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Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative Continues
I n 2001 George Bush surrounded himself with a host of clergy and announced executive orders establishing the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Organizations and Centers for FaithBased and Community Initiatives at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development. Since that time, six more agencies have established centers, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Agency for International Development, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Small Business Administration.
Team Bush realized they could not get the faith-based initiative legislation through Congress and, instead, instituted the initiative through executive orders, thus avoiding a public debate over the program.
While anecdotal evidence abounds, after five years it is still difficult to judge whether the president’s faith-based initiative has delivered services more successfully than government agencies. One thing is abundantly clear, the initiative has moved inexorably forward. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been given out and more is on the way. The pool of faith-based organizations participating in the various programs is growing and a number of states have come on board as 31 governors have established their own faith-based initiative offices.
A series of regional conferences set up by the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Organizations are “geared toward those that are new to the initiative, have no history of applying for government grants, or have attempted to secure government funding, but have not yet been successful,” according to the White House. In addition, “targeted workshops” provide “grant writing tutorials for certain Federal grant programs that present the greatest opportunity for faith-based and community organizations.”
At a press briefing on February 6, Jim Towey, the director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, pointed out that the president’s 2007 budget contained $323 million (36 percent more than the $236 million in 2006) for a series of programs involving both faith-based organizations and community groups. Towey explained that the money “would include $40 million for the mentoring of the children of prisoners; $100 million for the Compassion Capital Fund of which $50 million would go to the initiative Laura Bush has spearheaded, Helping America’s Youth, to prevent kids from getting into gang involvement. The Access to Recovery program would get $98 million. This is an innovative drug treatment program that allows addicts to choose where they’re served.”
Despite Towey’s ebullient portrait of the initiative, “Some conservatives have argued that the Administration is insufficiently committed” to the faith-based initiative,
One of the main reasons the faith-based initiative hasn’t gained congressional traction is because the Administration has allowed and/or openly encouraged faithbased organizations to discriminate in their hiring practices. Last year, in a suit filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, U.S. District Court Judge John Shabaz ruled that an Arizona-based prison program that had received government money, MentorKids USA, violated the First Amendment prohibition against the promotion of religion.
The hearings revealed an even greater problem: the Department of Health and Human Services—the federal agency that dispensed the grant to MentorKids USA—had no system in place to monitor the money it was handing out.
In mid-January of this year, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Chicago, “reinstated the lawsuit” brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the Chicago Sun-Times reported. “The group says Bush’s program, which helps religious groups get government funding to provide social services, violates the separation of church and state.”
While some conservatives are still complaining about the relative paucity of faith-based funds, the marriage promotion sector recently received a huge shot in the arm when Bush signed legislation setting aside $500 million ($100 million per year for 5 years) for faithbased programs to promote and strengthen heterosexual marriage. The marriage provision, part of the deficit reduction bill passed by Congress, “allows faith-based groups that provide social services to receive federal funding without changing the way they hire,” Bush pointed out at the White House signing ceremony.
A few days before the bill signing ceremony, Diane Sollee, the director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE), sent out an e-mail reminding constituents of its June conference in Atlanta—the 10th Annual Smart Marriages Conference—where there will be workshops galore on how different groups can get their hands on the marriage promotion money. According to Sollee, the marriage money can be used for:
- Advertising campaigns on the value of marriage and the skills needed to increase marital stability and health.
- Education in high schools on the value of marriage, relationship skills, and budgeting.
- Marriage education, marriage skills, and relationship skills programs that may include parenting skills, financial management, conflict resolution, and job and career advancement for non-married pregnant women and nonmarried expectant fathers.
- Pre-marital education and marriage skills training for engaged couples and couples or individuals interested in marriage.
Marriage enhancement and marriage skills training programs for
- Divorce reduction programs that teach relationship skills.
- Marriage mentoring programs which use married couples as role models and mentors in at-risk communities.
- Programs to reduce the disincentives to marriage in means-tested aid programs if offered in conjunction with any activity described in this subparagraph.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.