White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives Director Delivers Remarks at Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Consultation on Conscience 2001 Conference
MARCH 13, 2001
JOHN J. DIIULIO JR.
Director, White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives
President, Independent Sector
Executive Vice Chair, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
DIIULIO: That was a very kind set of introductions, and I thank you very much for that.
I want to warn all of you right now that when I was with the JCPA, we didn't get out till after midnight...
... so it's a little tight in here.
DIIULIO: We won't be here till midnight.
Let me just thank you all and thank so many friends and colleagues and associates that are here. I won't try and name them all. Rabbi Saperstein, it's just a pleasure. It's a true honor.
The last several weeks have been very interesting...
... from an academic and other prospective. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Molly Freidman (ph) of Philadelphia sent me, last week in the mail, a very warm, supportive letter. I want to put it on the public record here today.
But the important thing they did was they included a copy of an article that ran in the Forward with the heading of "Now You've Arrived."
Forget the New York Times -- and other papers. I want to be evenhanded here this morning.
I'm in this job here today because I really believe that President Bush has a huge heart for the least, the last and the lost of our society, and that he recognizes a real need for faith-based and community initiatives. He has said recently, I'm going to quote him, "Government cannot be replaced by charities, but it can and should welcome them as partners, not resent them as rivals. We must heed the growing consensus across America that successful government social programs work in fruitful partnerships with community-serving and faith-based organizations, whether run by Methodists, Muslims, Mormons or good people of no faith at all."
The same week the president signed my office into being, the Pew Charitable Trust released a national poll showing that most Americans believe local churches, synagogues, mosques and other congregations, together with organizations such as The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity and so on, are top problem-solving organizations in their communities, and we believe the people are right.
Led by Sara Melendez, Independent Sector, which is an umbrella organization representing nonprofits, both religious and secular, Independent Sector estimates that America is home to over 353,000 congregations, and about 300,000 of those could be accurately characterized as community-serving congregations -- four out of five of which provide services to the poor and to the needy without regard to the religious identities, if any, of those whom they serve.
Likewise, my University of Pennsylvania colleague, Ram Cnaan, a professor of social work, has documented the extent to which congregations in urban areas serve the needy and neglected. He's done that in cities all across the country, but let me just mention the latest study out just a few weeks ago that focuses on 1,044 of the congregations in Philadelphia, an estimated 2,000 total congregations there on the way to a complete census that will eventually bankrupt the center I used to direct.
Professor Cnaan and his associates report that over 90 percent of urban congregations provide social services from preschools to prison ministries, food pantries to health clinics, literacy programs to day care centers. The replacement value of their services is about $250 million a year. It's a very conservative estimate.
Their primary beneficiaries, again, this is 3-hour site visits and 20-page questionnaires, covering each of 215 different kinds of social services, so there's plenty of data. It finds the primary beneficiaries are poor neighborhood children and youth who are not members and whose families are not members of the congregations that serve them.
Urban community-serving congregations are actually slightly more likely to partner with secular organizations than they are to partner with other religious organizations. And almost none of the community- serving ministries and congregations make entering their buildings, receiving their services or participating in their programs in any way contingent upon any immediate or eventual profession of faith or any performance of religious rites, rituals or tenants of any kind.
Professor Cnaan calls these community-serving congregations America's hidden safety net. We would say hidden and, until recently, largely unheralded.
Likewise, try imagining this country without organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America, American Red Cross, America's Promise, Best Friends, Boys and Girls Clubs. The honor roll goes on and on. These organizations number in the hundreds, thousands, and each day they touch literally millions of lives.
Metaphorically speaking, these community-based organizations, religious and secular, are sort of like the army ants of civil society, leveraging each day many times their weight in human and financial good, or, as I've elsewhere described them, in urban America, they function like the paramedics of civil society, saving lives and restoring health, answering emergencies with daily miracles.
But we ought not to praise their enormous good works without acknowledging the struggles that they face.
As the president has said, we must not continue to ask them to make bricks without straw. Those who help the needy and the neglected deserve more help, both public and private, both human and financial, from all the rest of us. At a minimum, a government at all levels should not burden or block their blessings. At best, government can and should find better ways well within constitutional bounds of welcoming all, including faith-based and faith-motivated community- serving citizens and volunteers, into the public square, supporting their good works without denying their religious identities.
In the executive order establishing my office, President Bush made clear that, and I quote, "The paramount goal is compassionate results. And private and charitable groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field so long as they achieve valid public purposes. The delivery of social services must be results-oriented and should value the bedrock principles of pluralism, nondiscrimination, evenhandedness and neutrality," end quote.
What we're doing -- or I guess, after several weeks now, I get to say what we are fixin' to do...
... is basically three interrelated things.
First, we aim to boost charitable giving, both human and financial. The financial boosts are in the president's budget plan and involve such provisions as the provision to let nonitemizers -- about 80 million or so of them -- deduct. Nobody knows more about that than Dr. Sara Melendez; I'll leave it there. Some of the human boosts are included in the president's own use of the bully pulpit in valuing volunteers and in Mayor Stephen Goldsmith's hopes for retooling and rebuilding and revamping AmeriCorps in ways that put college-educated, public-spirited young adults at the disposal of faith-based and community organizations that need them.
There's some of that going on now, but we think that should be radically expanded, if possible.
Second, we are authorized by the executive orders to perform audits in five Cabinet agencies: Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice. I want bore you with the public administration details. I've written many books on public administration, most of them published by the Brookings Institution. They are all pretty much still in print. They are the kinds of books which once you put them down, you cannot pick them up.
DIIULIO: Except my aunt and uncle, right. And my mother thinks that each of those books is a classic and a masterpiece.
But the bottom line is, federal civil servants don't administer directly federal domestic policy programs; kind of one of the great misunderstood or not understood aspects of the way we do governmental administration in this country. There are six people who work for nonprofits or state and local governments or for-profit corporations administering sort of the indirect Washington bureaucracy for every one federal civil servant who directly administers federal domestic programs.
Now, so the question is, in relation to these audits and in relation to faith and community initiatives, purely in the interest of helping those in need, while generating a better return on the public's investment in social programs, the leaders of qualified community and faith-based organizations -- local groups that in many cases have been doing this work for years, never been in the government funding loop, groups that put their hips where their lips are when it comes to serving the poor, the needy, the neglected -- they should be able, we believe, if they so choose, to seek partial government funding on the same basis as any other nongovernmental providers of social services.
And that is why the president, who is sort of a government reformer who demands business-like results, has explicitly directed my office to help level the federal funding playing field to, and I quote him, "encourage and support the work of charities and faith-based and community groups, including small ones that offer help and love one person at a time."
That is also, in our view, precisely what Charitable Choice is mostly all about, and it's what, with other performance-related reforms, is needed not only to better serve the poor and revitalize needy neighborhoods, but also to usher in greater and better government performance and results.
President Clinton signed Charitable Choice into law on August 22, 1996. It's been on the books now, therefore, about five years, the first provision of Charitable Choice. Under Charitable Choice, community-serving organizations, both religious and secular, can seek federal support on the same basis as any other nongovernmental providers, for-profit or not-for-profit, of those services.
Sacred places that serve civic purposes can seek federal or federal-state funding without having to divest themselves of their religious iconography or symbols. They can, if you will, remain St. Vincent dePaul's, not be forced as a condition receiving penny one of public money to become Mr. Vincent dePaul. They can hum hymns even while they hammer nails. And they can say, "God bless you," even when nobody in the community health clinic has sneezed.
What's happened over the last five years? Well, we've had an interesting four weeks. But what's happened over the last five years with Charitable Choice? What's happened is really not a whole lot. And we think there are some reasons for that that have to do with the ways in which those laws have been interpreted up and down the government-by-proxy system.
In all of Philadelphia, for example, I mentioned 2,000 congregations, 90-plus percent of which performed community services of one kind or another, exactly one -- exactly one -- congregation happens to have actually applied for and received any support under Charitable Choice '96 over the past five years.
But we know from Professor Cnaan's work and from others, that roughly 60 percent of the congregation leaders in the community- serving congregations of the city would like to consider partnering in a reasonable way with the government to help them deliver the services that they're delivering to the poor.
So in addition, by way of conclusion, in addition to increasing charitable giving, human and financial, in addition to these audits and trying to level the playing field and trying to end unwarranted forms of discrimination against religious organizations that seek these partnerships, our third goal really is to seed or expand model public-private religious secular programs that promise measurable results at citywide or national scale.
One example of such a program, I'll just very briefly mention, but one example that I've had a hand in myself is the so-called Amachi (ph) program in Philadelphia. Amachi (ph) is a West African word that roughly translates into English as, "who knows what God has brought us through this child." And it's a program that is very much consistent with what the president's been saying for a couple of years about his heart for targeting mentoring on prisoner's children -- over 2 million children on any given day in this country having one or both parents in prison or jail, vast numbers of them concentrated in our poorest urban neighborhood. What Amachi (ph) does is it targets mentoring on prisoner's children, working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and with core support from the Pew Charitable Trust, and led by former Philadelphia mayor, now Reverend W. Wilson Goode, during just its first six weeks, the program mobilized some 500 volunteers through local churches.
Beginning this month, the volunteers, about 40 percent of them men, will be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister for the children of incarcerated adults. Now, you've got to consider that, pre-Amachi (ph), the city had a total of about 500 Big Brother-Big Sister mentors for all children. At a 1,000, half with prisoners children in the city's poorest neighborhoods, Amachi (ph) will have made Philadelphia the largest single Big Brothers-Big Sisters site in the country, and Big Brothers-Big Sisters is a proven program. We have good demonstration and research results on it. I know, because I helped do it. It's a good study.
The mere addition of a Big Brother or a Big Sister in the life of a child reduced first-time drug use by 52 percent, reduced assault or hitting behavior by a third, improved school performance. It works, putting a loving, caring adult into the life of a child who needs one.
The problem's always been getting it to scale. The problem's always been forging the kinds of public-private, religious-secular, urban-suburban partnerships that can get it to scale, because with 200,000 kids in America in those quality matched mentoring relationships, and 15 million kids estimated who need one, we've got to get to scale. Amachi's (ph) the kind of program that does that. But it's not the only kind.
There was a wonderful conference last week at Duke University that brought together some of the country's leading medical practitioners, religious leaders, government officials to talk about this real big pending problem of elder care in this country. America is a graying population, and we are going to face terrific need for mobilizing volunteers to help support public health service and other health service delivery systems.
The conference at Duke University last week, cosponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, I believe, really made some tremendous suggestions and progress about how you mobilize religious volunteers into health service delivery systems for elder care, for the chronically ill, but also at the end of Medicaid pedia-care. So the president has proposed a compassion capital fund to help seed or expand such programs that might achieve such civic results at a city- wide scale. Those are our three big ones.
Let me just close by saying that one of my favorite passages of the Bible that I've liked to quote over the years and have quoted rather frequently is Jeremiah 29:7, where it says, "Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you. Pray for it to the Lord, for in its welfare, you will find your own."
This initiative is important to me, and I know it's in the heart of the president, because we believe that working out things all together in a civic spirit, we can help to promote the welfare of those most in need.
So I thank you for your time and consideration.
MODERATOR: Dr. Melendez?
MELENDEZ: Good morning.
I'm delighted to be here and I have to share with you my bona fides for why I'm here. I -- and even John DiIulio doesn't know this about me -- I used to be a Pentecostal preacher as a child and a teenager. And this was mostly in storefront Puerto Rican churches in New York City.
The first church I preached in, however, was in the lower east side of Manhattan in a former synagogue that had been bought by this Pentecostal congregation. And that was a wonderful grounding for me, for what I am doing today. Because, first of all, that church -- you know, Puerto Ricans at that time in New York City had left their support systems behind, and many of them became Pentecostal because there were no priests in New York who spoke Spanish. And so, the Pentecostals would, you know, raise their own banner and start converting people, and my mother was part of that.
But the church did wonderful things, as we all know. We used to have committees to go visit the sick. And we never went to just pray; we also went with an offering, because if they were sick they needed medicine, and they weren't working and they needed food. And you know what happened? My mother, who was a single mother of three children, working as a sewing machine operator in New York City, developed cancer and she was bedridden for two years, and there were three of us in high school at the time.
Do you know that for those three years we never missed a meal or a rent check because every week someone from church would come and give us an offering? We got back every cent my mother had ever given to the church. And I know she gave more than 20 percent of her income to the church.
The church also helped me develop my oratorical skills...
... and some leadership skills that have stood me in very good stead throughout the years.
So we at Independent Sector are very appreciative of the president's support for the wonderful work that most of America's 353,000 congregations do on behalf of people every day. But I think we need a little history and context in order to be clearer about the initiatives and what they will or might not do, and about some possible alternatives to some of them.
You've just heard, and I'm so glad you're using some of our research, John, that's great. But I want to recap a little of that. Faith-based, nonprofit activities in this nonprofit sector has been part of this sector forever, and they play a very significant part of the sector. Some are very important providers of services and receive a good amount of government money for doing it. Some examples include Catholic Charities, Lutheran Ministries, Goodwill Industries, Volunteers of America, and United Jewish Communities, and many more.
Most of these faith-based organizations do a very good job at what they do, and a very good job of keeping a wall between their service work and their religious work.
Most of them are experiencing increasing demand for their services at the same time that they are increasingly competing with for-profits for the government's funds to do some of their work. And when they compete with for-profits, it is usually at a disadvantage, because they don't have the infrastructure and the capital development funds to develop the program in advance and then wait for reimbursement.
Now some do, however, limit services to those of their faith. Very few, but some do. And when they can't serve everybody, sometimes that is one of the things that they do. And we also know that more only hire from their faith and that the Supreme Court has said that they can. And of course, anybody getting federal funds cannot do either of those.
So that's one of the problems that has to be solved. And I trust John and his colleagues to work at finding a reasonable solution to that problem, but it's something we must watch.
Now, congregations are also an important segment of the nonprofit charitable sector, and they comprise 25 percent of the sector. And as far back as 1993, in one of our studies, congregations were providing the following services: 92 percent of our respondents were providing human services; 90 percent, health; 62 percent, public and societal benefit -- and please don't ask me what that means, call our research department; 53 percent were providing education; 50 percent, arts and culture; here's one that surprised me, 40 percent were involved in environmental work; and 35 percent, another surprise for me, were involved in advocacy work, including direct contact with legislators on their issues, letters to the editor, coalitions with others, and public education and information.
And I hope you all understand that sometimes advocacy is the most important thing nonprofits can do for their clients. These congregations have revenues of $81 billion a year, and most of that work is done without a cent of government money. Funding for this work has been provided, primarily, by private contributions; 79 percent from individual giving, both in the offering plates as well as the pledges as well as bequests in wills. And only 16 percent comes from dues and programs fees.
The faith-based nonprofits and congregations are the least likely to charge people for services. And when they do, they usually charge on a sliding-scale fee, and the very poor don't pay anything at all. In this regard, they're doing better than the secular nonprofits, which are finding that 40 percent of their revenues are coming from fees, because the government share of their revenues have gone down and so has the individual contribution share, so they're having to rely more and more on charging fees.
Now, what are these new initiatives about? Well, they are primarily about, you've heard, leveling the playing field for congregations to be able to compete more successfully with other nonprofits, as well as for small nonprofits without a big infrastructure that could help make them competitive. But you heard John tell us that Charitable Choice was enacted by President Clinton in 1996, and it made it possible for congregations to receive the funds and to be able to include a faith component in their services, as long as there is a secular alternative in the community.
Well, there must be some reason why so few congregations have taken them up. And I think it's good to look at what those reasons might be.
But in our survey, 65 percent of respondents reported that there was no secular alternative for their services where they were serving. And 76 percent reported that there was no for-profit alternative or business alternative where they were serving. That means, then, that these congregations are the only game in town on that service. But remember, they're now doing it without federal funds.
Religious congregations express that the primary business between their programs compared to those in government or business is that they incorporate religion or spirituality into their services. One respondent stated, "We provide the program or activity with a spiritual dimension; i.e., parenting classes through the eyes of faith," and I think that is wonderful.
As a former preacher and still a believer, I think that is wonderful. But I wonder whether it is appropriate to have federal money paying for that, tax money paying for that.
We believe, at Independent Sector, that the best way to increase funding to these organizations is to encourage Americans to give more, and the nonitemizer deduction would do just that. We are thrilled that President Bush, in one of his very first campaign speeches, came out in favor of the nonitemizer deduction.
Now, why is this the best way to get money into the congregations to do their good work? Because 60 percent of household contributions now go to faith-based organizations and congregations. Americans give mostly to where their faith is. So restoring the nonitemizer deduction can potentially generate another almost $8.5 billion a year for congregations and faith-based organizations.
In other words, 60 percent of the 14 billion that would probably come in with a nonitemizer deduction, that would be a 10 percent increase on their revenues of 1996.
How many of you would like a 10 percent increase for your work in one swoop? We'd love it.
Furthermore, repeal of the estate tax, which has been touted a lot as fairness and been called a death tax and fairness for small farms and small businesses, well, that one would cost the nonprofit sector money in bequests, about $6 billion a year. Some congregations also get bequests, and many of the faith-based nonprofit organizations get bequests.
We believe, at Independent Sector, that there is reasonable justification for reforming the estate tax and perhaps raising or increasing the size of the estate that subject to it to take care of the small farms and the small business, but to capture the big percentage of bequests that would disappear without that incentive.
And remember that most estates don't pay the estate tax. They've got lots of estate planning, and they set up trusts, and they don't pay it. But those that do find a powerful incentive for giving in it. And guess what? They use it for giving.
Tax credits, which are being promoted as a way of increasing resources for organizations fighting poverty, may not have that effect. Now, doesn't it sound like motherhood and apple pie to get a credit for money going to organizations that are helping the poor? Well, we all think it is important to get more money to organizations that are helping the poor, except that this plan may not do that because the way their hoping to fund the cost to the Treasury of the credit is to take the money from TANF, that is the fund to help families in need, so it is robbing Peter to pay Paul. It may not generate any more money.
And you know what else? Americans are very generous, and even those who don't deduct their contributions contribute, but they contribute a lot less than those who do. Those who deduct their contributions contribute two to three times as more as the same income bracket and tax bracket as those who don't. Well, guess what? If I can get a $500 tax credit here and a $500 deduction here, what do you think some Americans will do? They're going to shift it to where they can get the credit. And that means they're going to be taking it out of groups like education, your kids' private school or your alma mater or the arts or culture, the environment and the advocacy groups.
If you don't think this would happen, remember that the tax incentive is a very powerful incentive. It is not the reason people give.
They give for generosity, for faith, for obligation, for guilt. And, of course, we'll take it, whatever the reason, right?
But once they've decided to give, if they get a tax incentive, they give more. So I think that we can all agree that it would be very good to provide resources for all kinds of nonprofits, including faith-based organizations and congregations, to enable them to do more and to do what they do better.
One of the things I love about the president's initiative is that they are saying that the motivation is going to be, more than anything else, results. So they are going to be watching who really makes a difference or what organizations really make a difference and try to help them do better.
But I think the best way, again, to encourage this is to encourage people to give more. Now, while Americans continue to be one of the most generous nations on Earth, increasing their amount of annual giving every year, when they get a raise or they get a bonus or they run into a little money or come into a little money, they give a little more. But, you know what? The percentage of their household income that they give has not varied in the 18 years that we've been tracking it. It's still 2 percent.
Now, don't you think most of us are wealthy enough now to inch that up a little bit?
Thank you. I do.
We're richer than any society has ever been, and we can afford to give more.
But how do we get that? We get incentives. We make it cheaper for people to give by providing a complete tax deduction. And the president can use the bully pulpit, and he is. And he is very effective at the bully pulpit. And he can encourage, and even exhort, to use a good religious word, people of faith to give more.
OK, I've got two minutes. I'm almost finished.
The beauty of our philanthropic nonprofit sector is its pluralism and diversity. There is a cause for everyone, and we are all free to contribute and volunteer for our favorite causes. And I hate some of the causes people volunteer to, but it's their right. And that is what makes this such a strong, powerful sector in our society.
If government takes on the role to try to influence what we give our money to, by giving you a credit over here and a deduction over there, then it sends an implicit message that some causes are more worthy than others. And so combining that with a powerful incentive of a tax credit, by giving to this group and a deduction by giving to this group, we will seriously diminish the capacity of some of those other organizations to continue to do their work.
And does that good that can come from increased giving to groups providing services have to come at the expense of the tremendous contributions of the advocacy of the arts and culture organizations in our society? Don't poor people also need art and beauty and culture in their life? And don't they need advocacy?
MELENDEZ: And I'm afraid that pitting one type of organization against another can be a wedge issue in the nonprofit sector. We can't allow that to happen...
... especially this president, who prides himself on being a unifier. We need help to help the nonprofit sector stay together.
We appreciate his desire to help faith-based organizations and nonprofits, and we urge him and his administration.
And we urge you, John, to lobby him...
... to be careful about unintended consequences and the very valuable rule of first do no harm.
And I urge all of you to get behind the nonitemizer deduction. If you don't know what you can do about it, go on our web page, givevoice.org. It will tell you exactly what to do. With a couple of clicks, you can get to your representative in Congress and let them know how you feel about it.
And let's get behind the president and urge him, too, that the best way to get more money to these wonderful organizations doing all this great work is to enact this deduction and get on the pulpit and tell Americans to dig a little deeper.
ROSENTHAL: Good morning.
Just to begin, I want to say something to you, Dr. DiIulio: You have a great marketer. Everywhere you look, whoever your PR people are, this is unbelievable, front page of newspapers, lead story on electronic media. And then you come to Washington, D.C., and everywhere you go, you see faith-based initiative, faith-based initiative, faith-based initiative. I want to know, is any other thing happening in the capitol, other than your initiative?
And one thing I want to say is...
MODERATOR: There's something about tax cuts...
ROSENTHAL: But it somehow gets in the columns and all with faith-based initiative, and everyone in Washington seems to be wearing the logo. And so I brought you a present, so that you can be wearing your own logo and your own promotion, and I don't know if it's big enough.
There is a big thank you. We really owe you, John. It's the biggest they had, what can I say?
DIIULIO: I'm on a weight program here.
ROSENTHAL: Did you ever play football?
DIIULIO: Yes, ma'am.
ROSENTHAL: That's what I figured.
DIIULIO: That's it.
ROSENTHAL: One of the most amazing parts of this faith-based initiative media attention is something for which we really owe you a whole lot of thanks and owe the president and others in the administration.
And that is that it is putting front center the positive, important role of religiously affiliated and faith-based organizations and what we're doing and the important role that we play in the quilt of service delivery.
When the charitable choice part was put into the welfare reform bill in 1996, it received no hearing, no public testimony, no question were raised. It just was -- I know, I was part of the Department of Health and Human Services. And this is allowing all of us to ask questions. It's allowing people who were surprised to hear ask questions, et cetera.
So what I did, and in the purpose of being quick, I sat down and wrote down every question that I could possibly have, and something about our Jewish tradition, by the way, says you have to constantly ask questions, and then when you get an answer, you have to ask questions about the answer.
But what I did was, important to my being fast here, I'm going to read you my top-10 list of questions that we all need to ask on every part of the initiative, and then we'll be allowing for question answers.
We're out there. It's not just you synagogues that so many of us are active in. It's also community-relations commissions that are all over the country through the federation system. And we know how it is with Catholic Charities. We know how it is with Lutheran Social Services. And we have great models out there that are doing the exact kind of work that you want to see expanded, but we have to ask some pretty fundamental questions.
Number 10 on my top-10 list: Will faith-based initiatives involve new dollars or will they merely drain dollars from other social service programs? Otherwise put, is the pie going to be any bigger or are we going to be taking the same sized pie and dolling it out into smaller pieces?
Number 9: Will faith-based providers be permitted to use federal funds to promote religious beliefs or practices as a treatment of certain social problems or disabilities? Do the individuals who are providing the services have a mission, that their goal is to promote a particular religion? Will the social services involve indoctrination, proselytization or any kind of coercion? Are we going to be asking them to compromise that mission?
ROSENTHAL: Number 8: Will federal funds be used to support existing faith-based social service programs at current levels, with the effect that the provider can use those funds -- we call it the fungibility issue -- they will use those funds to expand to other religious or proselytizing activities? I've heard it referred to as, "Are we going to pay for the light bulbs so that the budget that was paying for the light bulbs will go into their mission?"
Number 7: Will faith-based providers and their facility be subject to the same scrutiny and certification, licensing, et cetera requirements as nonsectarian providers? If we're talking about a level playing field, certainly they have to follow the same kind of standards, high standards, that we require of service providers. Are they going to be required to report on outcomes? And what other strings will be attached to the funds? Will we make sure the drug rehabilitation programs have qualified drug counselors? And if we're going to make sure of that, how are we going to monitor it without infringing on the religious freedom that the organization holds dear?
Number 6: Will nonsectarian alternatives be readily available in all areas of the country? Will clients be advised of those services? This has been mentioned before. I know that the budget is not flushed out; we've heard about that during this consultation.
But when the budget does get put forward, I think it's very important that we're told where the line item is in the budget that ensures adequate funding for the nonsectarian alternatives, because that will be a very, very big budget item.
Number 5, also mentioned earlier: How are we going to ensure that the dissemination of these funds will not pit one religious group against another, and will not be perceived or in fact result in one religion being preferred over another?
Number 4: Will certain faith-based providers be denied funds because they preach racism or bigotry? Or because they might provide abortion counseling or allow gay marriages?
Number 3: Will faith-based providers be permitted to engage in religious discrimination in hiring? We've heard this discussed. Will this come to a point where one of our synagogues may get a grant to do X program? And when we advertise for people, will we go back to the times where it said "Job at synagogue. Baptists need not apply"? Or for a Baptist church, "Jews need not apply," and you know the variations.
Number 2: Will faith-based providers be permitted to engage in religious discrimination in determining who receives the services, not just the hiring? Are we going to have adoption agencies saying, "We don't discriminate, but you must sign here stating you will raise the child in a specific religion?" And will we be using my tax dollars to do that?
And now the fundamental, number 1 top question: If any of those other questions have "yes" an answer, who is going to decide it and how is it going to be decided? If we could all vote today, and you get to make all the decisions, John, I'd vote for you to do it. You have an excellent thoughtful, an analytic and brilliant mind. But we all know these decisions are made in a political venue, and that that means decisions are made quite differently than even the best of intentions.
So we know that there is a program. We know we have an infrastructure in place that's doing the good work. It's doing marvelous work.
I want to propose a couple of things. One, don't fix it if it ain't broke. And where we know that the separate -- when we talk about the religious community, we're not just talking about synagogues, churches, mosques and other gathering places and congregations. We are also talking about organizations that provide us separately incorporated bodies but are religiously affiliated. But by putting that separate incorporation, we put in place these very issues that these questions would put.
So why don't we start where there is common ground, where we know it works, and see expansion of the programs that have come from religiously affiliated organizations and make sure that the compassionate results that we're looking for continue to happen where we know the system is so strong, instead of putting it at risk, for all the questions that I just asked but did not answer?
ROSENTHAL: And one other thing I want to say before I sit down, and I know we are in a hurry. And you probably have a million questions, as well.
Because of my experience working with government and my experience as a religious professional wearing many different hats in my life, I know the motivation of everyone who works in a religiously affiliated, faith-based, it doesn't matter. The motivation is because we can't help ourself. Our goal in life is to make the world better for our having been here. So it is a religious mission that we are here, that you are here, that we are trying to help the downtrodden, particularly the people who have no one else to voice their needs.
But it's not working out so well. And you know about accountability. And when we look at the huge investment our federal government made in welfare reform, and that we did it through the states, when we look at how many people were off the welfare rolls and how many people still remain in poverty, we've got a really big problem.
So instead of taking the welfare surplus or, worse yet, the Children's Health Insurance Program surplus and putting it into a fund that is going to do this very ambitious and well-intentioned experiment, why don't we take what we know? And every government study has shown that what is missing in our poverty programs and in our public health programs is how to reach people who don't even know about it. How do you provide the outreach? That is where local churches, synagogues, mosques know how to reach people.
If they made a commitment that 100 percent of the children in their congregation will be immunized, and we help them do that, we aren't worrying about crossing the important wall of separation that has, frankly, made America the most successful democracy in the world and has been very good to all of its citizens to make sure that that wall of separation remains strong. Instead of tearing with the proposal that we've heard so far, I want to propose we fund and expand those religiously affiliated organizations that we know work, and that we look at the surplus money that exists for both public health and welfare of the needy, of the disabled, of the disenfranchised, and we give them goals to reach.
And we say, "You, congregation, go out there. And if you need help from your local government," if that's how we get the money, "we may be able to help you." We don't care who's giving the shots, we care that the kid is immunized, and we care because it's our future. They're going to be taking care of us.
And if we can't do it because it is what motivates us by our religious mission to make the world better, we have to do it for enlightened self-interest, because that's the generation that is going to take care us, and I think I have to cut it off there.
He's just mad that I didn't give him a T-shirt.
But what I want to thank you, Dr. DiIulio, for putting this front and center, for being as brilliant and articulate and as open to listening. I think that the number one thing that the Jewish community, in all of its incarnations and in all of its continuum, appreciates the fact that this time we are being listened to, that people are given the opportunity to express concerns, excitement and just genuine questions.
Good luck, and we look forward to working with you.
MODERATOR: I can see people lined up at the mike. Before we begin, I have one question -- well, a couple of related questions, Dr. DiIulio, if you could answer before you begin.
What does the delay in the implementation of the faith-based initiative mean? What are the issues you're concerned about and wrestling with? And what is your thinking on those issues? If you could answer that first.
DIIULIO: Well, as the president said and as Mr. Ari Fleischer said yesterday, there is no delay. I think, in Washington -- at least I'm learning -- when someone appears to be learning and listening, people think they're equivocating and retreating. So there's no delay, as the president said the other day. The president said the other day, we're doing what we were -- you know, the office opened on February 20. We've been around less than four weeks, fewer than four weeks.
And the three items: the increase in charitable giving, the audits -- audits have to be completed by executive order within 180 days of the day the president signed the executive order, which was January 29. The Cabinet centers that will exist to help the core Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives perform those audits and do that work get established within 45 days. So we're still within that period. So there's no delay. We're just following our plan.
MODERATOR: We have a lot of questions, so what I would like to do is have people ask their questions -- and we're going to take several at a time -- and ask if our speakers could -- OK, we're going to get all of your questions at once.
QUESTION: Dr. DiIulio, I, first of all, appreciate your being here and for the efforts your making. In my heart, and I think I can speak for everyone, we really hope that your efforts make a better world for everybody.
My concerns in my gut, though, are, are you going to have guidelines for making these grants with minimum requirement, diversity in who is getting them and diversity in who is being served? Are you going to have guidelines for reviewing the grants after they're made to make sure that the grantees are doing what you're expecting?
In line with that, will there be guidelines for revocation and/or reimbursement if they don't follow what they've said they will? And how are you going to make sure that our First Amendment separation won't be violated?
QUESTION: We recently received an e-mail report of a meeting that was held by Mayor Goldsmith in Augusta, Georgia, that reported that 200 clergy were invited by the mayor of Augusta on a Saturday morning on our Shabbat to gather for a meeting regarding faith-based. At that meeting, it was reported that there was not a single Jew present other than the spouse of a rabbi who happened to attend.
It was explained that everything would be able to be given, save Bibles. There was a very much evangelical Christian overtone to the meeting, with prayer being offered, with other things being said that really said this is a Christian-based motivation. That's the way it was reported to us.
I'd like you to respond as to how your office will keep that from happening.
QUESTION: I am one who knows President Bush's feelings about children, having seen his record and his actions, which I believe speak louder than his words.
I also was going to bring up what Rabbi Lawson did, but the other question that I place before you is, as I was hearing you talk about a level playing field, and even used the word "competition," I'm trying to understand why, perhaps, President Bush or your office is looking at this as a competition, because I always understood, from a congregation that's very involved with helping in the community, we never saw it as a competition. And I'm trying to understand where that idea comes from?
QUESTION: We in the religious pro-choice movement are deeply concerned at remarks that President Bush has reported to have made in the White House to Catholic leaders. He is reported to have said: Bush suggested that using religious groups to aid the disadvantaged may help change the culture in the United States and promote support for the anti-abortion position. "Take the life issue," he said, "This issue requires a president and an administration leading our nation to understand the importance of life. This whole faith-based initiative really ties into a larger cultural issue that we're working on, because when you're talking about welcoming people of faith to help people who are disadvantaged and are unable to defend themselves, the logical step is also those babies."
We in the religious pro-choice movement are very concerned that this office is going to be used to promote the anti-choice agenda and that regulations will be written in that discriminate against religious organizations that provide abortion counseling.
QUESTION: Ms. Melendez, I'd like to know where I can get a copy of your study.
My question is to you, Dr. DiIulio. I think we're very concerned, as you can tell, by the people lined up at the mike and the jam-packed audience here.
What is going to be the role of government in continuing to fund and care about social services as the government, as they have done up until now? I think that's an answer that we're all looking for, because the religious community does a lot of work, and we do very good work without federal money, but I'm concerned that the federal government is going to retreat from its traditional role in social services.
QUESTION: I'd like to start by commenting on Mr. Rogers, a personal hero of mine. And people may not know that Mr. Rogers is a minister who considers his ministry children. And the reason you may not know that is because he has erected a firewall between the specific religious content of his religion and his ministry, which I believe has worked towards its effectiveness.
In the field of medicine where I work, spiritual reality is central to recovery, and when you talk about giving an inoculation, that doesn't include spiritual reality, but many cures of social ills do.
In my experience, which is direct and on the ground with real people, when a particular content is poked at a person who needs some encouragement to develop spiritually, and that doesn't really match their own background, that really backfires. And I would hope that you'd consider that in what kinds of services should be offered and in what manner, because, you know, I think we all want to see this country grow spiritually. The question is how.
QUESTION: My husband is a Salvadoran national. We just came back from El Salvador and helping with the earthquakes. But we have a $5,000-a-year family project that is not a 501(c)(3). It's out of own pocket. We go, and we take orphans on a trip in El Salvador. We've been doing this for three years.
Now I see this in the New York Times: $200,000 of USAID money is going to Samaritan's Purse. And who is Samaritan's Purse, who is also helping in El Salvador because this came from Guadalupe, El Salvador? Quote, "We are a Christian organization, first, and second, an aid organization." And who runs this organization? Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son. And the question was -- and this is old, this is February 5 -- and why has this been going on? Because no one in Congress wants to go against Billy Graham's son.
My question is -- this is already before your organization was in place -- how do we stop this sort of thing? Thank you.
QUESTION: You stressed, Dr. DiIulio, charitable giving, as did Ms. Melendez, and as all of us do. Last month you were quoted in the media as taking exception to the ending, not mending, as Ms. Melendez, but the ending of the estate tax. You saw the ad put into the New York Times, et cetera, by wealthy people, like Rockefeller, Soros, et al., et cetera, et cetera, who question the fact, as Ms. Melendez did, that ending the estate tax would appreciably cut into charitable giving.
I don't know if you've been silent since then or rebuked or whatever by your own expression. But I'm wondering if you could share with us your feelings and perhaps react to Ms. Melendez's statement. And I think all of us would be in the category, or most of us, of mending rather than ending the estate tax.
QUESTION: I'll try and ask a question, rather than making a speech, for the hope the rest of us might do that, so we can get an answer. But my personal question has to do with volunteerism. Americans are wonderful, in terms of volunteering their time and effort. How do we know that suddenly jobs, which would have been done by volunteers, are not going to be put into budgets to be paid for? And therefore, what we are doing is raising the cost of what it would cost to give these services rather than lessening them.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions about the assumptions and the terms of the debate. A couple of people have commented, this is always been talked about, faith-based initiatives. Is there any academic research to say that where there are alternatives, like sectarian and nonsectarian, that one has a better outcome than the other? In other words, faith-based is better than nonfaith-based.
And second of all, I would like to get somebody's comment on the fact that a lot of things have been put into government funding because they were left to the private sector and were done badly. And so, this is another way of asking: Are we going to be robbing Peter to pay Paul and then have a worse outcome?
And so, this is another way of asking: Are we going to be robbing Peter to pay Paul and then having a worse outcome?
QUESTION: I guess it's related to the question of Peter and Paul.
I'd be curious to know if you see a role for your office in having that not happen, and as well as having departments like the Health and Human Services that, under the balanced budget amendment of a few years ago, started a process of driving a lot of visiting nurses associations out of service and that was getting to the population you had mentioned before about the elderly and the home-based population.
MODERATOR: OK, we really need to cut it off. One of the reasons we're hearing -- I'm getting people coming to talk to me up here -- we're waiting for Senator Feingold. Voting has changed in terms of the schedule. And I may have to cut this off. We're going to try to have Rabbi Saperstein close today. But I think, of the three speakers, perhaps Dr. DiIulio, you should rise first.
DIIULIO: We've got 22 questions and 15 minutes, I gather. No problem.
Let me, in the great Jewish tradition, begin by answering all those questions with a question. And the question is: Under what, if any, conditions can we improve the life prospects of those who most of the rest of us have left behind?
And how can we think a little more creatively and outside the box? Because at the end of the day, we'll have this discussion and debate. At the end of this day, decisions will be made. What will it do for children, youth and families who are trapped in poor neighborhoods, disadvantaged conditions in north central Philadelphia and south central Los Angeles, downtown Detroit?
That has to remain a constant focus. I welcome the discussion. I welcome the questions and the debate, but at the end of the day, we're going to be known not by our words, but by our works and how much this civic pluralism resulted in real help and need.
So with that said now, let me say that I've asked for a copy of the first 10 questions, and I'm actually going to look forward to answering them in writing.
MODERATOR: And we will disseminate them throughout the country.
DIIULIO: I have no doubt.
MODERATOR: But not on Shabbat morning.
DIIULIO: I'm told that it is always dangerous to give simple answers to complicated questions under time pressure, but I'm going to try to do that until you pull me right off, and I'm going to do this quickly. And I apologize if my penmanship or shorthand skills weren't adequate to getting all of the nuances in those dozen questions.
First, there was a question about guidelines and about federal law, and let me just make a couple things clear, because this misconception continues to come up. Our office is not a grant-making office. What we're doing is, we're looking at the existing program streams within these five Cabinet agencies and trying to see whether, in accordance, say, with the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, they're being performance measured, performance managed, in the way that they are supposed to be, and then looking at the extent to which existing rules and regulations unfairly discriminate against community-based organizations, whether religious or secular, that have not traditionally been a part of these funding loops and funding streams.
With regard to the beneficiaries, there can be no discrimination, period. I mean, that's it. Under existing federal anti- discrimination laws, there can be no discrimination on race, on color, on national origin, on age, on gender, or including on religious grounds.
If a beneficiary shows up of a particular faith or of no faith, and that organization is receiving penny one of public money, that organization must welcome that beneficiary, and that beneficiary may not be required to participate in any expressly sectarian or religious parts of the program, and the federal monies may not reach that expressly religious part of the program.
You need to think in terms of a continuum that runs from, say, faith-motivated volunteers, who park lumber in a church yard and are out there rehabbing houses and have been doing that for years without anybody's support, right, in a neighborhood where, say, other organizations have been supported, but there remains a lot of abandoned housing, they're sort of one end of the continuum. And at the other end of the continuum, you're talking about programs that have, you know, an essentially, irreducibly, indivisibly religious purpose.
There can't be public money used for entirely religious or sectarian purposes. But a program under existing law can have a religious component, just that the public money may not reach that component.
We're going to be coming out in the next several weeks with a guide to Charitable Choice, which gives our best understanding of the answers to -- more detailed answers, of course -- to all these various questions, but let me move on from there.
I can't speak to the issue directly, because I don't have knowledge of it, so I won't speak directly to the question that was raised about Mayor Steve Goldsmith, except to say that he's a dear friend and colleague, a person for whom I have the deepest personal affection.
I gave a speech last week to the National Association of Evangelicals, laying out the context of the plan. And as the president has said repeatedly, we're talking about a program that welcomes folks into the public square, regardless of faith, orientation or tradition, and good people of no faith at all. That is very much the civic spirit of what we're doing.
The question about competition, it's really about the fact that right now the federal government supports, literally, tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations. You can count on your fingers and toes the number of those organizations that have had the kind of independent performance evaluation or audit that, you know, is ostensibly required to a degree by law. And I think all of us would welcome, I mean, regardless of where we're coming from on this. If you have networks of organizations that have been funded for years to provide, for example, quality after-school literacy programs, and you have children who have severe reading deficiencies and needs, and those programs have run year after year, year in, year out, and yet there's no evidence of the children who enter those programs one, two, or three grades below reading level have actually made progress and are reading at grade level or above grade level, something has got to be done.
And so the competition is not about pitting one group against another or any such, it's really about asking the question: Under what if any conditions can we improve the quality of this government- by-proxy administration? And how can we guarantee that the public dollars that go into these programs, administered through organizations, whether religious or secular, whether nonprofit or for- profit, that those dollars actually achieve the civic results that the programs exist to achieve, the civic, public purposes, the valid public purposes?
I'm just trying to...
MODERATOR: I think, unfortunately, we're going to have to -- would you be willing to answer some of these questions...
DIIULIO: Sure, I'd be willing to answer them, and I appreciate your time. We could go to midnight again, but I know the senator's here.
So thank you very much, and God bless you.
HOST: I want to express our appreciation to all of the participants in this remarkable panel. We could probably go several more hours with your questions and their responses. This is a very, very important issue.
And so, in closing, I want to ask Professor DiIulio to convey something from, certainly, the reform Jewish movement, and I think it's safe to say, Hannah, from the vast majority of the Jewish community, to the president:
We want to be his partners in this. We want to help activate the religious community to help the poor. And we want the president to succeed in his vision to unify the country.
But it seems to us that, putting aside all the technicalities, there's a fundamental decision that the president will have to make. There is so much in what Dr. DiIulio and Stephen Goldsmith and others have created as part of this whole proposal. There's enormous stuff we didn't touch on today, stuff that really can work and can unify the country.
I mean, there can be training programs for participants, there can be information sharing to let people know about the options that are available, there can be technical help that's made available to all of the groups involved in this work. You really want to help groups set up 501(c)(3)s, and some of the fears are inner-city churches don't know how to do it, set up an office in the government that will help small charities set up these 501(c)(3)s that are separately incorporated.
There are ways to stimulate private giving. They already have a lot of these ways in their program. Allowing nonitemizers to deduct it.
And although Sara and I have some qualms about some of the other approaches, because we don't think you should choose between good charities and bad charities, you really want to give -- maybe there's a way for a tax credit program that would be aimed at these kinds of donations that we need to explore. None of these would create constitutional problems and none of these would divide America. The step that inevitably would divide it is direct or massive indirect funding to persuasively sectarian institutions.
I want to appeal...
And so I would just close with this request to the president: We don't have to do everything at once. Let's begin with those things that can truly excite the nation, work to have the impact on the religious community and truly unify America around this effort to have the government and the religious sector partner in constitutional ways to make a profound difference for millions of people that need that aid. And then let's slowly look at some of these other issues that the court is clarifying at this time that we can work together to implement it. It's a kind of partnership we really want with the president of the United States. It's a kind of partnership we want with you.
God bless in your work. And thank you all for helping us.