Faith-Based Funding: Broad Support, Profound Questions
Data presented by:
Andrew Kohut, Director, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
Sulayman Nyang, Professor of African Studies, Howard University and Director, Muslims in American Public Square project
Melissa Rogers, Executive Director, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Marshall Wittman, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Alan Wolfe, Professor of Political Science and Director, Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College
E.J. Dionne, Jr., Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution and Co-Chair, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
MELISSA ROGERS: Good morning. My name is Melissa Rogers. I’m executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a project supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. And we’re grateful today to have Barbara Beck of the Trusts with us. And we’re so grateful to you all for joining us for this important discussion.
The Forum serves as a platform for discussion and research about issues relating to the intersection of religion and public affairs. We function as both a clearinghouse of information, and a town hall. People often ask what the term “public life” means in our title, and that’s actually a very good question. We define public life broadly to encompass not only the government sphere, but also a broader sphere that encompasses politics, the formation of public policy, and the way communities are engaged. We seek to be a true forum for the fruitful exchange of ideas rather than an advocate for any one perspective on the issues.
You have today in your hands a joint study by the Forum and the Pew Center for the People and the Press. It surveys American opinion on faith-based social services and other issues relating to religion and public life. It makes clear that there’s no one religious response to the public issues of our day. And, of course, that’s what makes our work so interesting. The Forum is fortunate to have as its co-chairs E.J. Dionne, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and columnist at the Washington Post, as well as Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago. Jean could not be with us today, but we greatly appreciate the partnership of the Brookings Institution, the University of Chicago and Georgetown University in our project.
So, let me turn this over to E.J. right now to comment, give further remarks and introductions.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very much, Melissa.
Thank you all for coming. This is the first of what we hope will be annual surveys on religion and public life that will be joint projects of the Pew Forum and the Pew Research Center. I’m going to say a few words about my friend Andy Kohut in a moment. Of course, we are grateful to The Pew Charitable Trusts, and we’re glad Barbara Beck is here. I’ve taken to referring to them as St. Pew, and I think that’s appropriate from our point of view.
I also want to welcome everybody to the Brookings Institution. I want to thank Mike Armacost, the president, for supporting this work. And I’d like to say a particular heartfelt thank you to Paul Light, who is head of the Brookings Institution’s Governmental Studies Program. It’s fair to say that without Paul’s imagination and creativity and hard work, the Pew Forum simply would not exist, and Melissa, Staci, Amy and all of us at the Forum are very, very grateful to Paul.
This is a very exciting survey, and without further ado, I want to turn to Andy Kohut. And I’ll introduce Andy, Andy will lay out the survey, and then I’ll introduce our very distinguished panel. We’re grateful to all of you for being here.
I would just like to underscore one point, that there are many accounts about American politics in our cultural and moral life that see Americans as divided into camps, into cultures, liberal and conservative, secular and religious, rural and metropolitan. And there is some evidence in this survey for that view. But there is also a great deal of evidence showing that Americans and individuals have very nuanced, sometimes conflicting, certainly very complicated views on these questions. There is great sympathy for religion, for the work of religious congregations, and institutions, and considerable sympathy for the idea of government help to faith-based institutions. But there is also a great concern for religious liberty, and the public has many questions and some doubts about how a government program linked with religion might work in practice.
In short, there are findings in this survey to hearten virtually all sides in this great debate, and findings that will give qualms to virtually all sides in this great debate. And Andy will now lay all this out without any qualms at all.
I just want to say briefly, Andy Kohut, as you know, is the head of the Pew Research Center. He is, in my experience, not only one of the most able, but also one of the most honest pollsters I’ve ever gotten to work with. Andy, among other things, has created this wonderful topology of the American electorate. When I was a reporter at the New York Times, I once wrote 3,000 words on his first topology. That’s an awful lot of words for somebody else’s survey in a newspaper. Unfortunately, my favorite group in his topology has now dropped out. They were called the “upbeats” and perhaps it’s significant to our public life that the upbeats are no longer here.
The other thing I want to say is, I always knew Andy was good pollster, but I never knew how much fun he was to work with, and that when you sit down with Andy it means there is no waste of time, and just enormous amount of excitement when new findings come along. And I point out one small thing in this survey, which I think reflects a lot on Andy’s integrity, there is a question about hiring by these religious organizations if they receive government funding. And when we get this finding, it’s a very strong finding, and Andy will talk about it, and his first reaction was, let us make sure this finding is right. And he immediately went back into a couple of surveys to rephrase the question in several ways to make sure we weren’t getting this finding because of some accident of question wording.
And I just think that reflects on your integrity, Andy, and we were very glad to work with you on this. Thank you.
ANDREW KOHUT: The admiration is mutual. E.J. and I have been conspiring for more than 20 years now, and I’ve always enjoyed our collaborations. I listened to him describe our findings as public opinion being nuanced, and conflicted, and textured, and that’s what I would expect of an articulate columnist and pundit.
I would use a technical term to describe our findings about faith-based funding, it’s a bucket of worms. Public opinion is really all over the map in this survey, and I would like to describe how.
This is the third nationwide survey that has shown broad-based support for the idea of faith-based groups receiving government funding to provide social services. But when we probe public opinion a little bit further, we find in practice the public has many and varied reservations.
Most Americans would not favor allowing non-Judeo-Christian religious groups, such as Muslim Americans, Buddhist Americans, Nation of Islam, and Church of Scientology, to apply for federal funds to help needy people or to deal with social problems.
On the other hand, Catholic churches, mainline Protestant churches, and Jewish synagogues are acceptable say six in ten in this poll. But even here, three in ten say they would oppose such mainstream houses of worship from applying for federal funds.
So, in a sense, what people are saying is they are completely comfortable with religious houses of worship that reflect their faith or provide no threat from receiving such funds, or being allowed to apply for such funds. But beyond these reservations about who, there are strong concerns about what government might do to religion, and what religious people might do to the people they’re trying to help if this should come about, 68 percent worry that faith-based initiatives might lead to too much involvement of government in religion. On the other hand, six in ten expressed concern that religious groups would proselytize among the people they’re trying to help. And about the same percentage would prohibit groups that encourage religious conversion from receiving funds.
As E.J. pointed out, a bigger problem with government funding of religious organizations from the point of view of the American public is that 78 percent oppose the idea of these organizations only hiring people of their religious faith. And we were stunned by the size of that percentage, and wondered whether we had in some way induced that response with the way we worded the question, and we came up with two alternate questions which we put on a subsequent survey, which you can read about in the report, and essentially they show the same thing.
As we might have expected, attitudes toward faith-based funding have become politicized over the past nine months or so since we started, over the past year actually, since we started doing these surveys. Republicans are more enthusiastic than they were in the fall of 2000, and Democrats are less enthusiastic, as this program becomes associated with the Bush administration. But for all of the partisan differences, and I wouldn’t make too much of these partisan differences, there is as much within party differences as there are between party differences. On the Republican side, white evangelical Protestants are very big backers, non-evangelical conservatives are far less enthusiastic, as are Republican moderates. Among Democrats, a bare majority of white liberals favor this idea, while black Democrats embrace it as strongly as Republican evangelicals.
Giving people these options, giving needy people the option of faith-based initiatives, and the compassion of religious organizations are the arguments in favor of faith-based funding that generate the most agreement, but our analysis of the survey suggests that the people’s views about the power of religion to solve problems, and perhaps the greater efficiency of religious organizations when doing social service, are really the two opinions that have the most persuasive effect on people’s attitudes towards faith-based funding.
Regarding the question of compassion, it’s clear that most Americans acknowledge that religious organizations play an important role in helping people in this country, large majorities say that, and when we looked at the relationship between volunteerism, helping needy people, and working with young people, there is a clear pattern of people who have stronger religious beliefs and practices doing much more than people with moderate levels of religious belief and practices. And it’s not one that can be broken down by other demographic characteristics. There’s a real strong relationship between religious belief and practice, and people are acknowledging that.
In the poll, which doesn’t only deal with faith-based funding, in fact, there’s a lot in here I hope you get a chance to take a look at, we found other religious divides. Nationwide, people generally hold negative views of atheists, very negative views of people who don’t believe in God. Americans who don’t believe in God. And only lukewarm opinions of non-Judeo-Christian Americans. In fact, pluralities have unfavorable opinions of Muslim Americans and Buddhist Americans. For the most part, these potential tensions remain below the surface as very few people say they are bothered by the increasing number of non-Christians and seculars in American society. The public is more openly hostile towards the news business and the entertainment industry when it comes to religion. This is particularly true among highly religious Americans, majorities of whom believe that Hollywood and the press does not treat people of their faith fairly.
The biggest surprise in this survey is the sharp generational views about the role that religion plays in politics, or should play in politics, and the possibility of a narrowing divide between church and state. Older people, particularly people over 65, are much more worried than younger people about the blurring of these lines. Most seniors do not think it’s a good idea for the churches to speak out around social and political questions, let alone for the clergy to engage in political advocacy from the pulpit. Older people are far less enthusiastic than younger people about faith-based initiatives generally, and they worry much more about the threats to the separation between church and state.
We really looked very intensely at this pattern, and we could not break it down with other demographic characteristics. It is a generational pattern. It is not a one-shot deal. I went back to our survey in 1996 and found the same pattern, which we overlooked. It’s clear that younger people and older people have different views on this. The differences are a little more sharply drawn between the young and old people, among less well educated, and it is tempered among college graduates young and old. Nonetheless, it’s still there.
Now, before the libertarians in the group, in this gathering get all misty-eyed about the older generation, while this is a group that worries more about the blurring of church and state, it’s also a group that holds much more hostile views on non-Judeo-Christian groups. So, there may be a linkage there.
Finally, it’s not surprising that for the most part this survey shows a strong connection between religious belief and Republican partisanship, and conservative points of view on issues, their opposition to gay marriages, assisted suicides, and unrestricted research on cloning are opposed, and most people say it’s the religious beliefs, not other factors, which leads them to these opinions. But there are some liberal effects as well. Many of the growing number of opponents of the death penalty point to religion as the reason that has influenced their opposition to the death penalty.
I’ll close with what I should have started with, the facts of the survey. This is a survey of 2000 adult Americans conducted in the first two weeks of March. We did an over-sampling of African Americans and the entire questionnaire was also available in the reports and on our respective web pages.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you, Andy.
I just want to introduce our panel. And, by the way, I’m grateful that Andy called attention to this little study we did right before the election. We also hope to collaborate on such focused studies in the future. And I want to ask anyone in the audience who is a social scientist, think about working on this question of the attitudes of young people, because that is one of those most, I think with Andy, one of the most interesting findings. We were trying to puzzle out what might be causing this. It’s worth noting that somebody who is 21 in the 1960 presidential campaign where the dominant ethos among so many Americans was that religion should play less of a role in public life, those folks are now 62. So somebody who was 21 or older in 1960 is 62 and older. I wonder if that is an effect.
The other effect that Andy and I talked about is younger people are very sympathetic, according to lots of other surveys, to non-governmental social action, and I’m wondering if they put the action of the religious institutions in that context.
I want to introduce first Melissa Rogers, the executive director of the Pew Forum. She was formerly the general counsel to the Baptist Joint Committee. The Baptist Joint Committee are a very generous and gentle people, but they almost came to violence when I persuaded Melissa to leave and become the director of the Pew forum. That’s how respected she is. She is a joy to work with, has written very widely on this subject, and I’m going to ask Melissa to go first.
Then there is Alan Wolfe, who is a professor in the department of political science, and director of the Boise Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College. I have been an Alan Wolfe fan for a long time, but became an Alan Wolfe fanatic when his book Whose Keeper was published ten years ago, roughly ten years ago. I count it at ten years ago. And I always tell Alan it’s the only serious book I read on my honeymoon, which was ten years ago. I figure Whose Keeper is not a bad title to raise moral questions about people’s obligations to each other, but it’s a book I still like to plug, although Alan is now well known for other works including One National After All, and the recently published Moral Freedom. Alan sort of survived what might be called an obstacle course.
Wendy Kaminer, who is generally associated with the left, gave him a very positive review in the New York Times this Sunday, and James Q. Wilson, who is generally associated with the more conservative side of things gave him a very sympathetic review in the Wall Street Journal. I think this says that Alan Wolfe should run for office some day. We are very, very glad to have Alan with us.
Sulayman Nyang teaches at Howard University here in Washington, where he is a professor of African American studies. From 1975 to 1978 he served as Deputy Ambassador and head of chancellery in the Gambian Embassy, in Saudi Arabia. Following his work as a diplomat he emigrated to the United States, returned to academic life at Howard, where he later was the chair of his department from 1986 to 1993. He also serves as co-director of the Muslims in the Public Square project, and it won’t surprise you a bit that this is a research project funded by the Pew Charitable Trust. His latest book Islam in America is scheduled to appear this fall. His best known works are Islam Christianity and African Identity, A Line in the Sand, Saudi Arabia’s Role in the Gulf War, and Religious Plurality in Africa. We’re very, very grateful that you could join us today.
And finally, Marshall Wittman, who threatens to get more quotes in the paper than our own Tom Mann. Marshall Wittman has gotten — there’s a position you can’t apply for; it’s not advertised in The Washington Post. It is Washington wise person. Thirty years ago it might have been Washington wise man, but certainly now it’s Washington wise person. And a wise person is determined by some ratio of quippy quotes to thoughtful quotes. And if you get that ratio right you are cited all the time.
In my experience Marshall, like Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein, who are the other competitors for this prize, is actually worth quoting and very much worth talking to. And he’s very good to have on this panel today. He is not a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Before joining the institute he served as the Christian Coalition’s director of legislative affairs. In the Bush administration he served as the deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services. He was also the legislative representative with the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. And I never knew you were a union guy. He was a public affairs specialist with the National Treasury Employees Union. He will speak specifically today about how strongly Americans support the right of workers to organize.
We welcome you all and we’ll start with Melissa Rogers.
MELISSA ROGERS: Thank you, E.J.
Let me just make three quick observations on the surveys finding regarding faith based social services. First, the survey indicates that public opinion turns on different matters with respect to who should be eligible for government funding. And some of this data is summarized on page 13 in the box on that page. A couple of considerations seem to move a fairly large segment of opinion on these matters. For example, whether the group encourages religious conversion as part of the services that it provides. While there is broad support reflected in this survey for faith based funding generally, only 32 percent of the public favors government funding of these kind of groups that encourage religious conversion as part of the services they provide.
Another consideration that moves overall opinion in a significant way is, as Andy mentioned, the particular faith group involved, 62 percent of the public approves of Catholic churches applying for funds, for example, while only 38 percent favor Muslim mosques and Buddhist temples doing the same thing. Now, there are some other considerations that should be noted that seem less important in moving public opinion on these issues, but they still make some difference. And that is, some opinions turn on; for example, whether we’re talking about a house of worship receiving the government funding or a separate nonprofit that’s affiliated with the religious institution. And the survey indicates that about 69 percent favor government funding for a separate, religiously affiliated nonprofit, whereas 60 percent favor churches or houses of worship applying for these funds. And some opinions turn on the way the question is worded, as Andy notes in the study. There’s a higher percentage of people that feel comfortable with the government funding when it’s framed in terms of allowing houses of worship to apply for the funding, as opposed to when it’s framed as, “the government will give funding to these entities.”
Second, as Andy mentioned earlier, there are sharp differences in views about government funding for faith based organizations between the oldest of the population and the youngest of the population. I’ll just throw out a couple of findings that I thought were interesting in this regard. Approximately 70 percent of those ages 18 to 29, for example, favor churches and other houses of worship being able to apply for government funding to provide social services, while only about 52 percent of those 50 and older feel this way. And the gaps, as Andy alluded to, are most significant when you’re talking about minority faith groups application for government funding to provide social services. About twice as many young people favor Muslim mosques or Buddhist temples applying for government funds as do older people. So I think even if one isn’t crazy about government funding for faith based organizations, you have to take some kind of heart in finding that younger people tend to put majority and minority faiths on more of a par.
The survey also showed that the young are less attached to the abstract notion of the separation of church and state, but the results actually were closer when you’re talking about young and old opinions on issues such as coercion of beneficiaries, or concerns about religious divisions that might result as a result of government funding for faith based institutions.
Finally, just a note about the hiring issue. As was mentioned, there is a strong overall finding regarding religious organization’s ability to hire on the basis of religion vis-à-vis employees who are operating as a part of a government funded program. I just want to highlight this issue, because it’s a very hard fought one. There are those who favor the ability of religious organizations to receive the government money, and to hire on the basis of religion within those government funded programs, and they feel very strongly about this. On the other side, the issue is as hard fought among those who would oppose this particular ability.
And I just say that, because this particular employment matter is a provision that was made law as part of the welfare reform legislation in 1996, and some subsequent legislation. And the Supreme Court has yet to address whether a religious organization retains the religious liberty to make employment decisions on the basis of religion, vis-a-vis employees working in government programs. While public opinion certainly matters when we’re talking about legislative and political matters, at least in theory, public opinion matters less in the courts, where the arguments will be framed in terms of the legality of this measure and its constitutionality. So this is sure to be a hard fought issue as we move forward, both in the legislative arena and the courts.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
ALAN WOLFE: Well, Andy is just really a national resource. And as we work through the next few years in discussing this issue in the public sphere, his ability to sensitively tap public opinion is just going to be beneficial to everyone, whatever their particular views on this particular question.
I interpret much of the data in his report demonstrating something that it seems to me to be proven over, and over, and over again, whenever we do these kinds of surveys. And that is that while Americans, as we all know, are a deeply religious people, we are not, and have not been for a considerable period of time, a very theological people. The American conception of God is a capacious one; it’s a generous one; it’s an inclusive one. It is not one that is particularly sympathetic to sectarianism, to doctrine, to dogma, and to other aspects of religious history that can be associated with religion, but are often, at least in American public opinion, not associated with Americans religion, and if they are tend to transform people’s attitudes about religion from the more positive toward the more negative.
God is great, that’s what the survey seems to show, but people have real reservations about sects, about denominations, about theological disputes. This comes out very, very clearly in some of the survey’s findings about organizations that I think in the public mind are viewed as inherently sectarian, which is Scientologists, the negative attitudes towards Scientologists demonstrates that very, very well. There’s also a lingering suspicion in the survey about Mormons, that in spite of the efforts of what used to be called the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints to change its name. It recently announced that it was changing its name to the Church of Jesus Christ, in order, I think, to deal with historic perceptions of the church as sectarian, that that lingering sense is fairly strong there.
It also, I think, suggests that as sympathetic as Americans are toward faith they have real reservations about what could called a sort of in your face evangelism, an emphasis on conversion, an emphasis on what some people at least would define as the charge that their faith in Jesus gives to them to save souls. And, in particular, to save souls of those who are reluctant to have their souls saved. When it comes to that, I think there is a lingering sense that that takes this belief in God, which we all think is good, and shifts it over into the category of something that sounds much more sectarian, which people think of as not so good.
So I think Americans would be enormously supportive of the idea of personal witnessing, that if someone says that my faith leads me to lead an exemplary life for me personally, and by demonstrating the important of Jesus to me in my own life I can send a message to others, that’s perfectly fine. But, if it means ringing doorbells and calling during dinner, the attitude is going to be roughly the same as the attitude toward telemarketer, and I don’t think I need a survey to demonstrate that that is not the most positive. Telemarketers don’t rank up there in public respect in the United States.
In short, the survey seems to demonstrate that if we could only find a way to give the money to God, if we could only find a way to give money to individual believers, there would be nothing wrong with the faith based initiative. The problem is you have to give it to institutions, unless, of course, it’s a voucher system, and we could talk about that. But there is a deep anti-institutional strain in American attitudes towards religion. That institutions are seen as corrupting faith to some degree. Even religious institutions can be seen as corrupting faith. Faith is essentially a matter of one’s personal witness, and this lingering suspicion of institutions runs throughout a great deal of data that’s been accumulated by sociologists of religion.
If we frame this in others words as aid to individuals, as assistance to individuals, I think there would generally be positive attitudes. Much of this particular survey talks about churches. People have positive attitudes towards churches, primarily because they see churches as local institutions that are closer to people. If it were framed as aid to denominations, Lutherans, Methodists, however, I think that some of that support would fall of dramatically. I would like to see a much, much deeper probing of feelings that people have towards Catholicism, particularly, because Catholicism is in many ways our most institutional of religions. It’s one that has less autonomy for local churches, and in that sense runs against the kind of American preference for localism in their churches. And I just wonder if in future surveys there wouldn’t be some way to tap into that. I think, in other words, that we might find a greater lingering anti-Catholicism in the data than this particular survey demonstrates.
I also believe that this way of making a distinction between God who is good, and sects, and dogma which is bad, explains the very, very strong generational findings that the other people talked about. As I interpret those findings, and of course there’s no way to prove this one way or the other, what the generational difference really reflects is that the older generation simply grew up in a time when religion in America was more sectarian, and was more dogmatic. And the younger generation has grown up in a post-Vatican, much more ecumenical environment, with a tremendous amount of religious switching, in which 30-some percent of Americans hold a faith that was not the faith of their parents. That this is just an entirely new world of religion that’s emerged in the United States since roughly the 1960s, compared to the kind of urban parish, rural Protestant, heavily Jewish, lack of intermarriage that might have been the characteristic features of American religious life in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. So in this whole new world it would be obvious that someone whose youth was spent at a time when religion was fashioning itself in a much more ecumenical, much more free, individual choice model of religious faith would have fewer reservations about the establishment clause, or separation of church and state, because there’s no religion to establish. Compared to someone who grew up in a time of much greater, and stronger religious institutions when those fears, it seems to me, would give certain reason for believing in a stricter separation of church and state.
I think the same thing applies to the stunning finding about hiring practices, which may be the most important finding in the survey. Any religious group, in my personal view, ought to have the right to hire people of its own faith, and to discriminate on religious grounds, because presumably that’s what makes it religious. I simply cannot understand how a group could claim to be religious and to be operating on the basis of faith, and not have at least some kind of quotas to use a very unpleasant word, some kind of preference for people of its own faith. It seems to me to be obvious and to make perfect sense. But, the public doesn’t see it that way. And I think in part because they, once again, would attribute anyone having a religious test, or a faith test, or some kind of statement of faith that you have to sign in order to work for a particular organization as reflecting this same kind of sectarianism. And this, in turn, it seems to me, raises all kinds of problems for any effort to provide public support along the lines that have been so far suggested for President Bush’s faith based initiative.
I tend to view this whole question as one in which just about anything that would work in terms of a faith-based initiative would probably be unconstitutional, and anything that would be constitutional could not possibly work. If at least we take the idea behind the whole faith-based initiative that the salvation of souls is what, in fact, works, you know, that you cannot, it seems to me, have very, very effective programs without commitments to a specific faith, and to the hard disciplined and sense of belief that goes along with that, all of which strikes me, I’m prepared to conclude from the research that I’ve read, would have a very, very — you know, if people were genuinely saved, it would have a remarkable effect if they were former drug addicts, or criminals, or whatever. But all the things that contribute to that then raise all of these questions that people have, and all of these fears that people have, which, of course, as Melissa suggested, are not the same as what’s constitutional and what isn’t, as the Supreme Court decides these matters. But if the court is in any way influenced by public opinion, this will be an obstacle to all of it.
Finally, I just wanted to say that I was struck, other people are obviously going to talk about the question of the much sharper disagreements that people have about Buddhists, and about Muslims, and other organizations, which at one level seems to reflect a greater intolerance of non-Judeo-Christian groups in American society. There is some kind of sharp divide here. On the other hand, there is also a table that indicates that people are not at all bothered by these organizations in their society. They’re not even all that bothered by atheists. One particular table has two columns about every group, evangelicals, Jews, Catholics, how they feel about non-Judeo-Christian groups, and how they feel about atheists. And majorities on every cell in the table say that they’re not bothered by these groups. So how can there be lingering reservations about government support for such non-Judeo-Christian groups, and a sense that people aren’t bothered by them.
Again, I would interpret it in this sense that there’s probably a sense on the part of many Americans that they don’t fully know what these groups are like. They don’t have much experience with non-Judeo-Christian groups, they don’t know that many people that are Muslims, they don’t know that many people that are American Buddhists, and so not knowing that much, the default position is, well, they must be sectarian, and, therefore, we have reservations about them. Whereas, other organizations that may be more or less or equally sectarian, people know evangelical Christians, or they know people who are Catholic, or whatever, and whatever their public perception of those religions, they know the individuals, and the individuals involved are nice people and, therefore, they don’t see anything particularly wrong about it.
In conclusion, it’s a fascinating study, it’s going to be enormously important. Personally, I must confess, as we see Republicans and conservatives engaged in the same kind of social engineering that Democrats and liberals have done for years, all kinds of fascinating unanticipated consequences. I can see many, many people in the years ahead, as we proceed on this initiative saying, boy, you know, it’s just like the war on poverty, neo-conservatism was born out of the war on poverty because the war on poverty had so many consequences that the liberals who supported it never anticipated. Maybe it will be the case that Republican social engineering through faith-based initiatives will have so many unanticipated consequences that it will lead to the birth of a new neo or one sort or another.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
SULAYMAN NYANG: Yes, good morning. In looking at the report, a number of issues come to mind. First of all, the very fact that 38 percent favor allowing mosques and Buddhist temples to apply for government funds to provide services is heartening to Muslim community given the fact that the Muslim community is very young in this country. Very few people in America really know much about Islam in the first place. So the lack of knowledge could very well explain this 38 percent.
The other point that is very important for the Muslim community in this regard really would be the fact that college educated people who basically would have more information about Islam and Buddhism and other religions tend to have higher rates, but there is a knowledge gap between the college educated people and the non-college educated people, and this has implications for the understanding of the Muslim community in American society.
There is also, I believe, the problem of conflation that Muslims, orthodox Muslims, invariably are known in the larger wide society as Nation of Islam, because many people conceptually cannot make that distinction between orthodox Islam and the Nation of Islam, so the negative fall-outs from the Nation of Islam will muddy the waters when it comes to looking at Islam. And I think that becomes very important.
The other point which I think came out very clearly with regard to the report was the fact that Americans who are 50 years of age or above tend to be more negative in terms of their attitude toward the Muslims and the Buddhists, with regard to receiving faith-based monies from the government. Now, this could be explained in the sense that many of these people were born at a time in America when there was a lot of sectarianism and, of course, many of them also have very limited contact with Muslims. Whereas the college kids and those who are under 35 have been going to college with Muslims. We have Muslim associations on various American campuses since the Second World War.
So I would say that the baby-boomers, not most of them, but a sizeable number of the baby-boomers have been exposed to what I call the children of the Cold War, Muslims who came here together with Vietnamese, who are Buddhists, to America as a result of the Cold War. So, in this case, the report seemed to be suggesting that the baby-boomers who went to school, high school or college, with the children of the Cold War, Muslim refugees who were fleeing from the Soviet Union, or Afghanistan, or Somalia, and other places and came to America, came to have better contact. So this might very well be a reason for the high concentration of college aged people or young people who are predisposed towards the Muslims.
So in addition to the conflation of the Nation of Islam, with orthodox Islam, I think the report seems to suggest that the younger generation and the college educated Americans are more positive to the Muslims. Now, what is very striking in the report is the fact that the seculars at the higher level are more favorably disposed towards the Muslims than religious people. So here, residual sectarianism might very well play in the sense that the seculars are people who relate religious issues very much like marketeers because in the American context what we are witnessing really is growing secularization of the people to the marketplace, that’s why the morals are becoming more important in many cases than some other centers of human interaction. And, of course, this also affects the relationship between the Muslims and the larger societies.
So from the report, I would say that in the Muslim community, some of the groups that I have identified in that community, those I call the grasshopper Muslims, who are totally cultural Muslims, would be more inclined to be in contact with seculars. So seculars would have a more positive opinion of those Muslims, what I call the grasshopper Muslims, because they’re highly assimilated Americans, unless you go by their name or you see them in a particular ethnic context, you will not know that they are Muslims. And, of course, American seculars will have more contact with those people than evangelicals.
And this leads me to my other point, that the evangelicals are the least connected to Muslims. Muslims have dialogues going on right now with Catholics to a limited degree with Jews, and with mainline Protestant groups. But the evangelicals do not have any contact or dialogue with Muslims. So, naturally, a higher percentage of the evangelicals would have very negative attitude towards the Muslims because they don’t see them, they don’t know them, even though they are fellow Americans. And I think this becomes very important in terms of findings.
Now, the other point that I think becomes very important is the fact that in the Muslim community itself, you will see that the suburban Muslims who are very much integrated in suburbia because they are highly educated professional people, the people we call muppies, Muslim yuppies, I mean, you know, would be more able to interact in that context. And, of course, they are the mirror opposition of those Muslims who are in the inner cities. So you do have a divide between the Muslim muppies and the Muslims who find themselves in the inner city, and this has consequences with the lack of perception, and the manner in which they are religious.
There is also in the report, which is not stated, but I think Alan hinted at it, I mean, of course, he didn’t use the term I’m about to use. The “C” word is the hidden factor. And, you know, like I don’t have to explain what the “C” word is. But it is there. And the Muslims, and the Mormons, and the Scientologists, and others as seen in that regard. So the “C” word is the hidden factor, cult, if you — that perception is there, and I think it’s very much that the Muslims or the Buddhists in the eyes of those who don’t interact with them are likely to be perceived as too sectarian. And for that matter, they might very well be discriminated against.
And now, the other point that needs to be emphasized is the fact that the Muslim suburbanites, or the muppies, tended to vote Republican. You can see an ironic twist to the report here, that the Republican conservatives tend to be less disposed towards the Muslims than the Democrats, 77 percent of the Democratic Party supporting the Muslims and their rights. But the Republicans, who have many points of convergence with the Muslims, tend to go the other way. They have less numbers favoring, which is a contradiction because during the last election, the Muslims overwhelmingly, with the support of the muppies, declaring for President George W. Bush now. So that’s a very interesting development with regard to what transpired.
The general comment I would like to make really is that the American Muslims are living in a society which is both predominantly Christian and prayerful. Now, these are two important points to bear in mind, that the report made it very clear that the majority of Americans are still Christians. Or at least in support, as Alan suggested, a Christian understanding of reality, which is very Jeffersonian in a sense. That is, you know, they embrace the notion that there is a deity that is almighty, and all powerful, and of course in terms of the attributes the almighty, all powerful tended to come on top, vis-a-vis loving, compassionate, caring, and others. And I think this became very evident in terms of this report. The Muslim Americans will fit right into that kind of understanding, except for what I’ll call the oysters in the Muslim community. Of course, those are very much like the evangelical Christians and, to some extent, very traditional Catholics.
And the last point I will make here is that the American Muslims face identical problems with all religious Americans who have been here before as minorities. When we look at the findings in this report, what we have to bear in mind is the fact that there is a historical record with regard to assimilation and acceptance of religious minorities. They go through stages, it has happened to all other religious minorities. And of course, Alan pointed out very clearly that some of the opinions expressed might very well demonstrate the fact that American society has gone through a major transformation. And this is likely because the growing influence of the marketplace, and television and the media in American society, to the point that Americans maintain their religiosity while very much embrace the fruits of secularization.
So there is double track right now going on that secularization is impacting, but it is not impacting negatively to the point that people are moving away from religion, something that most of the intellectuals who talk about modernizations thought would happen. Americans have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that you can be modern, or post modern without losing your religion. And I think the Muslims will feel comfortable in the American boat.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very much. The sign of a successful analyst is someone who gives you terms you will remember when you walk out of the room. Muppies, oysters, and grasshoppers are fantastic. Thank you, so very much.
MARSHALL WITTMAN: Thank you, E.J. What E.J. failed to mention in my rather eclectic, or rather erratic resume is that I was the first and only Jewish legislative director of the Christian Coalition. Answering the age old question, what is a nice Jewish boy doing in a place like that. But I guess I bring to the report a little bit of a unique perspective. And I thought the report was very interesting, because it highlighted what I would term the faith based paradox. The report clearly indicated that the strongest support for this faith based initiative was among evangelicals, and white evangelicals and African Americans. The dirty little secret is the organized religious right have never been enthusiastic about this faith based effort. It has a lot of support among evangelicals, as the report indicated, but its leadership has emerged as the loudest and perhaps the most effective opponents to this effort. Most notably, Marvin Olasky, who was then Governor Bush’s adviser on this issue, is opposing it. Pat Robertson, my former boss, has opposed it. Jerry Falwell has opposed it.
Now, why have they opposed it? Well, for varying reasons. Robertson articulated the objection that money could go to non-traditional religions, such as the Nation of Islam, Scientology. I call it proselytizing competition. And so he objected for those reasons. Also embedded in the opposition of Olasky, Robertson, Falwell was that the federal dollar would inevitably corrupt the faith based organizations, that with the federal dollar comes federal regulations, and inevitably prohibitions on proselytizing was, of course, the heart of this effort. There is also a conservative objection that is voiced by my colleague at Hudson that the federal dollar will be addictive, and that this community which offers unique services and uniquely offering faith based counseling will become like Catholic Charities and other religiously formed organizations that have now become lobbyists for the welfare state.
So what probably the Bush White House never anticipated would be that they would have to sell this program to the people it was supposed to be directed toward, the white evangelicals who formed the base for Bush’s victories, and his stalwart supporters. Now, this has all come to a head in the last two or three months. Interestingly, the person who is head of the faith based office John DiIulio, a card carrying Democrat who opposes the elimination of the inheritance tax and is caught in quite a controversy, has gone to war with Robertson and Falwell over this project. So if you look at this report you would think, gosh, the religious right would be the strongest supporters, and who has come to the defense of this program?
Well, it was a very interesting story in Saturday’s New York Times. The Reverend Eugene Rivers, an African American pastor in Boston who has worked with inner city social efforts for many years, is a very close ally of John DiIulio, and he said in the article, he said George W. Bush facilitated new opportunities for progressive left of center leadership in the same way it took Richard Nixon to open up channels of communication with China. He goes on to say, the religious right thought this was a cash cow, that it was going to be their private property politically. And so in many ways this issue is taking on the nature of another issue, school choice.
School choice is an issue that is extremely controversial among white, suburban Republicans. And a lot of the objection to various efforts to get school choice on the ballot has come from white suburban. And the support has come from, many times, inner city minorities and African Americans. And it’s interesting how this issue is playing out, as well, because it does indeed seem to be turning into something that it was not originally intended to be. And that is an effort to truly broaden the scope of the Bush administration. Maybe it was intended with that in mind, because the white evangelical leadership is raising opposition, and there is some support in the African American community as this report demonstrated. And most notably, the leaders like the Reverend Rivers, also I would point out Reverend Floyd Flake, former Democratic member of Congress from New York is also very supportive of this effort. So with this faith based paradox that the organized religious right is opposing this effort comes what I would call the faith based opportunity that this is an opportunity for perhaps the most innovative man in the Bush administration, John DiIulio to reach out to non-traditional Republican constituencies.
Now, it’s going to be very interesting how this is all going to play out in Congress. There is rising conservative opposition to direct grants to faith based organizations. The rest of the religious right and its conservative opposition to this effort is now supporting tax credits. That may be how it eventually plays out. But, it will be interesting to see whether the White House sticks to its guns, and pursues this effort despite the opposition of the organized religious right, and some conservative folks, because I do believe embedded in this is an opportunity politically for the Republican Party.
Now, it’s interesting what Professor Wolfe points out is a very interesting question. Will this turn out to be like the Great Society? In other words, I sort of said that, will this be like the old Office of Economic Opportunity with Bibles? In other words, you have an effort here to try to devolve federal resources and give it to community organizations. And, of course, Richard Nixon made an effort to eliminate the OEO program, and this was the bane of existence of conservatives. And so it’s exploring new territory, and Professor Wolfe is exactly right when he says the law of unintended consequences has, indeed, already kicked in now that this program has been unveiled.
E.J. DIONNE: Marshall, thank you for that very, very helpful presentation.
On your point about OEO at the end, the Reverend and former Congressman Floyd Flake was here a few weeks back. And he said, and he’s a strong supporter of this initiative in general, but he said his worry is that it might recreate the problems of model cities, another ’60s program. So we never knew we elected George Bush to bring back the ’60s.
Before we go on I want to take about 90 seconds to point out a few findings here that I think should go into the mix of discussion. Andy talked about how this report is a bucket of worms. As many of you know, there’s a very important faith based organization in town called the Fishing School. And so I thought what’s wrong with a bucket of worms.
Let me just underscore that point. You would be very interested I think in taking a look on page 15 and page 16 of the report where what you find is very strong support for arguments that favor this program, and very strong support for arguments against this program. On page 16 the important reasons for backing faith based programs, 77 percent liked the idea of people having a variety of options, 72 percent think service providers would be more caring and compassionate, 62 percent say the power of religion can change people’s lives, 60 percent say the faith based programs are more efficient. In various forms these are arguments that President Bush himself has made on behalf of the faith based initiative. But, on page 15, you have the important concerns, and this is one that Marshall and Melissa mentioned, the government would become too involved in religious organizations, 68 percent say that’s an important concern. People would be forced to take part in religious practices, the implication there against their will 60 percent, this would interfere with church-state separation, a closer split there of 52 percent and so on. Again, I think that suggests that opinion on this is very complicated.
I’d also point you to page nine, because then this goes to my point about the nuances of public opinion. People don’t think the government can solve all the problems, but neither do they think these faith based groups can solve all the problems. The little table on page nine, people think the religious groups would be especially good at feeding the homeless, prison counseling, mentoring, teen pregnancy. They’re very split on who should provide child care or deal with addiction, non-religious — that category is sort of non-religious secular voluntary groups. But there is strong support for government engagement in literacy and especially in healthcare and job training.
But to underscore the point that Marshall made at the end. I was looking at the data sort of by group, African Americans are sympathetic both to religious action and to government action. As the white conservative evangelicals tend to be very sympathetic to church action, but not so sympathetic to government action. And in some ways you can argue that the splits on this issue at the leadership level actually reflect a difference of opinion that goes all the way down to the base.
And lastly, because I thought it was a very innovative question, you might want to take a look at page 37, the top 20 descriptions of God. We asked an open ended question, we figured if we were doing a survey on this subject it would be useful to know how people conceive of God, and there is some more detail in the report on this. But, there were some very interesting differences in the emphasis on power versus love and other aspects of God. And someday he’ll answer that question for all of us.
Please, I’d like to invite the audience to join in. I always say, no one likes to ask the first question, so there is the second question. And please identify yourself.
C. WELTON GADDY, Interfaith Alliance: I’m grateful for you affirming what I think has been a hunch of a lot of us, and that is that generally speaking there’s great affirmation for the idea of partnering between religion and government, but when you get beyond the affirmation to the challenges, the complexities of it, then people begin to divide. I am particularly interested in Mr. Wittman’s remarks about the religious right’s opposition to this initiative. That is not my experience. I debated Marvin Olasky twice, the last time National Journal on C-SPAN back in January, and he was without reservation for this initiative at this time. I think what happened was that there was the revelation that you can’t do conversionist programs in association with social services. And when it looked like a minimization of hardcore religious work involved, then there was opposition. What I’m wondering is, in your research, did you see anything that would make you anticipate that kind of dynamic change?
MR. MARSHALL: I don’t think so. I mean, I think that this is an argument that’s going on among elites, and the people here, and the people in the policy community, not within the public. The public is still learning about this. And you can see in the pattern of the response to this, the way it shows in partisan terms, that people’s perceptions are changing. I don’t think that the fundamentals of what we’ve found, support for the concept, but reservations about the specifics are going to change all that much, but the average American hasn’t heard a lot about this until very recently.
I want to add one thing to something that E.J. said when he asked people about the things, the kinds of social services that they thought religious groups would do a good job of versus government versus secular community groups. I thought implicit in the findings was the fact that the public doesn’t want government to go away for certain kinds of social services. Even Republicans strongly favor government or strongly prefer government as the provider of certain kinds of social services. One of the hardest things for people in Washington to understand is that the American public does not trust government, but, at the same time, wants government services.
E.J. DIONNE: Could I say briefly, if you look at sort of supporters of this program in principle, here are two very different sorts of motivations here. You know, if you just take it from the point of view of Christian supporters of these programs, there’s one side that views their potential as primarily involving the conversion of souls, and that the conversion of an individual is what will achieve the social change you want, whether it’s getting rid of addiction, or living a better family life, and so on.
There is another group which sees out of religious motivation a need to serve the poor, and a lot of the older religious engagements, you know somebody mentioned Catholic Charities, the point there is, the religious person has an obligation to help the poor, and the job here is to encourage that motivation to help the poor. Now, they’re getting the overlaps between these groups. But I think that helps explain some of the difficulties in this argument, because some people are in both camps, some people are in one or the other camps, and it reflects a different understanding of what faith-based social action is about.
MELISSA ROGERS: Just on the question about Marvin Olasky. I think it’s interesting, and Marshall may want to say some more about this, but you have an interesting reaction from Olasky when John DiIulio went and made a speech to the NAE and said that some programs that are, I think he termed it, indivisibly conversion centered would be appropriate to receive only government vouchers as opposed to government grants and contracts, and Olasky answered to that distinction in a very negative way, saying that he didn’t like that distinction between those two groups.
And basically it seems to be leaning more towards totally a voucherized program, or a totally tax credit program, and I think there are others, and John likely is one of them, that feel that the program can’t work that way. And so that’s an interesting tension to watch, and an interesting thing to watch as the White House provides more specific words about what it’s going to look like in the coming days.
E.J. DIONNE: So, Richard, welcome. Identify yourself for the audience.
RICHARD FOLTIN, American Jewish Committee: Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee. I think interestingly enough one of the areas that some of us who have been concerned about in the post-charitable choice, faith-based approach share with Marvin Olasky is that we agree that you can’t really make a distinction in choosing to fund pervasively religious organizations between those which have conversion at their core and those who do not, which place the government, in effect, deciding which agencies receiving funds are too religious.
It’s already a troublesome distinction to be made vis-a-vis pervasively religious or religiously affiliated. It gets even worse when you start getting into intricacies about how these organizations work.
Having said that, I have a question with respect to the poll that was done, and that is the concerns the people had and the questions that were raised, did the poll focus at all on differences between voucherized programs or tax credit programs versus contracts and grants, and whether or not the level of concern people had were any different for one form of funding versus another?
ANDREW KOHUT: No, we did not.
E.J. DIONNE: We did ask a question that distinguished between — Melissa, help me on this — whether it was religiously affiliated institutions —
MELISSA ROGERS: The question was about the different kinds of institutions — houses of worship, as opposed to religious-affiliated nonprofits — but not questions leading to these distinctions among the aid, which is becoming a really interesting and complex issue in terms of the cross-cut of opinion. You know, people who aren’t traditionally allied on things sometimes find themselves in the same camp because they have different concerns about these issues, but the survey doesn’t reflect data on the different forms of aid.
E.J. DIONNE: I want to turn to Alan. It’s my impression from our answers on that, that public opinion isn’t well enough formed yet for the answers to such a question at this moment to be all that meaningful. I think people are still working their way through the basic issue before they get to that kind of distinction, even though you’re right to raise it, it’s a very important distinction.
ALAN WOLFE: Well, given that public opinion isn’t formed, that gives license to us media elite types to speculate. And I would just say with respect to tax credits versus direct government grants, that if it’s true that de-denominalization is one of the major aspects of American religion right now, that more and more churches are disaffiliating from denominations, and more and more individuals are switching denominations, in that there is a kind of distrust of the Southern Baptist Convention, or on the part of individual Baptists, or what the Pope says for individual Catholics, that giving direct aid to individuals through tax credits will further that.
I’m not sure that that’s something that Marvin Olasky would want. I don’t know Marvin Olasky well enough to know. But it strikes me, again, in terms of these unanticipated consequences, that if one worries that the institution infrastructure of American religious life is deteriorating, I can’t imagine a better designed program to make deteriorate further than individual tax credits or vouchers for the individuals to then shop around between different faith traditions and use their money as bargaining power to get their denominations to go along with it. That’s not religion as it’s historically been understood. It is American freedom as it’s historically been understood, however. It would be interesting to see what the consequences of that would be.
E.J. DIONNE: I’ll do it eventually. Somebody has to speak up for Marvin Olasky, he’s not here, and I’ll do it, although I’ve used a very different — just for the sake of the discussion, but who else wants to go ahead?
SUMANA CHATTERJEE, Knight Ridder: On this question of the paradox and the opportunity, do you get a sense that there are people other than John DiIulio in the administration that are willing to look at and recognize the opportunity and go in that direction? And what role do you think that President Bush’s own personal witnessing has had in this whole program and initiative?
MARSHALL WITTMAN: Actually, I think you answered your question. He does have a supporter, and that is the president of the United States. And I think that the president of the United States’ views on this are shaped quite profoundly by his own personal experience, as everyone knows the story here, and I think that that translates into support for this program. And, after all, this is the signature program of this administration. Everything else is pretty much boiler plate Republican, cut taxes, reduce regulation, privatize Social Security, but this is what is unique about the administration. John DiIulio has the most significant supporter in this administration, and that is the president of the United States.
So I think that the program will continue, and they’ll have to find their way around this. If it ends up in tax credits, it won’t be the same. It really will not be the program that was discussed. It will be something that will be not — it will not meet the standard of a signature program to have some tax credits that are lost in the tax code, that maybe an inventive accountant will find for someone, and they’ll come across. So it has to be direct grants, ultimately.
Now, there’s also all sorts of ways of doing this. Of course, to a certain extent it’s already allowed under the charitable choice provision in welfare reform. Now, there are various departments being formed in every agency in the government, faith-based, there’s one at Labor, there’s one at HHS. And once we get into the grant process, they can start even pursuing it at this stage. But I’m unclear of what legislatively they’d have to do.
But to answer your question, yes, he has a supporter, it’s the president of the United States, and that’s why this program will survive these initial bumps in the road.
E.J. DIONNE: Could I underscore something? I think the core question on this is, do you or do you not strengthen the capacity of smaller largely inner city congregations and religious institutions or not? I think the problem with they’re going to pay with tax credits is, it’s very good for established institutions that can raise a lot of money through the mail and elsewhere. It would not necessarily help the smaller, and in many cases largely poorer congregations, and I think that’s why this dividing, this fight is going to be central to what this program finally looks like, whether it is something genuinely new or not. I don’t think we know how that fight is going to be resolved yet.
JIM MATLOCK, American Friends Service Committee: I’m Jim Matlock with the American Service Committee. And I want to ask a question about resources, which is to say the actual funds. It’s a very helpful discussion around the sort of theory and the problematic and affirmative aspects of the program, but as I understand it, at least at the initial stage, the funding for any such actual grants were essentially to be drawn from existing funding, it was shuffling some monies into this new area, new forms of distribution, new recipients, but not necessarily new money. And I can’t say that I’ve read through the budget documents that were issued yesterday in any detail to know. Maybe in there is some indication of additional funding. But it’s a question whether the survey in any sense touched that question and did it matter if people thought these are monies that are going to go this way, but then there will be less over here. There’s a zero sum process. Or did it matter in scale? [A] pilot project might be okay, but let’s not get too deep into this.
And if those didn’t come up in the survey, I would welcome informed kind of speculation that those of you on the panel have about how do we deal with the amount of real dollars, where they come from, and what they cost that’s not able to be spent somewhere else, and how that plays into the debate.
E.J. DIONNE: Could I just say, I want somebody to address that, but I would like to focus as much as we can on the survey, because Melissa is, in fact, organizing a series of sessions in the coming months to deal with the specifics of the program as opposed to what we got out of the survey.
Does anyone have a comment on the last point of your question. Do we have any evidence about whether opinion changes if more or less money is involved, if it’s new money or re-shifting around old money?
ANDREW KOHUT: We didn’t talk about funding levels or where the funds would come from, or where other funds would disappear from. That was not the point of this.
MELISSA ROGERS: Just as a point of information, you were asking about the extent of the funding that has a charitable choice provision on it. And currently the charitable choice provision is on a number of streams of federal funding, the TANF money through the welfare reforms, the welfare-to-work money and community service block grant money, substance abuse and mental health money, and there’s a bill pending over on the House side that would extend that funding to many more federal funding streams. So there is a proposal on the table on the House side to greatly extend the amount of funding to which the charitable choice provision would apply.
E.J. DIONNE: Sympathizers of this seem to be divided between those who like the idea of taking money away from government, the more conservative response, I suspect those folks would actually like the program if it did that, liberals supporters of it, especially African Americans, tend to support more funding for programs, government programs for the needy, if this program was simply reshuffling money I suspect their support would go down. I think you can infer that, but we don’t have any direct evidence on that in the survey.
HANNA ROSIN, Washington Post: It seems to me an interesting finding of the studies is that there is significant opposition to large portions of the way the administration has defined this initiative. And I just wanted to make sure that’s not an exaggeration, and if someone could play out that scenario what that might mean, what then are the options for the administration I guess both in terms of the hiring finding and the opposition to non-Judeo-Christian groups. And is that a fair reading of what this survey says?
ANDREW KOHUT: Your conclusion is correct. I’ll let someone else play out the implications.
MARSHALL WITTMAN: Well, it’s interesting. If you listen to what Pat Robertson’s objections to this program were, they were specifically that non-Judeo-Christian organizations, what he would refer to — not necessarily Muslims, but what he would refer to as cults would get the money. Now, there has been various comments that I’ve heard from the administration in terms of how they would handle it. Of course, the Nation of Islam question is the one that’s usually the one posed, because Republicans opposed funding for the Nation of Islam in housing projects. Now, I’ve heard some people within the administration directly, and I think this is their answer now, and it probably has to be their answer, that any organization that applies for funds — religious organization that applies for a specific service, to solve a specific problem would receive funds regardless of their religious orientation. Now, how that exactly plays out in legislation I don’t know, because like I said the Republican Congress has already opposed certain types of funding. But, it’s one of those things that’s going to have to be resolved before it translates into legislation.
But even among the Mormons — let’s be clear, and I thought it was interesting the numbers about the Mormons in the surveys, there is a lot of tension among white evangelicals and Mormons. That’s probably the greatest tension between any non-Judeo-Christian group. And I, as a Jew at the Christian Coalition, was always shocked by this tension between the Mormons and the evangelicals. So I guess to answer your question, someone is going to have to work that out, but to have a consistent answer, I suspect they have to fund everybody.
E.J. DIONNE: Could I just say, by the way, on the record, just to have it on the record, on Mormons, I think they’ve changed their logo reemphasizing the name of Jesus Christ. If I could just say briefly, my reading of this is not quite as strong as that, because I think you can’t ignore the finding reported on page eight that in principle there is broad support for this. So I think the finding is more ambiguous than to say every critique of this made by opponents has resonance with the public. I think there is support at some general level, but a lot of specific questions that they’re going to have to deal with. So my reading of it is that you’ve basically got a kind of open playing field here, where the administration has some arguments it can make, and opponents have some arguments they can make, and both have some resonance in the public eye.
SULAYMAN NYANG: I just wanted to make one point here with regard to her question. I think the tension that Marshall just mentioned between the Mormons and the evangelicals, and the reluctance to extend this right to Muslims and Buddhists and others, is also linked to the international dimension, this is another hidden dimension, because the Mormons and the evangelicals are competing abroad for converts, still in Latin America. So if you legitimize this, it could very easily spill over into the international arena. These are the given factors, these are the things that are not spoken, but they are part of the whole dance that is going on.
ANDREW KOHUT: When James Madison and Thomas Jefferson thought about the First Amendment, they were the benefits of an unusual political alliance at the time. Half of the support for the First Amendment came from a kind of enlightenment, skepticism toward faith that Jefferson I think represented, that government involvement with religion would violate enlightenment as a principle, half of it came from backwards Baptists who were deeply people of faith, but they simply were suspicious of government for many of the same reasons that Pat Robertson current is. And I think that divide has never gone away. And I think the initiative runs up against both sides, so to speak, and in that sense I think the question is absolutely right, there is no — I think the findings in the survey combine those in what’s a double blow against the initiative that would make it very, very hard for the initiative to survive. But I think it’s not just President Bush’s initiative. I think any initiative would in this direction. I don’t see how you can avoid these issues. We’ve been wrestling with them since we adopted the First Amendment.
MELISSA ROGERS: Just one comment on Hanna’s question about the initiative. I think it is important to focus on that hiring issue, because really the debate — one of the principal debates is how religious can a group be and be eligible for tax money. And the hiring issue really gets at that question by saying if, as a condition of receiving tax funding, a religious organization can’t hire and fire on the basis of religion, then that drives the organization back in the more secular direction and sort of undoes perhaps what it set out to do in the first place. So it’s an interesting issue to keep your eye on, because it’s sort of a linchpin issue in this debate.
MELISSA ROGERS: Are you talking about the hiring issue?
MELISSA ROGERS: Someone may know more about this. I’ve heard him, I think, make generally supportive comments about religious organizations being able to hire on the basis of religion while receiving tax funds.
ALAN WOLFE: I had a somewhat different views from yours, E.J. I think this is a public opinion in progress. I mean, the reaction is to a concept that seems to make sense. Then when you get to most of the major specifics upon which it hinges, you get pretty strong levels of criticism. So we would expect that — or I would expect, at least, that as public opinion begins to form more, these criticisms will become even more salient in affecting general attitudes. And I think the general attitude is still pretty weak.
E.J. DIONNE: Sir?
SHAUN CASEY, Wesley Theological Seminary: I have a couple of points about page 13, your chart there. The two things that jump out at me on the data there on the chart on page 13, one is how much progress Catholic churches have made that they are the top of the list, 40 years ago that would have been astonishing, it would have been impossible. But my view of the ranking of the Mormon church is maybe the opposite of what’s being implied here. Statistically they are essentially in a dead heat with evangelical churches, which to me is astonishing. And I’m wondering how in fact you account for that historically 10-20 years ago Mormons would have been down probably close to the Scientologists, where they are today. The perception was they were, in fact, a cult, now they’re perceived on par with evangelical churches, that seems to me to be an astonishing movement. I know you haven’t asked this exact question in the past but, Andrew, I’m curious if you think those two groups, the Mormons and the Catholics, have made the most progress in terms of general cultural acceptability?
ANDREW KOHUT: To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I’m reasonably sure that this question, the way it’s asked, hasn’t been asked in the past. But there are some old Gallup surveys which have roughly comparable questions, where we might look at the rank order of opinions about these religious organizations. I wouldn’t want to speculate on it. I think I’d rather look and maybe if you send us an email or get in touch we can dig up some material on what the Gallup poll in the 1960s found in its what it called scalometer ratings.
E.J. DIONNE: Andy, I had one observation and tell me if this is your reading of the data. When I was looking at the breakdowns on those questions, there is a certain hostility, or a certain negative view of the evangelicals from a sliver, a significant sliver of liberals, because for this — and it’s not all liberals, it’s just that it bumps that number up a little bit, because of an association with Pat Robertson, or the active religious conservatives. And so I think that number is bumped up by a political factor, and obviously you still have 52-35 in their favor, but that’s how I saw it when you looked at who was where on that question.
ANDREW KOHUT: Well, I’d like to ask Kim Parker who did a lot of the analysis on this to come and comment on this. Kim, do you have a sense of the pattern in response to the rating of the evangelicals, the political pattern in response to the rating of evangelicals in this question?
KIM PARKER: We did notice on the general favorability ratings for evangelicals that they had bumped up significantly since 1996. And I think we had concluded in September that sort of some of the controversy surrounding their involvement in the political process had kind of died down, and as a result the favorability ratings had come up somewhat.
ANDREW KOHUT: But, as a component of the unfavorable views of them with political liberals?
KIM PARKER: I can’t remember offhand.
E.J. DIONNE: I was looking at it last night, and I noticed a little bump, and that explains a little bit of that number anyway.
Sir? And then Jane.
ZAHID BUKHARI, Georgetown University: My name is Zahid Bukhari. I’m the co-director of the project MAPS, Muslims in American Public Square. I’d like to ask several questions to Andy. On page 62. Everybody’s going on the initial pages. Let’s go to the last page. Page 62. This is interesting. The evangelical Christians that she was also referencing. The favorable opinion for the evangelical Christians was 39 percent. But, then suddenly there is a surging in the year 2000, 2001. And Muslims have almost 50 percent, half of the respondents, they are saying favorable opinion. And then 37 percent unknown. So two questions, and again the same thing about don’t know or can’t give in the funding question and in the favorable opinion. So how would we translate this don’t know or can’t give, and what would be the reason for the bump in the evangelical Christians for the last four years, from 39 to more than half of the respondents?
E.J. DIONNE: Andy, could I ask you to hold that, because I wanted to get a few more voices in, we’re over our time, and there are several people. Sir, and then Jane Eisner.
JIMMY WILLIAMS, JR.: Good morning, my name is Jimmy Williams, Jr., I’m with Multimedia Communications Group. I’m one of those people that like just come into town on the outside of this issue, that are looking to talk to you about what the public opinion will eventually become. As I heard this issue, I’m just wondering, wouldn’t we get more mileage out of this initiative if we begin to focus on the outcomes, faith based, I’ve been in faith based for 18 years, and it’s about the transformation of lives and the change. And it doesn’t matter who’s changing the lives, it would seem, if it’s a Muslim or a sectarian or whomever, if there is going to be change. And I was just wondering — and maybe hopefully this is a good question — wouldn’t we get more mileage out of this initiative if we began to focus on the results. It’s all about changing the lives of people and changing this country.
The other thing I would just note in terms of federal dollars will corrupt faith based organizations. Again, I’m speaking from a layman’s perspective and maybe you could help me out, no one is forced to take the money from any organization. So I don’t see why that’s a problem. If you don’t want the federal dollars you simply don’t apply. And you don’t have to be corrupted if you feel that you would be corrupted. Thank you.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you. And then Jane Eisner.
JANE EISNER, Philadelphia Inquirer: Jane Eisner from the Philadelphia Inquirer, I’m just wondering in this research, was there any correlation between the attitudes on faith based initiatives and the knowledge of the need? It seems that we’re talking a lot about the theory, do you theoretically like the idea of giving grants or money supporting churches of mosques. But how much do we know abut what people really understand of the need out there, the need for drug rehabilitation programs, or whether or not government or existing social service agencies are actually working?
E.J. DIONNE: That’s a great question. Andy, do you want to start with this one, and you can try to —
ANDREW KOHUT: Yes. I’m a little unclear about your question about the changes in attitudes towards Christian evangelicals. I do know attitudes are more favorable than they were in 1996, when there was a fair amount of criticism of the role the of the Christian Coalition in Republican politics and the Republican Party was having its national image problems there. And the Christian conservatives had a lower profile in 2000, and I think that’s what accounts for the more positive views.
E.J. DIONNE: And we noticed that in our earlier survey that we did before the election, we had a similar finding.
On the need question, I don’t think we have a measure in this survey — there’s a tiny measure of what we did in September of 2000, where we found people who we categorized by they’re topology as a staunch conservatives, who are largely not Christian conservatives, but conservatives who have much weaker commitment to social engineering to use Marshall Wittman’s term, and a less favorable view, or a lower priority concerning the social safety net. And their views about faith-based initiatives, as we tested it then, were decidedly more negative, so that’s one implication about the relationship between views on our need, and views about this program. But we didn’t ask any specific question other than that. That’s the only bit of evidence that I can think of.
E.J. DIONNE: I guess we could do an analysis if we asked a question about whether people favored or opposed providing more generous government assistance to the poor. And so we might be able to see what the relationship is between the answer to that question and the other. And, again, and I can’t find it right here on the survey, but for those of us who think good guilt can be a powerful force for social growth, I recall there is a finding basically saying, we do not do enough to help the poor. And I think that’s at the individual level, and I don’t know how that question would correlate with some of the others.
Do you want to come in before? Please, welcome.
TYRONE PARKER, Alliance of Concerned Men: Thanks. My name is Tyrone Parker. I the director of the Alliance of Concerned Men, a grassroots organization located in the District of Columbia, that basically works in the midst of at risk communities, and at risk youth.
On the faith-based issue as to the way that we are — and, as it’s been said, we’re not quite sure as to what the true meaning or what the true findings are in regards to it, because it’s brand new, especially in my communities.
But one of the things which I know, which is an amazing fact, too, is that we’re beginning to look at those who are possibly bringing this initiative, the Republican Party, which traditionally in my particular community has been those who have not basically helped the poor. We’re beginning to take another look at the opportunity of individuals who are bringing resources into the community that basically were held transient in our particular community, a community that when you take a look at it, those who are the poor, those who are at risk, those who are in need, and that’s the need of this type of initiative, the faith-based initiative, that will primarily help to change the communities. And I heard the young lady say, well, is it a question as to — is there a need to be able to have these particular organizations, or this particular initiative in the communities that I’m a part of, and without the question of a doubt, because when I begin to look at our communities, I see the destruction of the families, I see so many black men that are in jail, I see so many other factors that this type of initiative ca help. And I think through a grant situation more so than an attach base situation, it can be far more beneficial for us, because we are small organizations that do not have the capabilities to be able to mail out and these different types of causes.
So there’s no question about the faith based, there’s no question as to how we see it in regards to the grant situation being far more beneficial, and it is a needed component.
E.J. DIONNE: I thank Tyrone who has done some great work in this area. I want to say, Tyrone has come to a lot of our meetings, and I believe he had an argument with someone about government assistance. The person said, well, I would be glad to raise money for your organization. I think a fundraiser came out, a private fundraiser, came out of that effort.
Let’s go down the panel to give everyone a chance. The last shall be first.
MARSHALL WITTMAN: One of the interesting things I saw in this survey, and actually I thought was the most motivating force behind the religious right, is the notion that faith is not taken seriously in the public square. Whatever the outcome of this current debate, I think that the Christian Coalition, and actually the religious right have won in the sense that the religion is taken more seriously. People of faith in the political realm are taken more seriously, and there’s just a general regard for the role of faith and public policy. And it’s ironic, and this is another great paradox, as the Christian Coalition and the religious right organizationally is on the decline, the public acceptance of people of faith is on the rise, and that’s probably their great triumph.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
ALAN WOLFE: I’m not completely sure who wins and who loses here. But I sense that one of the losers may, indeed, be faith, depending upon how one defines this very, very elusive notion. As a social scientist, I can’t help but think that actually much of what I read about religion talks about the otherworldly aspects of religion. Religion is something that appeals to a supreme being, that talks about life in a world other than this one, that imagines a world other than this one. And yet it seems to me that the entire discussion that we had today, and all the results of the survey talk about faith as entirely this worldly. It’s about results. It’s about pragmatic things. It’s about whether it will work or not. And to the degree that religion and faith get shaped in those pragmatic terms as essentially a question of social welfare policy, as an essential question of whether it can have these dramatic consequences now, a certain dimension of what faith has always been is lost. I can’t imagine asking someone like Martin Luther whether or not his faith has anything at all to do with whether it would cure a drug addict’s problems. It existed in an entirely different level. And that dimension of religion, for better or for worse, it seems to me, is the missing dimension as religion gets so deeply entwined with public policy.
And so while in the immediate short-run the conservative Christians won, I think exactly in the sense that you suggest, Marshall, it comes at a great cost, it seems to me, and that is at the cost of essentially joining a secular society, and I think on the terms of a secular society and secularizing a great deal of what you’re about.
SULAYMAN NYANG: I think in terms of making a concluding remark on this report, I would say that the report really is a pointer to what American society is evolving towards. Now, what the final outcome is going to be is something, of course, we will have to wait and see.
I would just emphasize three points quickly with regard to summation. One is the fact that, I think, the report seems to make it very clear that the American people are very religious, but religious in a different sense. Religion not in the medieval sense where the human being was very much preoccupied with otherworldliness, and human beings are now increasingly very much affected by materialism, and secularism. And I think it’s been evident in terms of American society. And I would emphasize the fact that the individual is becoming more attracted to market forces than to some of the other forces we identify with traditional society. And I think this is something that American people usually do not spend much time reflecting about themselves.
The second point which I think is very critical is the sense that the institutional suspicion of religion, which was identified with pre-industrial society, religions that are linked in terms of values, and conventions, to pre-industrial society have, to some extent, suffered because people are becoming more individualistic and, of course, the alienation from the other also makes religion very important at the personal level, but religion in the communal sense suffers as a result. And I think this is something that needs to be investigated further by this kind of survey.
The last point I want to make is the point that when we de-link the individual from financial support of institutions for services, you begin now to really confuse the role of the state as the source of funding, as opposed to the church, the synagogue or the mosque, as a source for funding for development. Because the bottom line really is tax dollars you pay voluntarily or involuntarily to the government coffers are going to be used by religious groups to change the lives of other people.
Now, the same individual who is willing to pay unconcerned tax monies should be able, out of a religious conviction, to give the money to help the other people who are in need in society. But, of course, you know that most human beings will be willing to pay taxes, because the money is taken from them, but in actual fact, when they go to church or the synagogue or the mosque, they, themselves, voluntarily should be able to give the money for the improvement of the lives of their members in society. And I think this is really what is happening. The detribalization of the human beings and the increasing individualization of the human beings has led to this quandary where we would like governments to give the money so that religions can do the job, and then we debate as to who should get the money from the government. And, of course, some are more equal than others in this or that.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very, very much.
MELISSA ROGERS: Just a quick comment. I agree with something E.J. said, that a good in this debate is that you’re focusing on those who have needs in our community, and what should our response be to those needs, and I think that’s an overriding good as we have that discussion.
On the question about corruption that was raised in terms of being able to refuse the funds, I think that’s certainly true that people do have a choice, because this charitable choice provision is in a certain number of laws, and groups will have choices whether to apply for that funding or not. But charitable choice to some extent has created a new paradigm where it’s allowed groups, some of which were previously thought ineligible for these funds, to get the funding and to “retain” their religious character. And I think there’s a lot of confusion about what that means — what does it mean to be able to get the money and retain one’s religious character? And does that mean that you’re regulated in XY&Z way, or you’re not regulated hardly at all, or you’re regulated to the hilt? And we’re working through these questions. And I think that’s sometimes where this concern arises about corruption, what does it mean to be able to get government money and retain one’s religious character. People are trying to work through these questions so that those who do take the funding understand what the implications of receiving that funding are.
ANDREW KOHUT: The only thing I would add is sort of off the faith-based findings, more generally. Clearly, religious beliefs and religious groupings have become important political markers. But I think the survey illustrates something that I strongly believe, and that is that religion per se is not a politically divisive factor per se. And if you look through many of the findings, there is no evidence of that.
E.J. DIONNE: And I would just like to say, because the faith-based initiatives are in the news, we’ve spent a lot of time on that. I just want to call attention and back up what Andy said. There’s an awful lot in here that is not about politics or the faith-based initiatives, having to do more with the importance of religion and religious institutions to people’s lives, the relationship between people’s religious faith and their views on other issues, or in some cases the non-relationship between those two, and also so many interesting distinctions among people in the same religious communities. And so I would just call your attention to the many things we didn’t discuss today that are sitting here in the report, and it wouldn’t be there if Tim Parker hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at all those other things that we haven’t talked about today.
And I want to ask Melissa to close.
MELISSA ROGERS: Yes, let me just close it by thanking some other people who were so intimately involved in this report at Andy’s office. Kim Parker slaved over this report under tight deadlines, and we appreciate that. Also, Carroll Doherty, Neil Anthony, Nilanthi Samaranayake– I hope I’ve done that right. Mike Dimock also worked very hard on this.
And at the Pew Forum staff, I want to thank Staci Simmons and Amy Sullivan who had very important roles in the development of this report, along with Ming Hsu and Andrea McDaniel, and Andrew Witmer and Keith Joseph who played very important roles as well.
So we thank you very much for coming, for discussing this study with us, and we hope that you’ll join us at the next event that we have. Please check our website at www.pewforum. org for upcoming details.