Saperstein: "The smartest thing President Bush did in support of his 'faith-based initiative' was bringing in John DiIulio to run it."
Contact: Alexis Rice (202) 387-2800
WASHINGTON, August 17, 2001- Responding to the resignation today of, John DiIulio, the Director of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement praising DiIulio's approach saying, "Even those, like me, who are critical of government funding of religious institutions knew that we shared common values with John, that he was truly concerned about bettering the lives of the underprivileged and less fortunate."
The full text of the statement follows:
The smartest thing President Bush did in support of his "faith-based initiative" was bringing in John DiIulio to run it. His academic brilliance, grasp of the issue and openness, brought credit to the Administration. Even those, like me, who are critical of government funding of religious institutions knew that we shared common values with John, that he was truly concerned about bettering the lives of the underprivileged and less fortunate. We share John's belief that building a better world answers some of the highest callings of our religious traditions.
We appreciate, as well, John's efforts to reach out to the array of faiths that represent the great religious diversity of America. John, for example, attended the Reform Movement's Consultation on Conscience, our bi-annual conference, in March, where he discussed his views and addressed our concerns.
I wish John well as he returns to Philadelphia. I'm confident that his voice will continue to be an important one in this debate and many others.
John's resignation marks a crossroads for the President. In filling this position, the President must decide if he wants to forge a consensus around aspects of his plan which can unite Americans such as helping non-profit organizations, including religiously affiliated organizations, better serve those in need or if he wants to push ahead with those aspects of the plan such as direct government funding for churches and synagogues which will divide Americans along religious lines. President Bush campaigned, famously, as "a uniter not a divider." In filling this important position he has an opportunity to live up to that promise.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaismis the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.