Mixed Reactions to Funding of Faith-Based Organizations

February 10, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On February 10, 2001, The New York Times reported that "the day after President Bush established the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, John J. DiIulio Jr., its first director, attended a public discussion of his new office at the National Press Club in Washington...The discussion (a full transcript is available at http://pewforum.org/events/0130/) revealed some of the fundamental differences in perspective dividing supporters and opponents of 'faith-based initiatives'...Proponents see opportunities being lost, the potential of religious groups to rescue the needy and suffering being ignored or stultified, and they are consequently ready to tread into unfamiliar waters. Opponents see an existing framework of cooperation between government and religious charities that has worked well -- and if it ain't broke, why fix it?" Richard T. Foltin, legislative director of the American Jewish Committee, spoke about the danger of religious institutions' continuing to hire on the basis of religion under the new plan: "When they start to carry out government-funded programs," he said, and put up signs saying "no Catholics need apply, no Jews need apply,...we really are seeing a terrible precedent." In support of the plan, Mr. DiIulio asserted that the most comprehensive study available, "which examined 'community-serving activities of churches, synagogues and mosques in the city of Philadelphia,' found that, despite theologies ranging from the most to the least 'evangelical or proselytizing,' almost none made 'any kind of religious conversion or ritual' a condition for participation."