A second charitable choice provision was added to the Community Services block grant program when it was reauthorized in 1998. In 2000, a third charitable choice provision was added to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grant, and a fourth one was added to the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Hopelessness program.” in Dilulio, John. Godly Republic: A Centrist Blueprint for America’s Faith-based Future, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2007, pp. 84-85.
For example, in January, 2005, she asked “who is more likely to go out onto a street to save some poor, at-risk child than ... someone who believes in the divinity of every person, who sees God at work in the lives of even the most hopeless and left-behind of our children? And that’s why we need to not have a false division or debate about the role of faith-based institutions; we need to just do it and provide the support that is needed on an ongoing basis”, Clinton, Hillary in “Hillary Clinton on Supporting Faith-Based Institutions at the Ten Point National Leadership Foundation,” Site of the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs: Georgetown University [on line], 19 January 2005, <berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/quotes/hillary-clinton-on-supporting-faith-based-institutions-at-the-ten-point-national-leadership-foundation>, (accessed on 5 July 2011).
Stanley Carlson-Thies is a longtime theoretician and specialist in faith-based policy and the designer of the plan used for implementation of faith-based policy during the Bush Administration.
That there is a consensual continuity in the development of faith-based policy is consequently expressed in Carlson-Thies’ recent writings in which his historical analysis of such policy is presented within the framework of Versions 1, 2 and 3: Version I corresponding to the policy during the Clinton era, II the Bush era, and III, the present day Obama administration. See pages 945 to 947 in Stanley Carlson-Thies’ article, “Faith-Based Initiative 2.0: The Bush Faith-Based and Community Initiative,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, 32.3, Summer 2009.
We might note that: 1) this policy, in some form or another, is still supported by 69% of the American public as of November, 2009 and; 2) just 25% oppose allowing faith-based groups to seek government funding to help the needy (“Faith-Based Programs Still Popular, Less Visible,” Site of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life [on line], 16 November 2009, <www.pewforum.org/2009/11/16/faith-based-programs-still-popular-less-visible>, (accessed on 5 July 2011).) Also, as the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey demonstrates (conducted from May 8 to August 13, 2007), the United States remains a widely devout, religiously diverse, and religiously tolerant nation: 9 in 10 Americans believe in the existence of God; 3 out of 4 pray at least once a week; 7 out of 10 say they believe many religions, not just their faith, can lead to salvation; and more than two-thirds are not dogmatic, saying there is more than one way to interpret belief. The study is based on telephone interviews with over 35,000 Americans. It is therefore not surprising that the American mass public favors faith-friendly church-state approaches and public policies (“Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Releases First National Survey Probing Specifics Of Support for Faith-Based Funding,” Site of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life [on line], 10 April 2001, <www.pewforum.org/2001/04/10/the-pew-forum-on-religion-and-public-life-releases-first-national-survey-probing-specifics-of-support-for-faith-based-funding>, (accessed on 20 February 2007).
The Supreme Court’s five-to-four majority opinion in Bush v. Gore reflected the political tendencies of the judges: the Court’s conservative majority endorsed the decision while its liberal, Democratic minority dissented.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Personal interview with the author, 11 May 2010.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 113.
Carlson-Thies, Stanley. Personal interview with the author, 3 August 2011.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 114.
Describing a conversation with one such Republican, Dilulio notes that “Far from capitalizing on bipartisan church-state sentiments and mass support, faith-based initiatives, the strategist summarized, should contain proposals that ‘force Democrats’ into opposition and make it easier to depict Democrats in Congress, even the faith-friendly centrists among them, as America’s ‘anti-God squad’, in Dilulio Jr., John J. Godly Republic, op. cit., pp. 113-114. Thus, passing Bush’s No Child Left Behind education bill essentially defined the extent of congressional Republican support for any major component of Bush’s bi-partisan compassion agenda. Even here, though, they were only willing to offer support if the bill was guaranteed as the first and last major bipartisan compromise.
For example, both Michael Gerson and John Dilulio explained to me how Bush’s “Duty of Hope” speech drew intensely negative reactions from the Republican Party’s right wings, whether they were “tax-hating libertarians” or Bible beating extremists. Dilulio, who worked on the speech, added that it went through a tumultuous process of more than sixteen rewrites. In short, “numerous Republican conservative activists hated the center-hugging compassionate conservatism” (Personal Interview with the author, 11 May 2011).
This is also called the equal treatment or equal protection doctrine. This perspective is opposed to what is often termed the doctrine of separationism. Its relationship to the question of faith-based social aid policy is summed up by Carlson-Thies in his book, A Revolution of Compassion: “No-aid separationism told government to try to be fair to all faiths by excluding them from all government support. The result was discrimination against faith-based programs and organization. The new ‘equal treatment’ strategy instead requires government to be even-handed … If equal treatment was the right way to interpret the First Amendment’s twin requirements to promote religious freedom while avoiding establishment of religion, then it was time for a new guideline for government funding of social services provided by other organizations. It could not be right to exclude religious providers simply because they were religious or to require them to become as nonreligious as the price for accepting government funds”, in Carlson-Thies, Stanley, and Donaldson, Dave. A Revolution of Compassion, Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2004, pp. 48-49. We can also add the explanation by Richard Nathan, Co-Director of the Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government, that “the laws and regulations leading up to and including Charitable Choice and the Faith-Based and Community Initiative were made possible by a dramatic change in the Supreme Court‘s interpretation of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment,” in Nathan, Richard. “Opening Remarks−The State of the Law: Legal Development Affecting Government Partnerships with Faith-Based Organizations,” The Round Table on Religion and Social Welfare Policy [on line], 5 December 2007, (accessed on 23 June 2011).
For example, on July l0, 2001, a front-page Washington Post story summarized a Salvation Army internal document which claimed that the White House had entered into a secret deal with the Salvation Army. Allegedly, this arrangement granted the organization a federal waiver exempting it from state and local employment antidiscrimination laws covering sexual orientation. However, as Dilulio recounts, “it later became clear to everyone that the information within this document was false and that there had never been any kind of deal and that no such deal had ever even been contemplated,” in Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 134.
As far as the actual implementation of the policy is concerned, Carlson-Thies outlined how the six-month plan for 2001 called for the CNS (Corporation for National Service) and the OFBCI to begin to work jointly and incrementally to put charitable choice into practice (Carlson-Thies, personal interview). Purposely absent from this plan was any new legislation that might deliberately or inadvertently undermine or inflame the charitable choice consensus or go beyond what is discussed as the Supreme Court’s neutrality principles. Specifically, the plan had three bipartisan objectives: “studying an implementing existing charitable choice laws, match-funding religious secular or public-private partnerships, and seeding OFBCI counterparts in mayors’ offices across the country,” in Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 122.
Dilulio notes that “having set out to build on bipartisan charitable choice laws that empowered religious groups to partner with government in serving the poor, the debate over the beliefs and tenets language, had turned the Bush faith bill into a clash about religious organizations being somehow coerced by federal law into hiring gays and lesbians,” in Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 133.
Daly observes that “this bill was the House Republicans major legislation in support of the Faith-Based Initiative. Primarily it was a vehicle to expand charitable choice into new program areas including juvenile crime domestic violence, housing, and assistance. HR 7’s charitable choice provisions were more aggressive than existing law in several sensitive areas. It introduced more specific language permitting federal preemption of state anti-discrimination laws under charitable choice, and it weakened beneficiary protections against proselytization. Another change introduced later, of critical interest to religious conservatives, was a provision permitting the executive branch to ‘voucherize’ grant programs without congressional approval, thereby removing constitutional barriers to government funding of otherwise prohibited religious activities and content, on the principle of rotation beneficiary choice quotation. The child care and development block Grant established the first such religion oriented voucher program in the early 1990s, which was never challenged in the courts. In 2002, however, the Supreme Court (in Selman versus Simons–Harris) upheld the Cleveland school voucher program that included religious schools […],” in Daly, Lew, op. cit., p. 61.
Gerson, Michael. Personal interview with the author, 12 May 2010.
Dilulio Jr., John J., “Afterword,” in Maranto, Robert, Lansford, Tom, and Johnson, Jeremy (eds.). Judging Bush, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2009, p. 298.
This, we might add, may be seen not only as a reflection of Bush’s growing confidence in his power base, but also of his being an evangelical Christian. While it is true that there have been other evangelical presidents before Bush, the problem (and what distinguishes him from his predecessors) is, as Garry Wills underlines, that “his conversion came late and had a political aspect to it...” Thus, Wills also dryly observes that Bush talks “evangelical talk as no other president has, including Jimmy Carter...,” in Wills, Garry. Head and Heart, New York, Penguin Press, 2007, p. 498.
Bush, George W. “The Duty of Hope Speech,” The Center for Public Justice [on line], 22 July 1999, <www.cpjustice.org>, (accessed on 6 July 2011).
Bush, George W. “Executive Order 13198−Agency Responsibilities With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,” Site of The American Presidency Project [on line], 29 January 2001, <www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=45708>, (accessed on 8 June 2011).
Bush, George W. “State of the Union Address,” Site of The American Presidency Project [on line], 27 February 2001, <www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29643>, (accessed on 8 June 2011).
Bush, George W. “Address at the National Prayer Breakfast,” Site of The American Presidency Project [on line], 1 February 2001, <www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=45721&st=&st1=>, (accessed on 10 June 2011).
Bush, George W. “Commencement Address at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana,” Site of The American Presidency Project [on line], 20 May 2001, <www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=45893>, (accessed on 10 June 2011).
Dilulio, Gerson and Carlson-Thies all agree that Bush began in 2001 with a consensual bi-partisan plan that respected religious pluralism.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Goldly Republic, op. cit., p. 130.
Farnsley II, Arthur E. “Book Review of Faith-Based Politics: What Congregations Can and Can’t Do,” The Christian Century, 24 August 2004, p. 27.
Bush’s second inauguration provides another very public illustration of this, where religious touches were provided not only in Bush’s speech, but also by performances of a hymn, “God of Our Fathers,” as well as of a song written by the sponsor of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, former Senator John Ashcroft (“Bush Pushes ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative during Meeting with Black Pastors,” Church and State, 58.3, March 2005, p. 17). The song, Let the Eagle Soar, contains lyrics such as “Let the eagle soar/Like she’s never soared before/From rocky coast to golden shore/Let the mighty eagle soar/Soar with healings in her wings/As the land beneath her sings/ ‘Only God, no other kings’,” in “Bush Pushes ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative during Meeting with Black Pastors,” op. cit., p. 17.
Gerson, Michael. Personal interview with the author, 12 May 2010; Carlson-Thies, Stanley. Personal interview with the author, 5 August 2011.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Personal interview with the author, 11 May 2010.
Dilulio Jr., John J. Godly Republic, op. cit., pp. 136-137.
For example, a federal lawsuit (Western District of Wisconsin) by the Freedom from Religion Foundation charged Towey and others with unlawful political activities pursued in violation of the Establishment clause.
Wills, Garry, op. cit., p. 502. The bitter disillusionment expressed in White House insider David Kuo’s book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, also covers this period. Kuo describes at length and in detail how the West Wing came to cheaply politicize the president’s compassion agenda.
In August 2001, the White House released Unlevel Playing Field, the administrative audit of federal agencies ordered by the president when he took office. Nonetheless, effectiveness was very limited and, as Gerson and Carlson-Thies both told me in interviews, there was a lot of talk and report writing, but not much action. Despite this lack of effectiveness, at least administratively there was some progress made, as an infrastructure of government agencies was set up and new laws were adopted. In 2007, Richard Nathan provided the following retrospective outlining such progress: “The Bush Administration has … extended the reach of the provisions [in Charitable Choice] via executive order to 11 federal agencies. Indeed, the Bush Administration has embarked on an aggressive strategy to use the administrative powers of the federal government … [and] has created an institutional foundation through the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives and companion offices in nearly a dozen federal agencies involved in domestic policy and international humanitarian aid. State and local governments have increasingly pursued similar objectives. More than half the states have adopted recent laws that specifically reference faith-based organizations. And, more than half the states have implemented administrative steps to engage faith-based groups as social service providers,” in Nathan, Richard, op. cit.
Black, Amy E., Koopman, Douglas L., and Ryden, David K. Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives, Washington DC, Georgetown University Press, 2004, p. 197.
Dilulio states that within a couple of years after his departure, “White House personnel, including my old office, would be told in no uncertain terms that they needed to be registered Republicans in order to keep working there; but in 2001, that would have seemed impossible,” in Dilulio Jr, John J. Godly Republic, op. cit., p. 117.
For a forceful argument of how American culture may be seen as moving dangerously to the right, see Susan George’s Hijacking America: How the Religious and Secular Right Changed What Americans Think, Cambridge, UK, Polity Press, 2009. For a criticism aimed more specifically at faith-based policy under both Bush and Obama, see Barry Lynn’s Piety and Politics: The Right-wing Assault on Religious Freedom, New York, Three Rivers Press, 2007.
For an excellent and concise analysis of the characteristics of Obama’s pluralism, see Stephen Mansfield’s The Faith of Barack Obama, Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2008.Haut de page