DNC Panel Considers Future of Faith-Based Initiatives

August 27, 2008

Author: Prof. John DiIulio and Rabbi David Saperstein

Source: Catholic News Agency


Whether and how to continue the faith-based initiatives begun by President George W. Bush were among the topics of discussion Tuesday at the Faith in Action Panel at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Panelists Rabbi David Saperstein, from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Professor John DiIulio discussed the difficulties involved in the program and voiced concern about the ability of religious groups to maintain their “prophetic witness” despite government funding. Further, they outlined some of Sen. Barack Obama’s proposed changes to the faith-based initiatives program.

Rabbi Saperstein said that the vast majority of the estimated 100,000 faith community initiatives do work well even without government involvement and he also granted the potential of government involvement to expand these communities’ programs.

However, he claimed the faith based initiatives as envisioned by the Bush administration had not worked out.

He alleged they were bad for the poor, bad for religion, bad public policy, and unconstitutional.

The rabbi said President Bush’s programs threatened religions’ autonomy and mission, while the regulatory entanglement accompanying federal funding could “mute the prophetic” in religious communities.

The Charitable Choice program, Rabbi Saperstein claimed, encouraged divisive competition among churches for federal money.

He indicated that the need to prevent abuses causes entangling problems.