On Jan. 29, 2001, the first day of
the first full week of his new administration, President George W. Bush
announced an initiative
to expand opportunities for faith-based and community organizations to partner
with federal, state and local government in the delivery of social services
such as substance abuse treatment, prisoner re-entry and aid to at-risk youths.
During the 2000 campaign, Bush’s Democratic rival, Al Gore, also had promised
to expand government’s relationship with faith-based groups to serve at-risk
It now appears that some version of
the faith-based initiative is likely to continue no matter who wins the 2008
presidential election. On July 1, 2008, Democratic presidential candidate
Barack Obama announced his support
for partnerships “between the White House and grassroots groups, both
faith-based and secular” and unveiled his plans for an expanded program if he
is elected president. Republican presidential candidate John McCain also has
expressed his support
for faith-based partnerships and has stated he “would continue along the model
of” the current initiative should he be elected president.
To discuss how McCain might
implement his faith-based and community initiatives, the Pew Forum posed a
series of questions to Stephen Goldsmith, who has worked closely with this
issue. Goldsmith is the Daniel Paul
Professor of Government at Harvard
School of Government. He is the author of Putting
Faith in Neighborhoods: Making Cities Work Through Grassroots Citizenship (2002).
Goldsmith was the mayor of Indianapolis
for two terms (1992-1999), where he was very active through his “Front Porch
Alliance,” a faith-based initiative. He is also the chair of the Corporation
for National and Community Service.
see, John DiIulio Previews How Faith-Based Initiatives Would Change if Barack
Obama Elected President
Goldsmith, Daniel Paul Professor
of Government, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Stephanie C. Boddie, Senior
Research Fellow in Religion & Social Welfare, Pew Forum on Religion &
How McCain might foster
Promoting a culture of life
Working with Congress
Private philanthropy, volunteerism and “government by
Question & Answer
After Sen. Barack Obama announced his plan for a
faith-based and community initiative in July, the McCain campaign
issued a statement saying Sen. McCain "supports faith-based
initiatives, and recognizes their important role in our communities."
McCain told The New York Times that he thinks "faith-based
organizations have been one of the more successful parts of the Bush
administration and I would continue it." What exactly is his
administration likely to do to foster government partnerships with
Let me start with two disclaimers. First, the answers to these
questions are based in large part on statements by Sen. McCain as well
as from my personal observations about how a McCain administration
might approach faith initiatives. Second, I never have, and still do
not, view these issues as partisan ones. The goal here is to understand
how faith-based organizations can better fulfill their missions to help
those who are struggling, not how they can further political goals.
Sen. McCain would:
Extend the focus of the current initiative to include additional critical priorities;
Increase the ability of beneficiaries of services to choose their service providers;
Seek to engage and facilitate strategic partnerships with social entrepreneurs and leaders at the local level; and
Safeguard religious liberty.
has been accomplished in recent years to fully engage faith-based and
small community-based organizations (FBCOs) in the delivery of social
services to benefit neighbors and communities across the country.
Regulatory changes have reduced barriers and expanded the opportunity
for government to partner with faith-based organizations. Eleven
federal government agencies and the Corporation for National and
Community Service created centers within their organizations designed
to more fully engage FBCOs. A number of innovative programs are
returning positive results. I would anticipate Sen. McCain building out
such programs to continue with this momentum.
One example of this is the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program,
which today has more than 100,000 children matched with a caring adult
mentor. Sen. McCain will build upon the success of this mentoring
project to tackle the high-school dropout rate and improve academic
achievement. Graduation rates from urban public high schools are
hovering at 50 percent, with devastating ramifications for those
youths, their families and communities. Nearly half of all dropouts,
and two-thirds of minority-student dropouts, are concentrated in 12
percent of America's high schools, which are concentrated mostly in
large cities. Recruiting and equipping volunteers and tutors to work
with youths to improve educational achievement and high-school
graduation rates will be a priority in a McCain administration. This
effort may lead to a cross-sector collaboration that will provide
incentives for youths completing high school, including education and
training opportunities that lead to employment through vocational
schools, community colleges or universities.
Another area of attention will be to promote
a culture of life through adoption. The McCain administration will
develop better and less cumbersome ways to involve faith organizations
in both adoptions and in efforts to decrease teen pregnancy. FBCOs
would help infants, children, special needs children and orphans find
adoptive families and would improve outcomes for children in foster
Sen. McCain will also extend and expand government partnerships with
faith-based institutions serving in Africa to prevent, treat and
eradicate malaria. Malaria is a fully preventable and treatable disease
and yet it kills more than 1 million people in Africa every year,
mostly children under five and pregnant women. Bed nets that families
can sleep under to avoid the deadly bite of a mosquito and miracle
artemisinin-based combination therapy drugs are two powerful tools that
help prevent and treat malaria.
Choice is another key theme for Sen. McCain. He will identify
opportunities to implement social service models that allow
beneficiaries to choose their service provider to include those that
have fully integrated their faith tradition into their services. The Access to Recovery
(ATR) program competitively awards grants to states and tribal
authorities to operate voucher systems that allow individuals to select
a provider for substance abuse treatment and supportive services,
including transportation, child care and mentoring. The outcomes of
this program have been promising, with more than 200,000 people
participating and more than 27,000 FBCO partners engaged in service
delivery, many of which were partnering for the first time with
government. In Connecticut, 40 percent of the organizations redeeming
vouchers were new providers, and in Louisiana, 70 percent were
partnering with government for the first time. Studies in several
states, including California, Texas, Florida, Missouri and Connecticut,
indicate ATR's distinctive model is achieving better outcomes than
traditional recovery models.
Recently, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community
Initiatives focused on strengthening federal networks and partnerships
with governors and other leaders to make a greater and more sustainable
impact at the state and local level. This important strategy needs to
be expanded to include an intentional outreach to and development of
social entrepreneurs who are actively seeking new approaches to
stubborn problems by challenging assumptions and reframing the problem
to be solved.
Sen. McCain will make safeguarding religious liberty a priority and
will protect the right of faith-based organizations to participate
fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing
religious objects or symbols, or becoming subject to government-imposed
McCain's campaign has said that he
"believes that it is important for faith-based groups to be able to
hire people who share their faith." In the interview with The New York Times,
McCain said, "Obviously it's very complicated because if this is an
organization that says we want people in our organization that are
Baptists or vegetarians or whatever it is, they should not be required
to hire someone that they don't want to hire in my view." Some have
said that allowing religious organizations to hire on the basis of
faith opens the door to church-state entanglements and amounts to
discrimination on religious grounds. How do you respond to such
Protecting religious hiring rights is a central component to any
meaningful and effective partnership between public government entities
and faith-based organizations. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides an
exemption for religious organizations, and it states that it is not
illegal discrimination for faith-based organizations to take religion
into account when selecting employees, whether that employee is a
chaplain, social worker or receptionist. It does not permit faith-based
organizations to discriminate on the bases of race, color, sex or
national origin. Yet even with this exemption, there are federal
programs such as Head Start and the Workforce Investment Act Fund that
forbid religious staffing. Limiting the number of effective partners at
the local level in this way serves only to reduce the public value of
government investment and compromises the expressed interest and value
of government partnerships with faith-based organizations. Sen. McCain
will defend religion-based hiring by faith-based organizations and will
remove the hiring restrictions that exist in some federal programs.
If he is elected, recent polls
suggest that Sen. McCain will work with a Democratic majority in the
U.S. House of Representatives and an increasingly Democratic U.S.
Senate. What advice would you give him for forging a bipartisan
approach to faith-based policies?
Sen. McCain understands that one of the main existing strengths of the
faith-based and community initiatives (FBCI) is its existing bipartisan
support. While the directional emphasis of your question points to
Congress, it misses the larger story about where bipartisan consensus
has already solidified the FBCI as a permanent strategy: the states.
Thirty-five governors -19 Democrats and 16 Republicans - have followed
the president's model for implementing an FBCI in their states.
White House FBCI Director Jay Hein impressively made the growth and
expansion of the state strategy his signature leadership emphasis
during the past two years. Each state has implemented a different model
matched with its unique strengths and pointed toward its unique
challenges and priorities. Some focus on capacity-building through
volunteer recruitment and nonprofit training. Others focus on
addressing particular issues, such as reducing youth violence or
increasing affordable housing. And still others react to unwelcome
challenges such as the series of hurricanes that have pummeled the Gulf
Coast over the past several years. Indeed, the states of Florida,
Alabama and Texas have each impressively utilized both their state's
FBCI and volunteer commissions to recruit volunteers, raise private
philanthropic funding and enhance government-nonprofit sector
collaboration in disaster preparation, response and recovery.
The sum total of these state-level developments is that it would
behoove the next U.S. Congress to see the FBCI through the prism of
their districts rather than their party caucuses. The initiative is not
dependent on legislation, though significant funding and administrative
questions will arise before Congress. It is also not dependent on party
politics, though political leaders will elevate or diminish how the
public views its work.
Sen. McCain will continue to grow FBCI strategies with this pragmatic
approach in mind. And he will look forward to working with both sides
of the aisle, as well as all state and local officials interested in
expanding government partnerships with faith-based and community
What are your thoughts on the future of faith-based and community initiatives?
In this election season, it is undeniably clear that the voters want
change. Yet both presidential candidates have embraced one of President
Bush's central domestic policy legacies as a key plank in their
forward-leaning agenda. Why?
A bipolar debate over whether government or the market offers a better
prescription for problem-solving is no longer good enough. We obviously
need a smart government and a strong economy. Yet we have always relied
on something else: a vibrant nonprofit sector relying on and bridging
the strengths of the other two sectors.
reports that Americans gave $306 billion in private philanthropy in
2007, the highest amount ever reported. Indiana University's Center on
Philanthropy reports that much of our nation's philanthropic gifts are
small donations. Many of us give our money, as well as our time, to
neighbors in need. We now know that 61 million Americans volunteer. A
careful analysis of this data shows revealing trends that will be
important to the next administration. First, the fastest growing
markets for volunteerism are the millennials (born 1982-1994) and baby
boomers. It also shows that the leading source of volunteers are
Policymakers from the White House to the statehouses would do well
to make private philanthropy a high-priority item on the faith-based
and community initiatives agenda and to leverage the strengths of
volunteers. One way the Bush administration has sought to combine these
strengths is through the Pro Bono Challenge.
President Bush has called on corporate America to donate $1 billion in
skilled volunteering and pro bono services to strengthen the
communities where they do business.
These profiles of philanthropy, volunteerism and corporate
citizenship are not new inventions. Rather, they are the ingredients
that form healthy communities. The challenge for political leaders in
the 21st century is to understand and leverage these strengths with
smart government policy. You could call this approach "government by
The FBCI is an ideal vehicle to catalyze this effort.
While I was mayor of Indianapolis, the city implemented
outcome-based granting, activity-based budgeting and competition in
service delivery that challenged the status quo. We also included
entrepreneurs in the process, and they helped transform the delivery of
city services and revitalize urban neighborhoods. This opened the door
for social entrepreneurs to become our partners, many for the first
time. The rewards were significant.
Social entrepreneurs achieve results in education, health care,
workforce development, economic mobility and the environment by
providing new solutions to age-old problems. YouthBuild is one such
group that now operates in Indiana. They engage unemployed young men
and women by giving them jobs to build affordable housing. The program
also enables them to earn their high-school diploma or GED while
learning valuable leadership skills.
Recently, a coalition of social entrepreneurs called America Forward
presented a series of policy ideas to the presidential campaigns. Their
message: Government must transform its focus from inputs and activities
to outcomes and results.
The New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote
that "the older do-gooders had a certain policy model: government
identifies a problem. Really smart people design a program. A cabinet
department in a big building administers it." Yet the FBCI reorients
the equation to decentralize the approach. It asks bottom-up questions,
such as: How can Washington become more flexible to accommodate local
officials' agendas? How can we engage new nonprofit partners? How can
we change our systems to work less about inputs and more about outcomes?
The America Forward coalition's agenda for the next administration
includes a Social Investment Fund Network to leverage federal dollars
and invest in ideas that work. This idea converges nicely with the FBCI
agenda already in force tapping into America's spirit of innovation.
The future of the FBCI will depend on a proper understanding of the
initiative itself; that is, community-centered problem-solving through
enhanced government-nonprofit sector partnerships as well as new
strategies to leverage the strengths of social entrepreneurs,
volunteers and philanthropists interested in meaningful social change.
A McCain administration would act on these impulses in advancement
of an agenda that asks all Americans to devote a substantial amount of
time in service as a way to involve everyone in solving community
challenges. It would also operate particularly in a bipartisan fashion,
including adopting many of the good ideas of my good friend, Professor
Photo credit: AP
This Q&A has been edited for spelling and grammar.