God and the Inner City: A One-Hour Documentary
6:00 p.m., Reception
6:30 p.m., Screening followed by discussion
National Press Club
Michael Pack, Producer and Director of God and the Inner City
Rev. Dr. Wilson Goode, Sr., Senior Advisor, Faith-Based Initiatives at Public/Private Ventures and former Mayor of Philadelphia
Richard Nathan, Director, The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy
Véronique Pluviose-Fenton, Principal Legislative Counsel, National League of Cities
E.J. Dionne, Jr., Co-chair, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution; Columnist, Washington Post
E.J. DIONNE, JR.: I want to welcome everybody here on this gridlocked evening. My name is E.J. Dionne. I am co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and we are very, very happy to be sponsoring this event for this great film. My co-chair is Jean Bethke Elshtain, who is based in Chicago and, unfortunately, couldn’t be here but sends her best wishes to Michael. The Forum’s executive director, Melissa Rogers, Staci Simmons Waldvogel and I would like to thank Michael’s wonderful wife, Gina, for her hard work on this event. Melissa wanted to be here but cannot be because she is at the graduation of her son from preschool. Michael and I attended many preschool graduations together, because our kids went to preschool together, so I am sure he understands. But Melissa sends her very best.
I’m going to say a few words, Michael will say a few words, and then we will get on with the main show. Not only is Michael a talented filmmaker, but like all fine documentary filmmakers, he’s a very thoughtful student of the subjects and the substance of the subjects that he engages. Perhaps more importantly, his style is marked by an extraordinary respect for the people whom he films, and, as you will see in this documentary, Michael actually allows people to speak for themselves. Given the city we are in, and perhaps the professions some of us in this room are engaged in, it’s a remarkable gift simply to allow people to speak for themselves, so bless you for that, Michael.
This film was produced by Manifold Productions. God and the Inner City is a one-hour documentary featuring three timely and compelling stories of faith-based organizations and the people they are trying to help. It reviews the controversy over government support for faith-based programs, especially the issue of church-state separation. We will have a lively discussion, I am sure, after the film on some of those subjects. It also raises the question of whether these organizations can transform American cities and reverse decline and neglect. Michael Pack was the producer and director of the film, with the help of a friend of many of ours, John DiIulio, who was the principal content advisor. I can’t believe the sainted Gene Rivers, who is in the audience this evening, didn’t have something to do with this movie. It will be broadcast nationally on PBS on June 22, in most places at 10:00 p.m., but check local listings.
Major funding for God and the Inner City was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with additional funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Bodman Foundation and the Randolph Foundation. This guy is good; if you have grant problems, go see Michael after the show. (Laughter.) Additional outreach funding has been provided by the John Templeton Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That’s incredible. Congratulations, Michael.
I want to introduce Michael, and he will talk a little bit about the film and then we will watch the film. Michael currently serves as a senior vice president for Television Programming at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He is the former president of Manifold Productions, an independent film and television production company, which he founded in 1977. And I will just give you a quick list of his programs: Rediscovering George Washington, hosted by Richard Brookhiser; The Fall of Newt Gingrich, narrated by Blair Brown; The Rodney King Incident: Race and Justice in America, narrated by Robert Prosky; Inside the Republican Revolution: The First Hundred Days, hosted by Don Lambro; I could keep going on. The last two are particularly worth mentioning here: Hollywood vs. Religion, hosted by Michael Medved; and Campus Culture Wars: Five Stories about Political Correctness, hosted by Lindsay Crouse. I would take all the time if I listed all the awards Michael has won, so I won’t do that; I’ll just give you Michael Pack.
MICHAEL PACK: Thank you, E.J. Thank you all for coming on this rainy night with lots of traffic. I just want to say a few words, because I would like you to see the show, which I think largely speaks for itself, and then there will be Q&A later.
I would like to thank the Pew Forum for hosting this event, and all the people who funded it. It’s true that the funders are a wonderfully large group, and it took years and years to put them all together. I wish it were as easy as E.J. made it sound. I want to thank all the people who helped me put it all together over all that time, and some of them are in the audience and some of them not. I mean, there’s Elenor Newman and Patrick Salmon and Jason Skadrin and of course my wife, Gina, who is now the president of my company. I am here now in my old capacity at Manifold Productions, not my new one at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
I do try to let the people in my films speak. I appreciate E.J.’s compliment, and I take that as a high compliment. In this case, I really found the people in the film tremendously inspiring and fascinating people, and I hope you do too. One of them, Gene Rivers, who indeed had a lot to do with it, is here tonight. It was really a privilege to get to know these people and their work. I hope you all enjoy the film and have lots to say about it afterwards. Thank you, again, for coming.
[The film God and the Inner City was viewed by the audience. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the video tape, please contact Films for the Humanities at www.films.com or 1-800-257-5126 or 1-609-275-1400]
MR. DIONNE: There were so many great authentic moments in the movie. For those of you who know him, how many times have you heard Gene Rivers say, “Let me stop you right there?” Also, did you notice how Michael snuck Marxism into the movie? Did you see the guy in the Che Guevara t-shirt? (Laughter.) Michael Pack, are you now or have you ever been …. (Laughter) What a powerful movie. For those of you who know my politics, you know that if I heard another attack on big secular government programs, I would have screamed in my corner, but we can get to that later. What a powerful movie about very good people. And how many people here know John DiIulio? When you hear “ye shall know them by their works,” you know that is a John DiIulio slogan, and that was a perfect.
MR. PACK: It’s a DiIulioism.
MR. DIONNE: Yes, it is a DiIulioism.
Now I would like to call up this great panel. The Reverend Wilson Goode, Richard Nathan – known to everybody as Dick – and Veronique Pluviose-Fenton. Could you all come up here, along with Michael? I’m going to invite each of our respondents to offer a brief response to the movie. We would like to go as quickly as we can to the audience with some questions; I may ask one at some point myself. And while everybody is finding their place, I will offer some introductions.
One of the things that was most impressive about the Reverend Doctor W. Wilson Goode Sr.’s resume is that he buried the fact in the resume that he was the mayor of Philadelphia. I think that’s a very interesting choice. Dr. Goode is currently a senior advisor on Faith-Based Initiatives for Public/Private Ventures, where he directs the Amachi program that you saw in that film. For more than 40 years Dr. Goode has been a leader in the military, in the government at all levels, in the church, and through civic social action and neighborhood organizations. During this time he helped create more livable communities by building housing and organizing intervention programs in education, employment and economic development.
This is the resume that Dr. Goode sent us. Then he gets to his public service. He broke racial barriers in state and local government with his appointments as chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, managing director of the City of Philadelphia, and in 1983 he was the first African American to be elected mayor of Philadelphia. For almost 50 years he has been a member of the First Baptist Church of Paschall, where he served as a trustee, chair of the board of deacons and associate minister. There are so many honors on this list that we would be here all night if I read them. That just shows he’s a very honored and honorable man. Reverend Goode, thank you.
Dick Nathan directs the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, which is the public policy arm of the State University of New York, located in Albany. Before he was in Albany, he was a professor at Princeton and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. I want you to know that Dick Nathan knows more about everything that’s happening in state government than just about anyone in the United States. If you name a state, from Idaho to Wyoming to California, he will tell you what’s happening there in public policy.
His government service includes directing domestic policy research for the National Commission on Civil Disorders, the Kerner Commission, and he also worked on the national campaigns of the late Nelson A. Rockefeller. He was assistant director of the U.S. Office of Management of Budget and deputy undersecretary for Welfare Reform at the Department of HEW, as it used to be known.
He has many, many books to his credit, including Implementing the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996: A First Look, Turning Promises Into Performance, The Administrative Presidency, Reagan and the States and many, many others.
Veronique Pluviose-Fenton is the principal legislative counsel at the National League of Cities. Before joining the League of Cities she served as legislative counsel in the House of Representatives, where she was principally responsible for legislative issues arising at the Judiciary Committee. She was at the Judiciary Committee during the 1998 impeachment proceedings for President Clinton. As a special assistant to the staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, she analyzed the civil rights enforcement of federal government and investigated church arsons across the Southeast. She also worked at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on a variety of civil rights cases and legislative issues, including mortgage banking, lending discrimination, affirmative action, school desegregation, and election and redistricting issues.
So we have a great panel for you here. Why don’t you start off, Dr. Goode? If you could speak in general about these partnerships that we saw in the film and also react to the film itself.
Thank you so much for coming.
WILSON GOODE, SR.: There are several points I really want to make. One is that transformation is relational. One of the things we saw in this film was that the relationships among the various people were what made the transformations. You really cannot bring about significant change within a community without building relationships. Gene Rivers could not walk around that community without having relationships with all those folks who are there. He could not bring about transformation. The Teen Challenge program was all about trust and relationships between the pastor there and the folk who came in. And the mentoring program, the Amachi mentoring program, is about a loving, caring adult developing a relationship with a young person. So transformation is relational.
The second thing I want to say is that a point was made several times that somehow we ought to try and compare whether secular programs or faith-based programs worked better, and I suggest that that misses the point; we really need all of them. We need faith-based folk working alongside secular folk because there’s enough problems out there to be solved that they really ought to be working at it. As I thought about this film, I thought about how much we need all those programs working in every community at the same time, building off one another and dealing with the problems which are in those communities. Then I also thought about how they really work together, that without mentoring these young folk they would end up either in the Teen Challenge program or as a problem that Gene Rivers would have to solve through his type of program in cities across the country. So we really need those programs.
The question is always asked, Does faith matter? Does faith add value? There’s no way that we can ever, in my view, really prove that, except through the testimony and through the lives of those people who have been touched by these programs. For many years we have funded huge secular programs, with limited results in many communities. I believe that programs like the Ten-Point Program work. The results that you see – they work. You saw it before your eyes. The Teen Challenge program worked. I don’t have any questions that mentoring is a proven tool of intervention, and you have seen all of those. And I think that we make a big mistake if we spend our time trying to figure out what works the best rather than trying to find a way to get everyone to do their very best, to solve every single problem they can with all the resources that we have at our disposal.
I think that we saw three very strong, dynamic programs, that if properly funded and properly supported, and if you had them in every neighborhood all across this country, would transform those communities in unbelievable manners. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MR. DIONNE: Veronique, thank you for being with us.
VERONIQUE PLUVIOSE-FENTON: Thank you. The National League of Cities is a membership organization that represents over 18,000 cities nationwide. Our largest member is New York City, which boasts over 8 million people, and our smallest is in Minnesota – and I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember the name of the city – population of 357. We represent a gamut of communities, peoples, ideologies, histories and everything. The NLC represents local governments’ interest as it relates to the federal government.
This issue of faith-based organization funding came to our attention a couple of years ago when the president made this a cornerstone of his domestic policy. Local governments initially were completely at ease with it because, by and large, as was demonstrated in the film, local governments have been working with faith-based institutions for a very long time. I remember when John DiIulio was at the White House. I remember saying point blank, “You know, the federal government is a little Johnny-come-lately to this; we’ve already been doing this, so we’re excited that this is happening. Let us help you by helping to identify best practices, best models and the like.”
I think the film has shown some very, very interesting things that I think parlay into a lot of what I’m doing as a lobbyist on this issue. Unfortunately, I spend a greater portion of my time opposing what’s happening – the president’s initiative as envisioned, or at least as has been communicated – as opposed to talking about what actually works. That is primarily because a number of our issues deal with efforts to permit government-funded discrimination, or at least some of the more controversial aspects of it, as opposed to, as everyone would agree, some of the more positive programs that are being shown in the film.
I also think different types of funding and the different types of approaches are useful; it’s not a matter of one-size-fits-all, which is something the local governments are always saying, because we’re very different communities. There are some communities that are going to lean more toward one aspect or another.
I think what’s important here – and the film was very subtle about it, and perhaps we can get into it – is regardless of how you discuss this, there’s going to have to be a discussion about how the funds get doled out, how the decision is made in a way that still respects the integrity of faith-based institutions – we don’t want to compromise that – and also provides or maintains the accountability that local governments and the government need to make sure that whatever money is being expended is not only expended properly, but that they can actually measure the effectiveness of the program.
That’s not anything that’s different for the faith-based initiative than any other program. I think it’s important to acknowledge that. It’s also important to acknowledge – and local governments will be the first to say this – that just because it’s public doesn’t mean it’s the only model that works or it is the best model. I’m sure many of my members would agree that many times it doesn’t work because we don’t have enough funding for it, so we’d probably be arguing that if you want things to work better, you need to pay for it, but of course that gets us into a whole other area.
The film was very, very well done. One of the things it reinforced for me is the reality that people want results. We saw this in the video, when the gentleman who was being served by Reverend Rivers said the reason he trusts Reverend Rivers is because, “He doesn’t lie to us. He said he would get us jobs, and he did.” At the end of the day, what people want is results. They want results whether it be a faith-based institution, their families or the government.
As we’re pushing for the faith-based initiative, we’re pushing for involvement and increased government funding for faith-based institutions to deliver social service programs, we’re in a position where we’re saying, “Please do not cut funding for existing social service programs,” which is, unfortunately, what we are seeing happening right now. This is not necessarily because of some mean-spirited people, although there are some people, I think we would argue, who think that there are some departments that need to be wholly abolished, and we do question their motive. But I think there are competing priorities and people need to make very difficult decisions: If you want to service a group of people that has been ignored, there are some very hard questions that are going to be asked about our policies, not only as they relate to funding faith-based institutions that deliver social service programs, but other programs that may exacerbate the living conditions in these cities, particularly when the cities are often saddled with servicing housing issues, criminal justice policies and so forth.
When I saw the Amachi program I couldn’t help but think how many years I’ve spent trying to reform mandatory minimum sentencing and a whole host of draconian criminal laws that were passed. We told them the impact of these policies on the families, what happens when you start locking moms and dads up for everything without thought about these kids. Local governments are left saddled with the foster care programs, which are under-funded, halfway houses, which are under-funded, and a whole host of other programs that are under-funded. So while we see this movement to really include faith-based institutions, helping to really address some of these problems, let’s not also put a blinder on some of the other social policies that tend to contribute to that.
And finally, I see that we’re very concerned about the need for constitutional safeguards. I’ll go back. The integrity of faith-based institutions is important. The accountability is important. But the issue of equal protection under the law is one of particular concern to our members. I have to deal with city council members from everywhere who are concerned about how they should make decisions about who will get these grants and not be held accountable or liable for making a decision between various competing faith-based institutions and their secular counterparts without proper neutral guidelines.
I think those are the issues that we’re grappling with, and as I watched the film, I was looking at it from the perspective of the local governments. When I saw the Teen Challenge program, all the pieces were moving, I saw that we’re a segment, we serve a pass-through function. The federal government has these dollars. They will pass it through county and cities to then dole it out to these smaller institutions. So then when I hear, “The most important tool you can have is the Bible” or that “The devil is involved in some of these decisions, keeping you from making the right decision” or that “If you have the will, then God has the power,” I think, if it’s the individual’s private decision to go into that program, then fine. Get that program, get that individual to work, get him off that substance, get him off that destructive path. But if it involves federal dollars, state dollars, local dollars, at that point, I think this is when not only the individual who is being served may at some point raise some questions, but so, too, may the city council, which has to make the decisions, and other people in the community as well as other people who are competing for these funds. And that’s where local government is very, very nervous about the scope and reach of the faith-based initiative.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. I’m really glad you made those points. I was particularly struck by that moment with the jobs point. I looked at Gene Rivers and thought, he looks like the ward leader of the Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club or the Abraham Lincoln Republican Club. Then we went to the Godfather poster and I thought – (laughter) – maybe this is a completely different enterprise than I always thought.
Thank you very much, Veronique. Dick Nathan.
RICHARD NATHAN: Michael Pack, congratulations. That’s a very moving and important way to get people to understand what these programs can do and are about and how they differ. In my work I always try very hard to go out and get close to the things that people like me are supposed to know about and that we study. In fact, next week I’m going to Redding, going to Teen Challenge, going to the mountain to learn more about what they’re doing. What I like about your film is that people who don’t have that kind of strong interest in this and chance to do that can see it, and I hope that they will keep their TVs on and think about the message and the questions that have been raised by our two speakers.
I’m going to make three points pretty quickly. Richard Land is quoted in the film, saying, “We lost the war on poverty. Now what we’ve got to do is try something else, not government money but charities and faith-based organizations.” I worry a lot about that. Anyone who knows this business knows that, historically, most faith-based organizations have 501(c)(3)s and get two-thirds or three-quarters or lots of their money from government. We have to have government in it. Gene was telling me he was just at the White House saying that. We’re watching social programs lose ground, and that’s something that is caught up in all of this.
E.J. said in a recent column in The Washington Post, “I don’t want the faith-based approach to be a cover for the wholesale abandonment of government’s responsibilities….” So you’ve got to watch the money.
My second point: John DiIulio and Barry Lynn talk about what works and whether faith makes a difference. You’re right; both of you are right. We’ve got to be careful of those questions. What we need to think about is: For what services, for what people, in what ways are faith programs better? I think it was you, Mayor Goode, who said, “We need a government – we need all of them.” That’s a direct quote from you. As a social scientist I make my living this way, but I would caution Barry Lynn and my friend, John DiIulio, that there isn’t an off/on test here. There are things we need to learn, things we would like to study in the Pew Roundtable of the Rockefeller Institute of Government (which I’m proud of – hope you’ll look at our Web site).
A third point I want to make is also something Richard Land said. He said, “We need a substitute for the nuclear family: families.” The last conversation I had with Pat Moynihan, I sat down in a restaurant with Pat and I was all prepared to tell him what I was going to tell him, and the first thing he said was, “Dick, the problem” – we work together a lot – “is illegitimacy.” He said, “The problem is families and how we raise our children.” And I personally think that we have to ask, Where does it matter? Where does government have the most trouble doing things? It’s where faith organizations, churches, can be expected to have a special role and relationship to people in need. Helping people have healthy marriages, which the Bush administration talks about all the time and generally is widely agreed to, is something that I think we need to work on in exactly this way. We need to learn about what are the areas and opportunities for churches and faith groups to do more. We’re going to be watching that; we’re going to be providing a lot of information on our Web site for the Roundtable.
I want to end by saying that I thank, as a lot of us do, the leadership of The Pew Charitable Trusts for putting us in the position to learn a lot. This is a new area for me. That’s the fun of the kind of jobs we have. You always learn about new things, and it keeps you going, keeps you young, I hope. I know, just as you said, Veronique, there are a lot of hard questions here about law, about the areas we work in, about the standards that we’re going to apply for accountability, but the idea and the push coming from a lot of political leaders is serious. The bully pulpit has activated a lot of people in this country. The message is getting out, and your film will help.
MR. DIONNE: Michael, do you want to say anything now?
MR. PACK: Let’s go right to the audience. I think they’ve been patient.
MR. DIONNE: Okay. I always say people don’t like to ask the first question, so who wants to ask the second question? (Laughter.) And as you do, Gene Rivers will say, “Let me stop you right there” and amend your question.
Back here – if you could identify yourself please.
Q: Al Milliken, affiliated with the Washington Independent Writers. I hope when these studies are done there is a distinction made between the faith-based programs that have removed prayer – have removed worship, have removed the Bible, the Word of God, Jesus from their programming – and those that keep those intact. And I hope we can see comparisons. Let’s make sure we know who really saves and who would pretend otherwise.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. Michael, could you speak to that question? I was struck with the way you organized the movie: You were quite explicit; you start with Gene’s work, which is in many ways secular but religiously motivated; you end with Teen Challenge, which is deeply rooted in religion; and in the middle is the segment about Amachi, which is a very interesting mix, because the people come to it through congregations though it’s partnered with a secular program.
MR. PACK: Yes, although I would put Amachi, in the same category with Gene’s work, as one that basically has that separation. I did organize it that way because I found that most people, when they think of faith-based organizations, actually only think of the Teen Challenge model. People have in mind that all of them are religious through and through, and so when they think about the issue, they’re thinking of Teen Challenge. But actually, when the federal government thinks of funding, it is mainly thinking of the Amachi model or the Ten-Point Coalition model.
So I wanted to be explicit about that, so people could see there were these two approaches. I actually think if I could do it again, I would be yet more explicit. I think people remain confused about this, sometimes even after seeing the film. And you’re right, that was my organizing principle for the whole film. In talking to the average person who doesn’t think so much about public policy and pays attention to it now and again, they remain confused about that. So I think that’s a very important distinction, and I think it should be borne in mind.
MR. DIONNE: Gene, could you comment on that, please?
EUGENE RIVERS: One of the things I think that was said by the kids – and this is sort of interesting – there are many things that Teen Challenge emphasizes in terms of prayer that I completely agree with. There is, however, a segment of the population that simply doesn’t go for the hard sell. That’s just not how you win those kids. For us, there was a primary commitment to meet the needs of the young people as they understood them. At one level for us it was really not about religion but about results, in that the significance, the integrity and the power or the faith would be demonstrated by the results that we were able to produce tangibly in the lives of the young people.
What we discovered, which was very interesting, is that after that was done, they would initiate conversations around faith. Never was there a quid pro quo or an ideological litmus test used, and in the vast majority of cases, at one point or another, they ask us about faith. Young Tony Barry, whom we interviewed, one of the young men, comes to us asking for prayer, seeking spiritual direction, but the basis for the relationship had been established out of trust and a recognition that our commitment to that young child was unconditional and not motivated by some kind of proselytizing subtext to bring him into our camp.
For us, I have the same deeply felt convictions around the faith issue and my understanding of the Christian mission and evangelism. However, what we’ve discovered as we listen to the young people is that there are more effective ways that don’t have to be as loudly sectarian and partisan, as some folk tend to believe, on both sides. The fundamentalists and the liberals actually have a lot in common. The fundamentalists said it had to be partisan, the liberals insisted that the only way it exists is partisan, but there are some other ways in the middle.
MR. DIONNE: Reverend Goode, I want you to comment on that, but I also want to throw a quick question at you. I have heard you quoted as saying that your main worry about this whole faith-based approach is that mayors, for years and years, have partnered with faith-based groups, and as it becomes more of a public issue, it might be more difficult for mayors to do the kinds of things that they have always done with these partnerships. I’m very roughly paraphrasing what somebody told me you once said, but if you could, please comment on Gene and on that thought.
MR. GOODE: Let me first note that the model of the Amachi program is one in which secular organizations receive the funds and then partner with the faith-based organizations. The secular organizations are responsible for the management and the training of the program. But interestingly enough – and we have very, very specific instructions that they’re not to proselytize – because of the modeling of faith by the mentors and the volunteers, many of the young folk have joined the churches where the mentors go, not because they were asked to but because they felt this was something they wanted to do in order to identify more with the volunteers. I think as we begin to study all of these various things, we will find out that a lot of these relationships are transforming, both for the children and for the adults.
But let me get to your other questions. I do worry a great deal about a lot of discussion – and I’m repeating this – of comparing secular groups with faith-based groups in terms of the services that they provide. Local government, through various contracts, for years have given contracts to faith-based organizations for foster care programs, for other child protection programs, in the last 20-25 years for homeless programs, for programs with AIDS, and they’ve worked in a marvelous manner without any issue. When we start to raise the questions, it seems to me, about what works better, then we start to suggest that that ought to be the question. And I suggest it ought not be the question. The question really ought to be, Are the folk who are involved in this able to provide the service at a level that will enable the people who are in the program to improve? Can you develop an objective of way to say, “Here’s what we expect; here are the outcomes we’re looking for”? And, “If you can achieve these outcomes, come to the table and we will fund you.”
I think that ought to be the way we look at this, because what’s happening right now is all of the researchers in the room are now beginning to formulate all the different research projects that they can develop around these issues, and then you will end up with -
MR. DIONNE: I think he’s talking about you, Dick. (Laughter.)
MR. GOODE: Not just about Dick – (laughter) – but there will be enormous money spent on research over this issue, and in the meantime people will still be raising questions about whether or not folk ought to be served, the way they ought to be served. In the meantime, children who have a parent in jail will end up going to jail themselves while we study the matter. In the meantime, folks who live in a neighborhood like Boston will start killing one another. In the meantime, folks who are on drugs and with other kinds of issues will not receive the service because we would have spent too much time on the questions rather than time on saying, Let’s find the resources, and, Anyone who can perform, let them come and perform.
MR. DIONNE: Dick, can I ask you to hold your defense of research for a second? I want to go to the audience, but I promise you a chance to do that.
Let me bring in several people. Over there, Nathan, and then we’ll just move across the room. It think we can bring in several voices at once. Tell everybody who you are.
Q: Nathan Diament, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations . At the risk of being practical, I’d like to build on this very important conversation I think is going on and pose to Mayor Goode and Ms. Fenton the following. Part of the problem, I think, is that there are the folks on the ground, in the local communities and in the cities, who want to be results oriented. I had mayors around the country also talk to me over the past couple of years, saying, “We’ve been doing this all the time; what are these people in Washington at each other’s throats about?” Similarly, this is an initiative President Bush wants because it is one of his results-oriented initiatives.
With respect to Barry Lynn’s role in the movie, there are parties to the debate that are not parties in interest. Then there are those of us that represent houses of worship and communities of worship. And there are those of you, like the League of Cities, that represent the local government agencies. We’re the parties in interest that want to get practical things happening on the ground, but there are these other entities that play the Washington game that derail it into all these other kinds of discussions and debates for political or other kinds of purposes.
The question that I want to put to Ms. Fenton and Mayor Goode is: Is there a way, at this moment, in this debate, to bring the real parties and interests to the table and, quite frankly, marginalize the people who are just playing the political game and perhaps revisit the question as to what can actually get done?
MR. DIONNE: Can you hold off on your reply for a moment? I just want to bring in – there were several other hands that were up. These two folks right in the middle: this gentleman in the front and the lady right behind him, then we’ll move across the room. And could you tell us all who you are?
Q: I’m Reverend Warren Dolphus. I’m with the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, a retired chaplain in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
There’s a missing element in the public’s understanding about this. With the vast numbers of persons coming out of the criminal justice system, we need all types of programs: faith-based programs, government programs, whatever. Two years ago, we were saying 600,000 people were getting out of these prisons, men and women. In 2003, we’re now saying 630,000 men and women are getting out of prison each year. What are we going to do with all these people when they come out, as a matter of public safety?
As a criminal justice professional working inside the institution, there is a different dynamic of those such as Reverend Rivers and those working outside. So the issue is that we need all of the programs; we need churches, we need faith-based programs, we need government, we need all of them working together to deal with this issue because it’s a matter of public safety. I think when we look at the numbers and at statistics and the laws, we see that we need all types of programs to help deal with this issue.
Is it easier to spend $21,000 to $35,000 a year to house a person in prison versus to take that same amount of money to develop programs to help them when they come out or stay out? I think it’s a matter of where do we want to put the money, and how. That’s the issue that I look at.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you very much. Just for everybody in the room, a lot of responsible people are here who want to go home to their kids. We’re going to keep it going for about 10 minutes or so, and then wrap it up.
Q: I’m Blanca Whiting, and I’m a friend of Gina’s and Mike’s. Thank you so much. It was very moving, this movie, and I hope that in part of the research they want to do, they included what these people were telling us spiritually and empirically: there is a major breakdown of the nuclear family. It is no surprise that they are attracted to these faith groups, and afterwards they want to know more about their faiths, whatever their faith is, because it is the first taste for many of them of an unconditional love, as you were saying. Thank you, Mike.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you, ma’am. This lady here.
Q: Erin Bair, I’m with the U.S. Institute of Peace. I noticed in the film that all three organizations that were profiled drew their faith convictions from the Christian tradition. I think that often in these kinds of discussions, faith-based implicitly equals Christian. And I wondered what examples there were of initiatives coming from other faith traditions, and what, if any, interfaith initiatives there are?
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. To keep my promise of ending it fairly quickly, there are a couple more hands over on this side. Could you keep it brief, just for the sake of your comrades in the audience? Thank you, sir.
Q: Thank you. Myron Noble of the Middle Atlantic Regional Gospel Ministries. I am here because I have known brother Eugene since before he was married, and before he started a lot of programs. Delighted, brother Michael, thank you. My question is perhaps directed towards you. Other than PBS and perhaps another open forum like this, in what other venues will this film be shown? And secondly, would the format change, whereby we might have videos to incorporate this in a local setting, to perhaps spur discussion and lead others into this way of thinking, to perhaps engender the ongoing cycles?
MR. DIONNE: Michael, get busy on the new grant cycle. That’s a great idea. (Laughter.) Over here, the gentleman right here.
Q: Thank you, E.J. I’m Jim Davids. I’m with the Christian Legal Society, and there are two things I would like to bring up. First of all, I think it was Dick Nathan who made reference to certain faith-based organizations that have received a lot of funds from the federal government, and that’s true. Some of the older ones, like Catholic Charities, the Jewish Federation, as well as Lutheran Social Services, get a significant amount of money from the federal government. However, when I was at the Justice Department as deputy director of the faith-based office, I did an audit of the Department of Justice to see how much money they give to delinquency prevention as well as violence against women and other such things that faith-based organizations would like to get involved with. And I found out that faith-based organizations get less than one-quarter of one percent of the money from the Department of Justice; so it’s hardly an equal partnership.
Secondly, with respect to Ms. Fenton, I’m a little bit disturbed – and I think you’re right – but I’m a little bit disturbed when you say that some of the local cities get real squeamish when they talk about Bibles being a part of the program and very active worship, such as Teen Challenge. I’m worried because that’s a little bit of religious bigotry there, because I am convinced that there are certain people in this country, such as the gentleman from North Carolina who was being treated with Teen Challenge, where this is absolutely the best program for him. He already had this relationship with Teen Challenge; he was being challenged through his faith commitment. This was the best thing for him. What I would suggest, for all the municipalities, is all allow the person receiving the service to be able to choose what’s going to be the best program for him. I’m convinced that Teen Challenge was much better for this guy from North Carolina than certainly any secular program would be.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. All right, this gentleman here, and then I’m just going to turn it back to the panel.
Q: I’m Jonathan, and I don’t speak for anybody other than a person of faith who tries to support some of these programs as a private person. Clearly everybody in the room was inspired by what we saw; and it’s impossible not to be. Perhaps the high point of the film for me was listening to somebody say that all of the major social advances that we have seen in this country really began with people of faith; that without that inherent faith in all of us and expressing religion in our own individual ways, it’s probably impossible to move society forward.
At the same time, if the next scene in the Teen Challenge segment – I’m not for a second suggesting that this has anything to do with that program – but if the next scene in Teen Challenge had been those same people handling serpents and speaking in tongues, if the next scene in another program had been a lecture on how the Pope is the antichrist, if the next scene in a third movement had been about how if one doesn’t adopt the principles of the Koran, one is condemned to a life of Satan, we would all become uncomfortable; or at least many of us would become uncomfortable. And, you know, ultimately, as faith-based programs become more and more a part of what we do, somebody is going to pervert them in those directions. Unless there’s some way of drawing the line between what we all know works and is critical for society and those things that would make all of us very uncomfortable in a hurry, we have a problem. (Scattered applause.)
MR. DIONNE: That’s a great point. I think, in a way, that answers the question Nathan raised about who is the party of interest: at some level, we’re all a party. Anyone of faith and anyone not of faith is of interest in the argument, which is why it has engaged so many people.
What I would like to do is take it down the line, maybe start with Dick, if everybody could close briefly. And then I want to let Michael have some words, and I won’t even have a polemic with him about big, secular government programs like Medicaid, food stamps, federal aid to education, earned income tax credit. I will just leave that be. Dick Nathan.
MR. NATHAN: Okay, at least a couple points to add. Remember, in reference to the last comment, that Teen Challenge explicitly doesn’t take government money; they don’t want it, they don’t take it. Also we haven’t talked today about vouchers and how vouchers are used by people who then can pick the kind of setting they want to be in; and the Cleveland case has great significance for us in this field and for this kind of work.
Final point: The person who spoke first in making a comment talked about what in our roundtable work we have developed in a rather careful way, which is the intensity of faith in different kinds of programs. And I want to say to my friend Mayor Goode that, basically, I’m more with you than I am with DiIulio or Barry Lynn, but I think you go a little too far. (Laughter.) I do think we need to know what areas of social concern faith groups and churches are most effective in dealing with. And we need to know for what kinds of people they are most effective and what kinds of programs get the most participation with the best effects. There is a role for knowledge-building, but it isn’t a matter of saying yea or nay on faith as an approach along with government programs, many of which support faith organizations.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. Veronique?
MS. PLUVIOSE-FENTON: Yes. I actually would say that, while there has been a lot of discussions on the general question of which works better, government or faith-based, I think there has not been enough discussions on some of the very real constitutional and practical implications of how you begin to implement some of the programs.
Again, I’m talking specifically as has been proposed either through the legislative process or through the administrative process. Other than getting away from just the general discussion of should we or shouldn’t we, we have proposed rules right now before the Department of Health and Human Services, HUD; SAMHSA, which is a substance abuse mental health program; CSBG, which is the Community Service Block Grant; a number of these.
What’s interesting is that the voucher language proposed in all these rules says, if individuals get a certificate or a voucher, they can make their own decision, as long as it is – and I will give you the legal language – “a beneficiary’s genuine and independent private choice.” If individuals choose to use it any which way they want to, they can take it to a faith-based institution, and if they take it to a purely spiritual program, then the state and local laws no longer apply. I still have to deal with the fact that, if those individuals then object because of the religious nature of the program – which is also proposed in the rules – then local government becomes responsible for finding a placement for these people and providing the treatment. There have been no additional funds. So there still is an issue that’s not being dealt with here; there still is a funding problem.
The other thing that’s not being dealt with is the question that’s raised if those individuals are upset on religious grounds by what they were exposed to. It becomes local government’s problem because we steered them there, because we’re required to refer people to different programs. This is all in the administrative proposed rules. So I don’t think there’s enough discussion happening in terms of the nuts and bolts, in terms of how we actually implement these programs. I’m not trying to complicate a problem; I’m just faced with an issue that, if we are getting into this, then we need to have a real, honest dialogue over how are we going to implement the programs, who are the participants going to be, what are the qualifications, and what are the general questions on liability and so on.
There is another issue – and I’m glad Mr. Nathan pointed it out – which is a question of public and private funding. There’s nothing objectionable – maybe on personal grounds, but not in terms of public policy – if individuals choose to go to whatever program they decide to go to. If it’s a very religious program, if it’s a privately funded program, so be it; we already have longstanding principles that say government’s not going to get involved. The issue comes up when it’s government-funded; that is, when it is the government’s funds providing either the HUD structure, to run the clinical program, the drug treatment program, the foster care. That’s when people start to get a little concerned, and I think rightfully so. We all have a concern about how our tax dollars are being used, so it does become a question of public versus private.
The other reason why people are increasingly becoming concerned about this – and why this tone of the conversation, I think, is becoming more disjointed – is because of efforts – unnecessary, I think, as far as NLC’s concerned – in the TANF reauthorization, which is the welfare-to-work program; the Workforce Investment Act, which is a job training act; the Housing Assistance Act; EDA, which is the Economic Development Act to have language that would actually permit faith-based providers, who can get the money to provide the social service programs, to discriminate in hiring and overrule local and state laws that says you can’t discriminate against certain people. I think, again, that invites an unnecessary aspect into a discussion and pulls us away from some of the bigger question, which is what can work and how can we help it to work.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. And Mayor Goode, briefly, because Michael has been incredibly restrained about his own movie. (Laughter.) I want to get him a decent last word.
MR. GOODE: Mayor Goode briefly. I guess my last name is Briefly. (Laughter.)
MR. DIONNE: Not tonight. (Chuckles.)
MR. GOODE: (Chuckles.) No, not tonight. Dick, I don’t have any problem with knowledge-building. And the Amachi Program is a data-driven program, and we believe in collecting data about what is going on. My fear, simply, was that sometimes we overdo it, and that becomes a major force that drives what is going on.
But let me just close by saying that I spent about 12 months working on this whole issue of how do you find common ground between those who are opposed to faith-based funding and those who are not opposed to it. And we came down to an issue where we could not agree, and it was on the whole employment issue. It is very difficult.
But from personal experience, I know how important these programs are. I’m the son of an incarcerated father. At a very early age in my life, my father went to jail. And without the intervention of the local congregation in my life, I would have gone the direction of all of the other young people who grew up with me in that same neighborhood. The church pulled me in, developed a relationship with me, and it was transformational for me.
I want to try and give back. There are a lot of things I could spend my time doing – and this is the real point I want to make – and a lot of issues I could debate, but every time I spend time on debating those other issues, I’m taking time away from trying to find a mentor in a local congregation who will spend one hour once a week for one year to help change the life of a child. In the end, it’s as simple as that: Somehow, if we can, through our efforts, develop relationships with those folks who are in trouble or at risk or on the edge, to begin to rescue them, then we can begin to build a stronger society, and that’s what I think this faith-based movement is all about.
MR. DIONNE: Bless you and thank you for that. (Applause.)
Michael, you follow that beautiful symphony.
MR. PACK: I’m sort of picking up on Reverend Goode’s comments. The audience here, I think, is lucky to have heard these debates of the public policy aspect or phase because in making the show, we really wanted to focus less on that – and as somebody said, we touched on it subtly, which is I think a nice way of saying that we touched on it kind of quickly. We wanted our show to give a feeling of what three of these programs are like, and the people in them as a basis on which to think about public policy, for just the reasons Reverend Goode mentioned.
I think one thing, actually, that we didn’t quite do well enough is give a sense of how faith works in programs like Reverend Rivers’ and in Amachi, for people like Rubin Ortiz. But we wanted to give that as a background, as an understanding from the ground, before you make public policy decisions.
To pick up on the question of what’s happening next, Reverend Goode is taking the show to 10 cities that are trying to launch Ten Point coalition-type programs or Amachi-type programs. He is showing the film in an effort to help these people sort these questions out and move them forward. So I, too, hope that it has a life beyond broadcast, and we have a distributor, Films for the Humanities, that is trying to get it into schools and other communities. I think it’s very important that it inspire debate and give this little ground of understanding behind the subject.
I thank E.J. and the Pew Forum for providing this vehicle to reach this audience.
MR. DIONNE: I think you’ve proven tonight that this film will inspire an awful lot of conversation. I hope you take that good gentleman’s advice and try to spread it around the country, and convene sessions like this all over the place. And parties of interest – to quote Nathan again – will sit and will reason together and perhaps even be at each other’s throats, and that’s democracy.
Bless your soul. Thank you all very much for coming today.