The Role of Religion in Public Life (Washington)
2:00 – 4:30 p.m.
National Press Club
MIKE ARMACOST (President, Brookings Institution): It’s a great pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Brookings Institution and, of course, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In recent years a new dialogue has started on what congregations’ proper roles are in lifting up the poor and what their relationship with government should be. This new debate has at times polarized the public, but it has also created openings for new departures and, at least occasionally, opportunities to heal old wounds.
The issue we are going to discuss today, of course, was front and center during last year’s presidential campaign as both George W. Bush and Al Gore proposed expanding cooperation between the government and faith-based organizations. And after taking office only for a few weeks, the president created a new office called the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and proposed new legislation on government support for the efforts of those institutions.
The seeds of the discussion that we will hold today were sown in an earlier Brookings volume, What’s God Got to do With the American Experiment, which was edited by E.J. Dionne and John DiIulio. The possibility of a new debate also became clear in a December 1997 conference they called Sacred Places, Civic Purposes, which was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and sponsored by Brookings in cooperation with the Partners for Sacred Places. The result was a lively conversation, which continues to the present and has crossed every line of partisanship and ideology.
Sacred Places, Civic Purposes: Should Government Help Faith-Based Charity? has evolved out of that dialogue. The project focuses on very specific challenges — teen pregnancy, crime and drug abuse, community development, child care and education. The objective is to explore first what faith-based groups are doing; second, how government can help them or not get in the way at least; and third, where government involvement might be mistaken or counterproductive from the point of view of the religious groups themselves or on constitutional grounds.
The concerns expressed here would have been well appreciated by Robert Brookings, who is the patron saint of our institution, because the book, which explores how sacred places have been empowered to serve civic needs and purposes, fits very nicely within our tradition of scholarship. It brings forth the views of politically and religiously diverse players – social scientists, as well as members of the clergy, government officials and neighborhood activists. Its goal is to describe and to analyze and yet it has the objective of offering practical remedies for real public policy challenges.
So it’s my pleasure to welcome you and to welcome our moderator E.J. Dionne. We regret to say that the co-moderator John DiIulio’s father took ill today and John therefore is in Philadelphia with his family. He’s been a great contributor at Brookings for many years not only on this subject but co-directed with his sidekick John Kettle the Center for Public Management at Brookings for a number of years, and we’re delighted to say after his stint in government earlier this year he’s back as a non-resident scholar at Brookings and we wish, of course, the best to his father.
E.J., as you all know, is fully capable of carrying on as he always does. E.J. is one of the most prolific scholars in our institution and he holds down a full time job with us while turning out columns for the Washington Post, serving as maitre d’ for our traditional Friday lunch and engaging in all kinds of other activities, which raise the level of community life here in Washington and around the country.
E.J., it’s all yours.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you. Thank you very much, Mike. I think that this project has already had a good effect, because I’ve never heard Robert Brookings described as the patron saint of the Brookings Institution. (Laughter.) I kind of like that. Mike is very shrewd in his choice of words.
Our hearts go out to John, who was with us yesterday. We did an event around this book. In some ways the book was an excuse for a good event at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem where John joined us with Steve Goldsmith, who is the chairman of the Corporation for National Service, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. And John was in his usual good form yesterday. I always describe John as a Baptist preacher in a Catholic professor’s body. For those of you who know John, he lived up to the billing and then some. I thought that a lot of clergy in the audience were going to try to hire him for their church. We’re very sad that he can’t be with us.
And Keith Pavlischek also cannot join us. His dad passed away and so our thoughts are very much with them.
We do however have many people who contributed to this book in the audience and on this panel. We decided we couldn’t create a panel with all of the contributors because it would either look like the Last Supper or it would look like a Seder or perhaps a breaking of the Ramadan fast if we had them all on one platform. So I want to say that this is one event where the distinction between the audience and the panel is actually very small, because there are so many people out there. I see Julie Segal in front of us here, Carlton Veazy, Mary Bogle and many others, whom I’ll get to, who will also join the discussion. We’re also going to try to get to the audience early on. We’re going to begin with Bill Galston and Rabbi David Saperstein and move through our panel, but in the middle I may actually interrupt it to see if somebody wants to jump in.
I also want to welcome a couple of groups represented here today. One is the Salvation Army and the other are the folks in the red jackets from City Year. God bless you all for what you do.
I love the book of James, not only because I have a son named James but also because I think James had it exactly right – James the writer, that is, and the gospel. My son is right sometimes, too. He had it exactly right when he said, “Faith without works is dead.” You could say that James was the very first person to ask the question: You can talk the talk but can you walk the walk. And you could say that our theme today is about the work that people of faith – the ones who walk the walk – do every single day. It’s the work of solving problems, of helping others, of lifting up the outcast and the needy, of binding social wounds and forging bonds of community and brotherhood and sisterhood.
I promise I won’t speak long today, because we have so many very special people to participate in the conversation. So I just want to say a couple of things about the book in our discussion.
First, we’re here to celebrate Sacred Places, Civic Purposes, and the 47 people who contributed to it. I noted yesterday that, apropos of Mrs. Clinton, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, and it also takes a village to produce a book like this. Ming Hsu, our co-editor, and Kayla Drogosz and also Staci Simmons and Christina Counselman might be seen as the town council of that village. I want to thank them for all the work they did on this book.
The theme of the book is straightforward, that sacred places serve civic purposes. They help solve problems, including the problems of crime and teen pregnancy. They help find solutions in child care community and development and education. These are subjects that we’ve focused on in the book.
You don’t have to be a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or a conservative to notice this role. The last time I looked, God did not have a party membership card, even though it’s true that on election day most of us assume God belongs to whichever party we do.
The book deals with issues around President Bush’s proposals to expand government help to faith-based organizations, but this project began before President Bush took office and its purpose is neither to praise nor condemn the president. There’s a mixture of both in the book. While I’m at it, I want to welcome Don Eberly and Stanley Carlson-Thies from the president’s Office on Community and Faith-Based Initiatives. It’s good of you to join us.
We suggest in the book that before the country has a polarized, partisan and ideological debate on this subject, all of us should look carefully at what churches and synagogues and mosques are accomplishing right now, often in partnership with government without raising a single First Amendment problem.
Before we had the event in Harlem, I called an old friend – assemblyman Denny Farrell, who represents parts of Harlem in the state assembly of New York – and we were talking about this issue. He said, “I am a strong believer of the separation of church and state, and I always try to find money for programs connected to religious institutions,” especially in his district. Now, that’s not a contradiction. I think it’s a story of our ongoing struggle to protect religious liberty not for the purpose of undermining religions, but in order to honor and raise up the powerful contribution religious institutions and religious people make to the common will.
You don’t have to believe that our religious institutions can replace government, and I certainly don’t believe that, to acknowledge their indispensable role. People in our religious institutions are both practical and loving providers of service and they are also prophetic and critical voices, asking us always to heed the words of the prophet Isaiah, “To undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.” There can be a tension between these two roles and I think that’s a tension my friend Jim Wallis writes about powerfully in the book and will address today.
The people in these institutions were there long before we started this current debate about their role and we can hope that they will be there long after it ends. They were there with Dr. King, who spoke in his letter from Birmingham City Jail of “those noble souls in the ranks of organized religion who have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom. They have carved a tunnel of hope,” Dr. King said, “through the mountain of disappointment.” And if I may add, they are carving out that tunnel of hope still.
I think few events more powerfully underscore the relationship between faith and public life than the public response to the assault of September 11th. Throughout our nation, citizens spontaneously flocked to their houses of worship in search of consolation and understanding and solidarity. Prayer and meditation, along with the acts of generosity and mercy that followed so often, partook of both the sacred and the civic realms. Americans discussed the urgency of religious toleration and the paradox that religious commitment, depending upon how it is understood, can unite communities or divide them from each other. It can lead, we have learned, to love or hatred.
The terrible events pushed our country toward a new spirit of seriousness and a new spirit of reflection, creating a moment that might allow us to begin anew our national conversation on the meaning of faith in our public life, and that is the conversation we would like to have today.
I will just very briefly introduce the members of our panel who will kick off this conversation. We’ll start with Bill Galston, who is a professor at the Maryland School of Public Affairs and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. He was a top domestic policy advisor to President Clinton. He’s a member of the board of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and, as all of you know, if you want a good speaker on any subject, any subject, you call Bill Galston and we’re grateful that he is with us today.
Rabbi David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He’s a First Amendment lawyer and he teaches church/state law at Georgetown University Law Center. And I don’t want to say – because it’s not true – that he’s a Baptist preacher in a Catholic professor’s body, but he would do well in the Baptist Church, as you will see shortly. (Laughter.).
Isabel Sawhill is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She is co-director of the Welfare Reform and Beyond Initiative at Brookings. She is also the President of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Mary Bogle, who is in the audience, serves as a consultant on childhood youth development and non-profit management. Previously she was executive director of Grant-Makers for Children, Youth and Families. She was a program specialist for the Head Start bureau and a member of the early Head Start design teams. She has a great essay in this book.
Father Joe Hacala is currently rector of the Jesuit Community and Special Assistant to the President at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia. He was, from 1997 to 2001, a special assistant to the Secretary of HUD Andrew Cuomo, focusing on faith-based initiatives. Father Hacala likes to point out that the Clinton administration was also interested in this subject and has a powerful essay in this book. Father Hacala does not claim partisan affiliation, though I have the suspicion the Democrats sent him to West Virginia after they saw the results of the last election and thought they needed something to happen there.
Julie Segal, who’s in the front of the audience, is an Adjunct Professor of Government at American University. She’s former legislative counsel for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. She and Keith Pavlischek had a wonderful exchange in the course of our meetings that led to this book, and I’m sorry they can’t continue their exchange today, but I’m very glad that Julie is here.
Jim Wallis – he actually could pass as a Baptist preacher, although he’s not quite a Baptist – is the editor of Sojourner’s, convener of Call to Renewal, and author of Faith Works and the Soul of Politics. Carlton Veazy, the president of the Religious Coalition for Choice is also here. He has a very powerful essay in our book in the section on teen pregnancy.
If I have forgotten any of our contributors in the audience, since we have a vast crowd, somebody tell me because I want to make sure I introduce you. But I don’t want to go on further. I want to welcome our friend Bill Galston and thank you for taking on this task, Bill.
BILL GALSTON: Well, thank you very much, E.J., not only for those kind remarks but also for the extraordinary leadership that you’ve provided for this entire project for a number of years now.
It wasn’t until I walked into this meeting that I learned that John DiIulio couldn’t be with us, and that our leader, Mr. Dionne, would be calling on me and so I’ve been scribbling madly. I only mention this because I’ve been billed as a wonderful speaker on every conceivable issue and I suspect this may be the event that falsifies that. (Laughter.)
Let me proceed very, very briefly through these remarks, which actually begin in 1964 with the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964. I think everybody has probably heard of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but it’s not necessarily the case that everybody has heard of Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act. It is very important for our purposes, however, because Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically exempts religious organizations from non-discrimination provisions that are applicable to nearly every other part of the society. Specifically, religious organizations are permitted to use religious criteria in making hiring decisions. If you want a general explanation for this, it would go something like this – that in the eyes of the people who drafted that landmark statute, the claims of free exercise of religion are so weighty as to trump even powerful claims of non-discrimination.
About a quarter of a century later the Supreme Court – in a case called Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos – not only ratified that aspect of the Civil Rights Act but actually extended it to activities conducted by religious organizations that are not themselves directly or inherently religious. If memory serves me right, the issue had to do with the Mormon Church and a gymnasium that the Mormon Church ran for profit-making purposes. The question was, did one of the superintendents of that gymnasium have to be a member in good standing of the church? The church said yes, the employee of course said no and the Supreme Court agreed with the church.
Now there is, however, an important distinction between government non-interference with religion on the one hand and government’s active encouragement or support on the other. This generally corresponds to the distinction between free exercise and establishment.
In a survey sponsored by this very organization and conducted in March of this year, 78 percent of the American people said that they would be concerned if public money were used to make hiring decisions that were themselves shaped by religious sorting mechanisms.
In a well-known Supreme Court case involving the now-even-more-famous-than-before Bob Jones University, the court said that it was one thing for a public institution to preach the practices of racial discrimination, like, for example, prohibitions on dating across racial lines, it was one thing for a religious institution to do that; it was another thing for a religious institution to do that while receiving a government benefit in order to sustain that institution in the doing of that.
I know very little about this case, and all that I know about it I learned from my wife, a law professor who wrote the definitive article on the Bob Jones case, but the gist of it is that if tax exemption is regarded as a government benefit, then the recipient of said benefit is subject to public policy principles and can be required to comply with those public policy principles in return for the receipt of the benefit.
This brings us forward to the great controversy about charitable choice, which has very little to do, I believe, with free exercise and a lot more to do with the nexus between the flow of resources on the one hand and the potential recipient institutions on the other.
The issue of coercion – real or projected – is frequently raised, and my colleague and immediate successor on this panel, David Saperstein, in a wonderful paper for this volume, quotes Thomas Jefferson on this point. This is a quote from Jefferson, more precisely from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”
Well, that sounds dispositive, doesn’t it? Until you think about it for a moment and you realize that government every day and in every way is in the business of commandeering our tax dollars for the propagation of opinions in which many citizens, many members in good standing of this society fervently disbelieve on grounds secular and religious.
So Thomas Jefferson’s famous stricture from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom would have the effect of making government as we now know it impossible.
So where do we go from here? Maybe David Saperstein can enlighten us on the meaning of modern day Jeffersonianism, but I think there’s a real problem here. A principle that is employed in order to sort out secular from religious institutions either applies to all of them or none of them, unless we can say something more about the specific nature of religious institutions.
Let me now turn briefly and in conclusion to an even broader framework within which I think the issues before us today naturally fall, and that has to do with questions of freedom of association. We live, as everybody knows, in a liberal democracy. And a liberal democracy – as opposed to, let us say, a civic republic – stands or falls with the distinction between the realm of things public and the realm of things private and the idea that in the realm of things private the state has no legitimate sway. There have been a number of Supreme Court cases bearing on and defining this zone, of which the most recent, as you probably know, was the case of Boy Scouts v. Dale, where by a margin of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court said that the New Jersey State anti-discrimination laws could not be deployed in order to force the Boy Scouts to retain or to admit homosexuals to their ranks.
I think this really poses the issue very squarely. You have questions of religious free exercise and more broadly freedom of association on the one hand and issues of non-discrimination, which bulk so large in the theory and practice of American politics, American society, American social movements, and especially in the past two generations. This tension between freedom of religious association – and more broadly freedom of association and non-discrimination – is the most recent variant of the ongoing tension between liberty and equality in the U.S. constitutional system and in the underlying theory of liberal democracy.
Since the beginning of the civil rights movement – and gathering momentum through the other social movements that have modeled themselves on the civil rights movement – a deep mistrust has developed in many circles concerning the claims of private liberty, which are regarded as little more than cloaks for injustice and oppression. And there’s something to this, as anybody who has followed the history of the United States in the past 40 years knows.
But here’s the problem: A state that is strong enough to enforce full equality may also be strong enough to eviscerate basic liberty. It’s natural, therefore, to try to dissolve this tension, and so egalitarian liberals would like to dissolve the claims of liberty into the claims of equality. Ronald Dworkin is a wonderful example of that sleight of hand.
Libertarian conservatives would love to dissolve the claims of equality into the claims of liberty. I won’t name names, but you know who you are, and that doesn’t work any better. In fact, liberty is one thing and equality is another. They cannot be resolved into one and the same thing, and the tension between them – which is, I believe, close to the heart of the matter that we’re discussing today – can’t be abolished. The best we can do is manage it, manage it with prudence and also with sensitivity to the facts of specific cases. That, I believe, is the challenge confronting not only this panel and audience but also this country as we wrestle with the very deep theoretical issues and moral issues posed by the charitable choice controversy.
Thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: I love Bill bringing up all those court cases. One of my favorite court cases on this subject recently was the Texas football case. As many of you know, it dealt with whether a prayer voted on by the students could be said before a football game and the court said that this constituted a kind of coercion. This could be a commentary on how seriously our country takes prayer. It could also be a commentary on how seriously our country takes football.
I jumped up here because there is a member of our panel who we thought couldn’t come until the last moment and who I failed to welcome and introduce. So I want to welcome and thank Pat Fagan also for joining the panel at the last moment. He is the William H.G. Fitzgerald Fellow in Family and Cultural Issues at the Heritage Foundation. He is a specialist on issues surrounding marriage and the family. Pat, we are very glad you are in this book and that you could join us today.
I now call on David Saperstein.
DAVID SAPERSTEIN: It’s up to me to rescue Thomas Jefferson from his dilemma here. (Laughter.)
I want to thank everyone involved in this – E.J. and the entire Pew Forum effort and the wonderful Brookings programs that we have. There is really some extraordinary stuff going on in this arena of work and what Brookings has done in terms of this book is just wonderful. So to all of you who are involved in it, congratulations.
What do we agree on in the debate over so-called charitable choice? I would suggest to you we agree on almost everything. We agree there’s a crisis about the poor who are not being served in America. We agree that the numbers are going to rise, particularly in relationship to the government money available to help them.
We agree that churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship play a distinctive role – and always have – in providing for, to use the New Testament terminology, the least among us, for the widow and the orphan, for the elderly and the ill and the sick and the children, for the most vulnerable of God’s children. It is the houses of worship that are constantly going above and beyond to be of help to them. They do that through direct service, the voluntary service that they do. There are, according to the statistics, well over 150,000 houses of worship in America engaged in such efforts. They have a transformative impact on the lives of many of the people that they help. They do an extraordinary job, and currently they do it almost all entirely without government money.
Third, we agree that the religious community and the government are in a partnership and need to be in yet a better partnership in doing this work. There are a whole variety of ways, which I will conclude my remarks with, as to how we can strengthen that. But that partnership needs to be done, and can be done, constitutionally; everyone in this debate agrees on that point.
Fourth, we all agree that it is constitutional and quite effective for the government to deliver services – paid for by government funds – through a variety of private institutions. Amongst the largest and most effective of these institutions are a whole range of religious institutions. And we agree that that’s good for the poor and it is constitutional.
What are those religious institutions? Let me tell you what they’re not. They’re not the limited group that we referred to, that the court has referred to as “pervasively sectarian” institutions, that is parochial schools, churches, synagogues, houses of worship. Instead they are Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Jewish Federation Services and local incorporated entities throughout the United States that are receiving government money.
What is the religious activity in which they’re engaged? It is not proselytizing. It is not religious worship and it is not religious education. It is the religious task of helping the poor. That is as profoundly religious in its depth and in its power as are any of those things that government money can’t pay for, the proselytizing, religious education and worship.
This is what we all agree on. It makes up the bulk of what is happening in America. Without doing anything greater than expanding different forms of cooperation and involvement, we could think of powerful ways to strengthen that partnership and to help the poor.
What we have gotten focused on is the one issue that we disagree on: Can there be direct government funding – and the definition of “direct” is a debatable point here – of those pervasively sectarian institutions that now do that work voluntarily? And will the good be outweighed by the damage to religious autonomy and religious integrity, to a diversion of resources that might help the poor, to efforts in this country to combat discrimination wherever it might arise, to create a clash between religious freedom and the free exercise of religion and other civil rights concerns of preventing discrimination that threatens to tear at the fabric of the common wheel in America? Will the damage that’s done outweigh the good that will be done?
From my tone of voice and for anyone who knows my work, you know how I would answer that question.
Let me try to respond briefly to exactly what some of those dangers are and then where I think we should be working to strengthen that partnership. First, let me address Bill’s challenge on the question. There are free exercise issues. People who are proponents of charitable choice say they are being forced to choose between their religious life and receiving the same government benefits that other people want to receive. It’s an equal protection argument that then all we want to do is be treated the way that other people are being treated.
The argument says, you’re discriminating against the religious. You’re giving these benefits, these programs, this money to everyone else, but not to us. It’s discrimination. And you know what? They’re right. But this isn’t an invention of opponents of charitable choice; the founders of the country invented it. They treated religion in the Constitution different than anything else. They did so as a means of protecting religion and protecting the state and in the main, it has worked with tremendous success. We have a democracy that, for the first time in human history, said that the rights you have do not depend upon your religious beliefs or your religious practices. This transformed the history of America and also protected the autonomy of religion, allowing it to flourish with a diversity and strength unmatched anywhere in the western world today, precisely because of that law that kept government out of religion. It has been an enormous success.
Jefferson’s quote in context clearly referred to religion. You can establish anything, Bill. The government can establish anything. It can establish a political view if it wants to, an economic system if it wants to. It could do any of those things. It cannot establish religion.
So, yes, people are forced to pay for things that in good conscience they don’t believe in. Every day every one of us in this room could choose something we’re being forced to pay for, but the framers and founders wisely said religion should be treated differently. The sinfulness and tyranny involved in that use of taxpayer money through the government crosses a line that ill serves everything that America is about. I think that whatever benefits we may think in the short run we receive by direct government funding of religion are going to be outweighed by those losses.
Is direct funding bad for religion? I think it is, almost always. Direct funding exerts a secular influence on religious institution because government money becomes tied to government rules, regulations, restrictions, audits, monitoring, interference. The specter of government intrusion into the bookkeeping and daily operations of religious operations frightens some people who care deeply about religion on both sides of the political aisle and across the religious spectrum.
Equally alarming is the reverse: Having the federal government fund religious organizations with its tax dollars and not monitoring what they do with them. We know that the inherent religious mission and culture of many pervasively sectarian institutions will exert significant pressure on the way they deliver social services, to discriminate, to proselytize, to fulfill their complete religious mandates. There’s documented evidence of that pattern in churches that have received funding under earlier charitable choice provisions. The only way to counterbalance the pressure and ensure that government regulations are met is through the kind of extensive government monitoring that threatens religious autonomy. And the only way to avoid the dilemma is not to have that funding.
Secondly, dependence on government money weakens religious organizations in several ways. The obvious consequence is that reliance on government funding obviates the need for individuals to support their own churches, synagogues and mosques. It also results in the weakening of distinctive legal protections that religious organizations enjoy, some of which Bill alluded to. If you insist on treating religion just like everything else, people are going to take it seriously. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, say, “I want to be treated just like everyone else when it comes to receive the money and I want to be treated differently than anyone else in terms of having all kinds of protections and exemptions from the rules that go with government money.” Once you allow, like Humpty Dumpty, the notion that somehow religion should be treated differently and it is entitled to certain different higher protections, once that could be challenged in the norm of American political and cultural life, I think that we have lost something extraordinarily essential to the success of the religious experiment and the democratic experiment in America.
Third, charitable choice would do little to help most, and will undoubtedly harm some, recipients of social services. Charitable choice will divert money from successful programs, such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, to local programs – it isn’t like the government is throwing in $50 billion more or even $1 billion; they’re going to take the same money and divide it across the line. There are 350,000 houses of worship in America. Let’s assume 1/10th of them compete for this money. You’re going to be spreading that same pot across 35,000 churches.
Listen, I’m proud of what our synagogues do. I really am. Every one of our thousand synagogues in the United States run some kind of social service program. I’m intensely proud of the quality and the dedication of it, but you are not going to convince me, as good as our people are, that the average synagogue is going to do half as good as the Jewish Federation Services and their professionalism and their expertise is able to do in these programs. So I have real qualms as to whether or not anyone is going to be helped.
I ran a wonderful program when I was a congregational rabbi in Manhattan with an African American church around the corner. We fed 400 elderly poor every day, half Jewish, half African American. I was proud as can be of that program. Come to me and tell me, “We’ll give you $25,000 a year to pay for the food,” I’ll take the money. Couldn’t fit one more person in the synagogue to feed. We’ll take the money. It frees up money for our youth programs, our religious programs and all of the religious education programs that we care deeply about. That’s just great. But it’s not going to help the poor and there’s no guarantee in the way almost any of the direct funding programs that have been proposed that people are really going to be helped by this.
There are many simple constitutional ways that we could build a better partnership. We could use the tax system to encourage more charitable giving. That proposal is currently before the Congress. We can provide a broad range of technical assistance – a best practices program – of matching needy people with voluntary institutions that are helping them, matching voluntary institutions with private funding options that can help them. The government can lift some of the barriers that make it difficult to smaller groups to incorporate as 501(c)(3)s, waive all the fees to become a separately incorporated 501(c)(3), have online registration, allow groups to set up separately incorporated entities that won’t proselytize or discriminate or involved in worship to deliver the services with government money, but governed by its own board that doesn’t violate the Constitution. It’s the way most of the great programs are being done in the inner cities of the major metropolitan areas. We can help replicate that in smaller cities and in rural areas across America as well. There is a whole broad range of ways that government can constitutionally work together.
What’s at stake at this debate? What I fear is at stake in this debate is the political gain that some people want. I know many people genuinely are committed to direct funding for all the right reasons. But I suspect that there are others who want the political gain that comes with it. In the pursuit of that, they are prepared to tear America apart with a debate over the consequences of direct funding, whether you can discriminate with government money, how you’re going to use that money, how you protect the religious freedoms of people and the autonomy of churches.
So let us instead focus on that vast panorama of ways in which we agree. Let us focus on the ways we can strengthen that partnership. Let us focus on the new ways that we can expand technical assistance and stimulate more private giving to these institutions. Let us not tear the country apart over a debate that in the long run is not going to help poor people much and will gravely hurt American democracy and American religion.
E.J. DIONNE: Rabbi Saperstein introduced an idea that is now part of the bill that President Bush and Joe Lieberman and Senator Santorum and others have written that is now known as 501(c)3EZ. Talk about a Washington acronym. The idea was that if you want to solve some of the constitutional problems here, why not make it much easier for houses of worship to set up separate 501(c)3 organizations that can receive money independent of their religious activities. I’ve always had interest in this and I think that someday I’m going to drive down the street and see a church with a sign in front of it that says, “St. 501(c)3.” (Laughter.)
I also appreciated Rabbi Saperstein’s comments because he proved that we can go in this conversation from Thomas Jefferson to Humpty Dumpty. That’s pretty good. (Laughter.)
I want to give you a little roadmap of where we’re going to go here, because there are so many people in this audience who I would like to bring into this conversation. So I’m going to turn next to Belle Sawhill for some comments and then I’ll ask Reverend Carlton Veazy to come up here to say just a few words.
Is Tom Lewis of The Fishing School here? Oh, God bless you, Tom. I’d also like Tom to say a few words. But right now I’d like to turn to Belle, then Carlton and then to the audience. And then we’ll keep going through our contributors to the book on this panel.
BELLE SAWHILL: Thanks, E.J. It’s great to be here and to be participating in the final launch of this book. We are turning now to some of the problems that are addressed in the book. One of the strengths of the book is that it doesn’t just talk about these larger issues that you’ve heard about so far, but also really zeros in on the application of these debates to specific areas. The area that I’m going to talk about is teen pregnancy.
Teen pregnancy is a big problem in the United States. Four out of every ten girls in this country get pregnant at least once before the age of 20. The rates have been coming down. They’ve come down around 20 percent since 1990, so we are making progress, but the rates are still very high. Compared to other industrialized countries and the rest of the world, our rates are four or five times higher.
Now, almost everyone agrees that this is a problem. What they disagree about is why it’s a problem and what we should do about it. There are, for simplicity’s sake, two camps that can be described. I call one of them the “moralists” and the other I call the “consequentialists.” The moralists believe that even if there were no adverse consequences from sex – in other words, no pregnancy, no disease, no other practical adverse consequences – that we should still be against the idea of people having sex outside of marriage, especially if they are still teenagers.
Another camp, the consequentialists, believe that sex is a good thing. It is really only unsafe sex that is a bad thing. This group says that as long as you can protect yourself against pregnancy and against disease, there is nothing wrong with sex.
If you ask the public where they come out on this, it turns out, not surprisingly, that most of them have a somewhat mixed view. This tension between a moralistic and a consequential view of the problem is something that most of us feel as a dilemma. And if you ask the public in polls what they want the message to be to young people, overwhelmingly they say they want a strong message given to teenagers that the standard for school age youth should be to abstain from sex. That’s the moralistic viewpoint.
On the other hand, they also say by not quite as strong a majority that they want birth control to be available, because even though they want the standards set high, they realize that it isn’t always going to prevail, that kids don’t always listen to the messages and they want some protection out there.
The thing that you need to know in addition to that is that research shows pretty clearly that kids listen to the messages that they hear from adults, whether from parents or teachers or religious leaders or other adults. You may not believe it if you have teenagers yourselves, but they actually care what we think about these issues and they behave differently depending upon what we say and how we communicate it.
There are basically three teaching institutions that could be conveying messages to young people: families, schools and religious institutions. In communities that have weak families and weak schools or have families and schools that are under stress for different reasons, it may turn out that churches and other religious institutions play a rather important role.
I think that especially in those communities – but also in general – faith-based initiatives are important because they deal with these value questions and they help to provide not just sex education that talks about reproductive biology and the facts of life, but talk about values and about issues such as when is it or when is it not appropriate for someone to be sexually active, under what circumstances. If all faith traditions did this, using whatever point of view that particular faith tradition embraces, and did it well, I feel reasonably confident that the problem of teen pregnancy would be reduced.
Now, I’m supposed to be a social scientist, and so of course we look at what evidence there is that people who attend church more frequently or have a strong faith-based belief system are less likely to be sexually active or to get pregnant. The answer is that there is – as Pat Fagan points out in his chapter in E.J.’s book – quite a lot of association between attending church, or various other measures of faith, and not getting pregnant. But we don’t know if it’s causal because there may be things about people who go to church that also cause them not to get pregnant and that are difficult to measure in the usual social science tradition.
So I think we have insufficient evidence upon which to base a conclusion that faith-based efforts will reduce teen pregnancy, but certainly some reason to think that they might.
Now, that said, faith-based initiatives by themselves are not going to solve the problem. To paraphrase E.J.’s opening remarks here, what we need is not religion only but religion plus. Faith without works is dead, and I have a son named James as well, and works sometimes cost money, so that has to be part of this equation. I agree with the last speaker that there are an awful lot of organizations in this country for whom the amount of money we’ve been talking about would be a small drop in a very large ocean.
Nevertheless, faith-based initiatives are appealing because they deal with value questions and I think the whole issue of teen pregnancy has too long been viewed as simply a medical issue and not an issue about the nature and values of relationships.
Thanks very much.
E.J. DIONNE: I just had this thought that while Belle was speaking that C-SPAN’s rating soared at the moment when she said “there is nothing wrong with sex.” And you wondered what all our C-SPAN viewers might be thinking.
I am very proud of the section of the book on the issue of teen pregnancy, and I want to thank here Kayla Drogosz. When you’re putting together a book, lots of things can go wrong and Kayla was the person who noticed that the section of this book was called “The Role of Faith-Based Organizations in Teen Pregnancy.” She suggested that was a problem, and so in the actual book, as corrected, it says “The Role of Faith-Based Organizations in Preventing Teen Pregnancy.” (Laughter.) So thank you, Kayla, for that fix.
I want to call on Reverend Veazy and then I’d like to go to the audience. Reverend Veazy joined us in the teen pregnancy conversations. It’s great to have you here, sir.
REVERENT CARLTON VEAZY: Thank you, E.J. and it’s a pleasure to be here. I was not expecting to respond but I want to join in first talking about charitable choice from the black perspective. The black religious community is not monolithic in its views on this, but when this subject was first brought up, it seemed as if the majority of African American religious communities were supportive of it. I think there has been some changes. I was always opposed. I was opposed on the grounds of principle that dealt with us as a people. The one institution that we have guarded seriously throughout our history has been the black church. And I propose that allowing government in any kind of way to come in is going to do something to the independence of the black church. There are those who disagreed and said, “Well, look at the problems we have. Look at all the poverty. Look at all of the things we could do with the money.” But as my friend Rabbi Saperstein said, other things with that also come with that.
I went back and I thought about the black church evolution. Can you remember the Montgomery boycott? The reason it was successful was because we had one institution that we could turn to without any interference in the Deep South and that was the black church. If we had been tied up with money from government, I cannot imagine what the effect of that boycott would have been, because the church provided food, it provided transportation, it provided the strength of the movement. Dr. King was able to marshal together the churches and that’s the principle that I stand on.
I want to point out what’s already been mentioned here. I don’t hear about any new money; I hear of the same money. And why are we caving in to that when we have done fairly well ourselves as churches without all of the things that come with it? It’s important to us in the black community to safeguard and keep the black church independent, free of any interference from government.
Dealing with the issue of teen pregnancy, I’ve been with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for five years. As you may know or may not know, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice is an organization founded in 1973 as a result of the Roe v. Wade decision, and its mission is to ensure a woman’s right to determine when or whether to have children according to her own conscience and religious beliefs, without governmental interference.
I say that because when I came to the Coalition I introduced another area. The Coalition was a middle class white women’s organization. They asked me to come because they wanted to access the black community and we had some serious problems in the black community.
Someone mentioned a few minutes ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and I remember very well in 1964 we were poised as a people to take off. Barriers were being broken down. Doors were being opened. It was a great time in our community. But from 1964 to about 1989 teen pregnancy in the black community escalated over 700 percent. Now, anybody can wonder exactly what happened as a result of that, with all the dysfunction that goes with that.
I believe in choice, and, as quiet as it’s kept, the black community believes in choice. Because I remember pre-Roe v. Wade. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee on the border of Mississippi and Arkansas and Alabama, and I know before 1973, black women were disproportionately affected and impacted by the fact that they could not find clinics to have an abortion. So I know that it’s important to us in the black community.
But that’s not the only thing that’s important. What’s as important is reducing teen pregnancy. So when I came to the Coalition, we set out to create what we called the Black Church Summit and brought together over 700 ministers and religious leaders to attack this problem. Dr. Joycelyn Elders said something that really struck home with me. She gave the keynote speech at the Summit and she said that 70 percent of the poverty in the black community can be traced to teen pregnancy. That’s astonishing, but when you think about it, a child having a child, children having children, they drop out of school. That determines their economic level, their educational level, where they’re going to live, what they’re going to be able to produce and it has the vicious cycle. So that’s the critical area that I am interested in resolving.
Now, when it comes to money for programs, the government is going to circumscribe to a certain extent what kinds of programs you can have with their money. And one of the things that I did is say we need to teach it. I think you said it so well, Belle. They have much money from access only, but access only does not work in my estimation. We have to have a broad comprehensive sexuality education for young people who are sexually active. We need to teach them about sexuality and teach them about how to be responsible in their sexuality. If we did receive funds to teach that kind of broad sexuality education, it would go a long way in reducing teen pregnancy.
Thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very much. One of the things that came out in the course of this work is, as Reverend Veazy suggested, a very complicated view within the African American community. In the book we have an essay by Professor Mark Chavez of the University of Arizona, and what he found is that there’s a great difference between African American and white churches in their willingness and desire to take government money. He found that 64 percent of predominantly African American congregations expressed a willingness to apply for government money, compared to only 28 percent of predominantly white congregations.
I think that’s not surprising when you consider that the African American congregations are often located in the heart of many of our social problems, they exist in many of our poorest neighborhoods and have a history of partnership with government. But it has created a paradox in the debate about this initiative because there are many people in the African American community who are Democrats who don’t trust the Republican administration and who have been critical of this. And yet the initiative, if it were successful, would probably end up sending money more to African American churches than anywhere else, if the money were programmed to go where the need was. So I think it’s something that will remain a paradox in this discussion for some time.
Before I move on, I want to get some people in the audience who may have a question, an objection, a thought. Does somebody want to jump in? Back in the back there.
AL MILLIKIN (Washington Independent Writers): Would anyone dispute that the Salvation Army’s Christian witness has been seriously questioned by the changes in stance that they’ve taken? It seems like their action was directly affected by this faith-based debate and the money that they may already be receiving from the government.
E.J. DIONNE: Does anybody want to join the Salvation Army discussion? Maybe the gentleman from the Salvation Army would like to answer the question. I’m sorry to put you on the spot in response to a question, but you may be the best person to answer it.
SALVATION ARMY REPRESENTATIVE: I don’t think there’s any doubt that if you look at the history of the Salvation Army over the last 135 years we are a very different organization today than we were 135 years ago. Our founder has been quoted as saying, “If I could have my will, I would hold every one of these people over the fires of hell so that they could taste a little bit about what it’s all about; then they would change their lives.” We could never make a statement like that today — (laughter) — in the involvement that we have with government funding. Government funding represents 15 percent of who we are as an organization. At the municipal level, we’re being asked to change who we are as an organization and some of the core values in order to maintain partnerships with local municipalities.
So it is having an impact and it’s at a point in our history where we have to make a determination: Can we continue to function in the manner that we want to and preserve the core values of who we are as an organization and maintain a partnership with funding bodies at all levels of government? That is the debate and that’s the question that we have to resolve internally today.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
Let me now turn to Father Hacala, because, as I said, the book is organized around several different problems that Father Hacala worked on at HUD. He was very involved in creating the very partnerships we’re talking about, partnerships that tended to fall into the category Rabbi Saperstein spoke about that did not raise First Amendment issues and that are ongoing now under the Bush administration.
FATHER JOE HACALA: Thank you, E.J. I’m not quite sure what a Jesuit will add to this discussion right now, but I certainly want to add my own personal thanks to E.J. Dionne for his leadership on this project. As others have mentioned, he provided a great service to all of us, as did his colleagues, Staci and Ming Hsu and Kayla, with their work behind the scenes.
I want to talk briefly about my experience of the last few years. Most recently I was a special assistant to Secretary Andrew Cuomo at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where I coordinated a faith-based outreach that embodied a lot of the principles that some of the panel members have alluded to here. Prior to that, I was at the Catholic Bishops Conference where I directed the Catholic Campaign of Human Development, which is the social arm of the Catholic Bishops and complements the work that Catholic Charities does.
I find myself now in my home state in Wheeling, West Virginia trying to implement some of this on a local level, and I see really many points of cross reference here in my work now. To give you one example, I’m very involved with the local community organizing an effort that involves 26 churches in the Wheeling area that is working to improve housing and economic development in that area. We were recently awarded a HUD grant – we were one of eight metropolitan areas in the United States – of $40 million. I might add here just for purposes of honesty that that had much less to do with Father Joe Hacala than it did with Senator Robert Byrd. (Laughter.) So I find myself actually looking for ways on the local level to implement some of these broad principles that so many have talked about.
And a personal note here: Just being between David Saperstein and Jim Wallis I’m inspired today. They’ve been really models for me in my own life and ministry.
I go back to the point that we’re talking about a lot these days. The question seems to be, as it’s phrased in the book’s subtitle, should government help faith-based charity? I’d like to raise the point that not only should they but, in fact, they are helping faith-based charity. In my own essay, I say that, quite frankly, what we should talk about is not only faith-based charity but really and more seriously, we should talk at a structural level about faith-based justice. My thesis is that the faith-based program at HUD – and I would like to see the program implemented by the Bush administration – would really build on that.
I’m going to make several quick points. I know we’re limited here and I want to just make them quickly. One, this phenomenon that we’re talking about is not new and it’s not radical. It’s been around in some ways since the time of the Old Testament. We see examples of that in our society today. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the fiscal year 2000, groups that were connected with faith-based organizations received approximately $850 million in funding, almost a billion dollars out of HUD’s then $30 billion budget. So we have a successful model that is out there, so it is not new.
Secondly, I would make the point that it is crucial to continue this. I don’t think the question is, should we continue it, et cetera. There are a lot of problems on the left and on the right and we’re well aware of those, and some of my fellow panelists have addressed that.
The third point I would make is that this faith-based partnership has been very successful. There are many examples out there. We could go through them all. Some have been mentioned here. I’ll mention one; I was just involved in building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Wheeling last Saturday. Habitat for Humanity for many years did not receive government funding. They now receive two sources of funding from HUD. One are SHOP funds – Self- Help Opportunity grant funds – which help develop the infrastructure and train people on the local level. They received about $40 million last year. And they receive a second source of funding from HUD, which allows them to lower the costs of the price of a house by about $10,000, which lowers their non-interest low-income mortgage. That’s only one success. There are many, many here that I could talk about.
I know someone is here from the McCalley Institute, a group that’s funded by the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church. They know more about building housing for low-income persons, especially poor women and children, than any federal department, including the one that I was a part of.
The next point I would make is we don’t really need a new model of faith-based partnership with the government. In a sense I think we have one, and David Saperstein alluded to that. We have a model of funding not-for-profits who are incorporated as 501(c)3s.
I mentioned this before, but it’s so important that our efforts need to be focused not only on charities but on justice here. And we need also to increase the resources if we’re going to be successful here. I think we have a successful model of bringing about social change in our country. It really needs to incorporate, as David and others have mentioned, a broad based private/public partnership. We had a very effective partnership when I was at HUD, the National Community Development Initiative. During my four years there, HUD put $38 million into that, raised $250 million, major corporations, all the major foundations, corporations, and that is leveraged somewhere in the area of about $2 billion in economic development in housing in 23 cities across the United States.
We instituted a new regulation at HUD that would allow 40 percent of the new technical systems money that goes out — in the government, as you know, this is really an important area; they give out a lot of technical assistance money — to go to formerly unfunded groups. That was an important policy change. We need technical assistance. We need programs like the rural housing program that I think is on a back burner right now. We need to continue some of the efforts that we did before.
Ultimately, we need to keep as a focus of our efforts not the government and not the legal cases that are out there. We need to keep front and center the faces of the poor who are before us. I’m going back to Wheeling tomorrow and will spend the next few days working in a soup kitchen in Wheeling. We need to keep focused, and the goal there is not just charity but it’s really to provide the opportunity and the resources so that they might have a future of hope, that they might become participants in our society. The goal of all of this is justice that leads to empowerment, as I suggest in my essay. Thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: Father Hacala reminded me of something I’ve been thinking a long time, which is that if charitable choice ever became a giant program, Senator Byrd would make sure that every church, synagogue, mosque and house of worship in West Virginia got a piece of the action.
In the housing area, he raised a point that my friend John DiIulio likes to talk about a lot. Housing and community development has actually been one of the easier areas in this, a less controversial area. John likes to ask, should the federal government stay away from a program if the lumber to build a house for a poor family happened to sit in a churchyard the night before. And I think most of us answer that question, no, it shouldn’t stay away from that.
I want to put another issue on the table that we deal with in the book, because it’s a very, very important aspect of government partnership with churches and synagogues and mosques, and that’s the area of child care. Joan Lombardi, who has an essay in the book, says that in the area of child care it’s often not about faith, it’s about space. And it is often the case that our houses of worship are at the center of solving the child care problem simply because they’re the only people who will give affordable space to groups that want to do this. Mary Bogle has a very informative essay on this in the book and I’d like to have her come up and talk about that aspect of the book.
Thank you, Mary.
MARY BOGLE: Good afternoon. One of the things that’s struck me about this conversation is this point that’s been made again and again about this being not a new phenomenon. Certainly we can trace faith-based child care back to 1798 when a group of Quaker women opened the first faith-based child care center in the Philadelphia House of Industry in order to counter the breakup of the family for women who had to go to work at the Philadelphia House of Industry.
Today it’s estimated that as many as one in six child care centers in this country reside in houses of worship. And as E.J. has told us and Joan Lombardi’s essay points out, and as does mine, the driving force behind this is the educational wing so many churches, synagogues and mosques have at their disposal. They’re already child friendly. They have child-sized fixtures. Churches have practical reasons for wanting to offer this space. Many churches offset their mortgages by offering this space. And they also do so by subsidizing the care for community services purposes. That’s a large driving force.
So often care providing through churches is more affordable. What we find is that church-based child care – and congregation-based child care in general – is at the heart of resolving two of the issues in the child care trilemma of availability, affordability and quality. Without churches you’d have less availability of child care and some child care would not be as affordable, particularly to working poor families who are not offered subsidies necessarily.
Government funding in early childhood is not new either. The government has been involved in early childhood funding for at least 30 years, primarily beginning with the launch of the Head Start program, because Head Start had long partnered with congregations, particularly African American congregations in rural and urban settings in order to serve poor children.
Since 1990, parents have been able to access vouchers based on parental choice, vouchers to go and access congregation-based care as well. This care, when it’s voucher accessed, has very few restrictions in terms of the curricula offered by the child care center or the discrimination against employment practices, as has been alluded to.
In some ways, this entire discussion reminds me of the story of Old Bessie that I heard recently. Old Bessie is a lady in Meridian, Mississippi who is still driving her late model maroon Pontiac at the age of 90. She has a neighbor named Ms. Esther who recently needed a ride out to the doctor, so she asked Ms. Bessie to drive her down to the doctor. And no sooner than they were out of the driveway, Ms. Bessie was going through stoplights and red lights and every intersection possible. Soon Ms. Esther said, “Ms. Bessie, Ms. Bessie, my nerves can’t take any more. Do you know you’ve gone through every intersection since we started driving?” And Ms. Bessie looked up and said, “Lord have mercy, am I driving?” (Laughter.)
I think what this brings to mind is that in the field of child care, because it so much reflects the values and attention we focus on our very youngest children, the question of whose purposes are being served, the government’s, the faith communities, the parents or God’s, the question of who is driving is particularly vital. From the parents’ and public’s point of view, sometimes the question of who is driving is very ambiguous.
Indeed, although the purposes of community service, education and social justice dominate congregation-based care, as has been pointed out, the purpose of evangelism is growing fast among church-based providers. This coin has two sides. For a religious-minded parent of the same faith, this may seem a welcome support of his or her own values. For another parent, however, curricula focused on stories of Noah and the baby Jesus may be seen as an intrusion they cannot shun because of lack of affordable care elsewhere. Vouchers in a fairly large market promote the right to choice for both parents, but in a child care market where supply is not widespread they sometimes do little to resolve the dilemma of the parent who does not wish to have a faith-based message injected into the curricula.
In the area of government regulation with regard to health and safety the question of who is driving is particularly immediate. About 14 states heed the concerns of congregation-operated programs about state interference into their teaching missions by exempting them from some or all legislative standards for care. Yet there is some study evidence to suggest that this causes the quality of care offered in these facilities to be generally lower than other non-profits.
Over the summer I received a slew of calls from journalists in Florida interested in this issue. A two-year old girl in a church-based facility in Jacksonville had been forgotten and strapped in a church van after a morning field trip. It was a 90-degree day and the child died of asphyxiation and heat exposure. A debate followed in the Florida legislature about laws that exempt congregation-based provides from direct state regulation. Might the state regulation about taking headcounts after field trips and the threat of inspectors showing up have saved this child’s life? Many parents, like the mother of this child, who drop off their children at congregation-based facilities in exempting states would probably be surprised to learn that these facilities are not covered by the same rules as other for-profit or secular, non-profit child care centers.
We also see on the values front that conservative fundamentalist churches have waged fierce battles over the constitutional rights of states to insist that they spare the rod. Their claim is that their particular understanding of God’s will gives them the right to inflict corporal punishment. In the state of California the court has rejected this claim. In the state of North Carolina child care congregation-based providers may impose physical discipline as long as the parent is notified of the policy.
My bottom line is that while it’s reasonable to state that the role of congregation-based care and making care more available and affordable to masses of families, especially poor ones across the country, make this sub-sector of the child care market worth of continued public support and certainly public scrutiny, I have to agree with Bill Galston that one of the things we need to do is manage it. Because when it comes to regulating quality and the promotion of particular values and agendas, I would argue that the public and its leaders must consider carefully what strings it will attach to that support.
E.J. DIONNE: This issue came up in our discussion yesterday and it’s a kind of no-win situation, because when you talk to the church people they say we are buried under regulations, we have to fill out all these forms. The evaluation part can cost more than our programs. On the other side is the story like the one you told where how can you have government money go in when it’s not accountable. I think it’s another one of those managing issues that Bill Galston has talked about, the balance between allowing very well intended, faith-based and other kinds of organizations like them to make a contribution to solving a public problem versus the regulatory issue.
On a lighter note, one of my favorite little moments in our book about child care is from the Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner of the National Council of Churches. They did a survey of care around the country and of how churches were providing care and I’ll just read from her: “As returns began to come in, it began to look as if we had more infant care available than there were infants in America. To sort out our findings, we made some follow-up calls. A typical exchange follows.
‘Good morning, Reverend. I’m from the National Council of Churches. You responded that you have a child care program.
‘Yes, we do. It’s Noah’s Ark Preschool. We’re very, very proud of it.
‘Fine, Reverend. Just a few simple questions: How old are the children in your program? Is it an infant program or a toddler program or a preschool program?
Long pause. He replies: ‘They’re little.’ (Laughter.)
‘Yes, Reverend. How little are they?’ Pause. ‘Do they talk?’ Pause.
‘Kind of.’ (Laughter.)
“And so it went. We would talk some more. Sometimes the pastor would say things like, ‘Well, I’d go down and ask them how old they are but they’re on a field trip to a zoo today.’ Well, we know that infants don’t take field trips to the zoo.” And that is not a regulatory issue.
Again, I want to invite any voice in the audience who wants to jump in at this point.
QUESTION: I’ve worked in several congregations in the Episcopal Church over time – congregations that served Head Start, reproductive services, serving indigent families, all with government, significant government help. And while I realize government help can often invade an organization and test the core values, I have had the happy experience of in every case the money was well used, the money was needed and if works need money and a bank is open, I’m all for going after it right now as much as we can get, because it can work.
One of the things we might work about in terms of helping charitable choice make impacts in congregations is to help these organizations and congregations, train them how to work with this money so their life isn’t compromised.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very much. Did anyone have a word to say in response to that?
What I’d like to do is call on Jim Wallis, who is like many of the other people up here a great speaker, and also has devoted his life to the poor. Jim, it’s very good to have you with us.
JIM WALLIS: Thank you, E.J. I’m not a great preacher as I have lost my voice. I apologize for that. It’s an affliction of those who are responsible for faith-based non-profits. This is donor-calling month. (Laughter.) After a hundred calls for that little piece of resource your voice flees. That could be another topic for another day. (Laughter.) We have not yet resolved that dilemma.
I too would like to thank E.J. One of the things I like about E.J. is that he knows he’s a lucky man to have the colleagues that he has to help do all this, and you’ve named some of them. I see Melissa sitting here. You’ve got great people that do this as a team and what you’ve created, as I look out and I see many of you and I know a lot of your work and it’s a nice room to be in.
We’ve been talking about critical constitutional, legal, church/state, pluralism questions, about the health of a society. I care deeply about those questions. However, I’m going to talk about something else today. I do have some hopes about common ground on these questions, though, but I think our chance of reaching common ground will be more on the ground than in sometimes the revered places in which we discuss these questions.
But I want to raise a different set of issues. I want to start with the story that’s becoming important and a favorite of mine about what is a faith-based initiative. It’s this new language that we all have now slipped into these last years. I didn’t know I was an FBO until about three years ago. Now we’re all FBOs and FBIs and all the rest.
But I got some clue into what that really means a couple years ago now when I was invited to come and speak at Sing-Sing Prison in upstate New York. The inmates wrote and said, “Please come and speak to us,” and I wrote back and said, “When?” They said, “Well, we’re free most nights.” (Laughter.) “We’re kind of a captive audience here.” (Laughter.) And I went and I had about a hundred guys way back in the bowels of the prison. The guards let us alone for about four hours. It was an amazing conversation. These men were studying to be ministers. The New York Theological Seminary was having a program on the inside of the prison producing ministers inside the walls.
And one of them said something I’ll never forget. He said, “You know, Jim, all of us are from five neighborhoods in New York City, all of us. When I get out, it’s my neighborhood. It’s like,” he said, “it’s like a train begins in my neighborhood. You get on that train when you’re nine or ten-years old and the train ends up here at Sing-Sing. When I get out I want to go back and stop that train.”
I was at a town meeting in New York City a couple years later and guess who was up front leading that town meeting? Two of these young brothers from Sing-Sing now back in the neighborhood trying to stop that train.
To me that exemplifies the best of what a faith-based initiative is. It’s initiatives that people of faith undertake. It involves conversion. All these brothers had gone through a conversion in their own lives. It involves a changing of a fundamental reality and not just servicing a bad situation. They understood that. And when people in prison, which I regard often as the bottom of the bottom, can take a faith-based initiative, there are no excuses for the rest of us.
I want to make a point here about the changing context that we’re in. To talk about overcoming poverty in a context of peace and prosperity is a very different task from talking about poverty in a time of war and recession. We have a radically changed context. It is not the same discussion, and I would say it must not be the same conversation. The role of faith-based organizations now I think primarily is to help to lead, initiate, spark a new conversation about poverty in America.
One of my favorite theologians, Julia Roberts — (laughter) — actually put it well in that celebrity telethon that she was a part of after the attacks. She said, “We learned in a crisis you don’t just save yourself; you save each other.” There was religious wisdom in that comment that I think we have to build upon. When those towers fell, we saw a profound equality in our suffering as Americans, CEOs and janitors and stockbrokers and data processors, and we died and we wept together. And if we suffer together, now we must have to insist that we heal together.
That affirmation I think is a religious one and we have to make that very clear. As we were so awake in those days, it seemed to me, and now the danger is also falling back to sleep again.
I was in Sweden this fall, where one of every 60 children are poor. Of course, in America as you all know it’s one in every six kids and for children of color one in every three. Democrats, Republicans, none of us across the spectrum want to accept that. How do we change it? My hope and my prayer is there’s a headline down the road that I’m sort of working towards five years away, which says that after September 11th America was less tolerant of its own inequities than it was before.
I got to go to Ground Zero two weeks ago and the Red Cross and clergy took me onto the pile, the rubble and I had some time alone there for a while. It struck me as I was watching and then meeting firefighters who came from all over the country and Canada, that they weren’t there just to help; there were there to go to memorial services, and one young man said, “Just to be here.” I’ve been to holy sites and I’ve seen pilgrims and that’s what these were, they were pilgrims going to a holy site where suffering and heroism had made the ground sacred.
We don’t go to holy sites for ritual; we go to be changed. How can September 11th not set us back, which it could for years, on the fight to overcome poverty? How could it be a transforming moment to define our unity that’s been so often spoken of in a way that includes those 12 million children in America who are poor who were not part of our unity before September 11th? Will they be a part afterwards now is our question.
I was looking at the back of the book and E.J. pointed me to this quote from the essay that I did for the book, and it’s really what I want to say today. It’s “Our mission is to overcome poverty and not simply to service it.” The government wants faith-based organizations because we do good work on the ground. You know, it’s not perfect. It’s flawed, but it’s good work. But government often doesn’t easily invite our prophetic vocation. And E.J. and I have talked about this for a long time, we are not just service providers; we must be prophetic interrogators. FBOs must change the debate about poverty, make it a moral conversation.
We have to raise the issue that’s been skirted here about new money. I’ve supported most of the faith-based initiatives, but in this new version there’s $135 million for compassionate capital funds. Does anybody in this audience who works against poverty think that an extra $135 million is going to make a serious difference in overcoming poverty in America?
Now, yes, I want the money to be focused well and spent well and poverty money hasn’t always been, but unless we talk about new resources, we’re not raising a prophetic question. I think we have to do that.
We were calling, many of us, for a billion dollars for AIDS in Africa very recently and we got $200 million instead, but a month ago $1.5 billion got approved for Anthrax vaccines. That’s a billion that didn’t go for AIDS in Africa. These spending choices and changes are happening all around us. What to do with our surplus is not the question anymore is it? It’s a whole different context. Who is going to lead a new conversation about poverty in America?
And let me just finish with maybe a metaphor for us. I’ve been concerned that the faith-based initiative sometimes sounds like a one-way street, meaning government wants to solve some problems, so it needs some partners and faith-based organizations are good partners, and we are. So we do research and mapping and we want to fund what we call best practices, leading to results and success. That’s a good thing and I support it. But a two-way street would say, what can government learn and listen to from the faith-based organizations they are wanting to map and research and fund?
In Dallas I was just last week with the Christian Community Development Association. CCDA is a wonderful evangelical mostly black-led network of 500 faith-based organizations. I said to them, “You have been lifted up by your government as effective, as holistic, as life changing, as results producing people. You should say to the government, ‘Thank you very much, thank you very much; now here are some things you could do to help the single moms we’re working with who are trying to move out of poverty into a different kind of life. Here’s something you could do with TANF reauthorization, welfare reform, food stamps.'” These are people who don’t believe government can solve the whole problem and spending their whole lives trying to solve the problem, but they could, in fact, say something to Republicans and Democrats.
It’s called a two-way street. This is a place where Call to Renewal is going to focus its work primarily. How can we put a megaphone in front of the voices of faith-based organizations who don’t have lobbyists, don’t have research facilities, don’t have policy advocates, but whose experience is critical to listen to, to know how, in fact, low-income families can move from one place to another.
How do we change the conversation here around TANF? TANF reauthorization in 2002 is going to affect the lives of poor people a whole lot more than any piece of faith-based initiative legislation in 2001 or 2002, in my opinion.
How do we say that the voice of faith-based organizations has to be heard in this debate so that those who are on the ground, know the families, know the people who are grassroots and can say a little money for transportation or child care or housing can help work to work, can help wages pay for families, can help move people out of poverty?
Finally, I want to say the debate has to be shifted from how we reduce welfare rolls. This is the Washington conversation, and from the grassroots perspective it is a horrible conversation. How do you reduce poverty rolls, not welfare rolls? How do we change that conversation? That is I think part of the prophetic task.
A lot of issues are facing us. Will Republicans and Democrats listen to the voice and, yes, the prophetic voice of faith-based organizations on the ground doing the work? I hope so, but I think we may have to help them.
Thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: One of the fun things about being up on the dialogue with the same person for a long time is you even get to know their favorite jokes. And Jim didn’t tell one of my favorite jokes today. Jim always tells the story about how you have to understand the context of a question and an answer, and it’s a story of a little boy who’s in a Christian Sunday School and the teacher asks, “What is furry and has a great big tail and jumps from tree to tree and eats nuts?” And the kid sitting in the Sunday School class finally raises his hand very politely and says, “I know the answer must be Jesus but it sounds like a squirrel to me.” (Laughter.)
I still love that joke. (Laughter.)
Tom Lewis runs the Fishing School. The Fishing School does not teach you how to fly fish, although he probably is capable of doing that. (Laughter.) It’s a school where Tom is a fisher of souls. President Bush visited the Fishing School very early in his administration to celebrate Tom’s work, and, Tom, we’re honored that you’re with us today. Thank you for coming.
TOM LEWIS: Thank you for the opportunity to share today. When I first got started with my program I really didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew was that I had had this vision after being a police officer and working with children coming to school every day cold and hungry and slobbering and asking me to be their father, that kind of thing. So as I went on and retired, I was trying to find a way to do something. I had this old ragged house over there in Northeast Washington that was on the street that was listed as the worst street in America. When I started doing my work over there, I had no idea that it was going to get into a story about faith-based initiatives. I do know this much: I got off my knees while I was praying and went over there and started the program.
Now, when John DiIulio put together this organization he called me and said he was bringing the president over, and it was very exciting for us, but I got so many calls from people in DC that brought up all these questions about Republicans, Democrats and that kind of thing. I was also confronted with questions about the separation of church and state.
I was in this same building here one day and Senator Lieberman, who came with the president, said that there is indeed a separation of church and state but it’s an artificial separation.
Now, I don’t do my work because I’m a good man. It’s because of my faith that I’m over there. And one thing the president said, and I agree with him, was that they’re not going to be bringing money to programs for preaching but they’re not going to be discriminating anymore against programs that are doing social work in the lives of people and children and families that other people are not doing.
I’ve been involved with churches all along my 35 years working here in DC and I know many of them are doing much of the great work that we’re talking about today. But in my little program we work with about 180 kids a year over there and we focus on grades one through eight. We do have children that are in the 12th grade over there now that have been with us since age five.
The government is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and we’re working with the people. And I believe that when these kinds of things come about there are just so many questions that people have, and I think we’re asking too many questions. We’re asking the wrong kinds of questions. And I think it’s an honor that the government does something to help in this process.
I started the program with no financial help, and I worked for almost nine years with no salary. So I’m not going to be concerned about Republicans and Democrats and where the money might go. I believe that anybody that’s given money for these kinds of programs has criteria anyway. And I assume that if there’s money coming forth through the government that they will bring criteria with them. The one thing that I think is a plus in all of this, those of us that call ourselves faith-based organizations, when time comes to meet the criteria that the government will certainly put upon us, that will certainly test our faith and we’ll determine then whether we’re really faith-based or not.
I’ll close by saying that I went to a school a few weeks ago and one of the persons on the school board talked about the salute to the flag, and she concentrated on the last six words, “With liberty and justice for all.” And I think aside from the faith initiative part of it, that if we will concentrate not on what we’re trying to do but why we are trying to do it, and I think if we would just admit that we don’t have the answers for all these questions and continue doing our work I think things will just level off all right.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very, very much, Tom Lewis. Of course, if the principle of you ask too many questions applied then both think tanks and journalism, the two places I make a living, would go out of business, but I appreciate very much what Tom said and his work.
I have an idea for the audience and for our participants. I want to bring Pat up here. I’d like Julie Segal to speak. I want anybody in the audience who has an urgent thing to say, a question to ask to do so after they speak. And what I suggest, I think the program listed us until 4:30. I think we’d be better if we end a little early and recess to our reception afterward and we could continue the conversation there.
But I very much want Pat to speak and Julie to speak and then also this is a public forum where people have an opportunity to raise issues and I don’t want to deprive anyone here of that opportunity. Pat Fagan, again it’s an honor to have you in our book and here today.
PAT FAGAN: As an Irish Catholic I’m delighted to return to the bar as quickly as possible. (Laughter.) It’s a great place for discussions. Great politics, great religion discussed in Dublin; the best places are in the bar. Even the priests will agree.
A very exciting thing is happening in the social sciences, particularly in sociology, is that we’re seeing fairly clearly the power of religion itself to be a tremendous provider, source, generator of the strengths that government is so interested in taking care of and in reducing the problems that government is so concerned to reduce.
Isabel has alluded to what is the huge philosophical problem that is outside the competence of the social sciences to solve because it is philosophical, and that is the nature of causation. I would contend that the social science data show the more powerful contribution that the churches make by being a church, by worshiping and by praying.
The transformative effective that Jim Wallis has alluded to, the transformative effect of the church, of religion, of the temple, synagogue, mosque on the heart of the person has this huge beneficial effect on society. And I do think it would be a mistake to lose sight of that because that is where the greatest source and the greatest contribution of faith is made.
What can government learn from religion was another question that Jim Wallis put, and our founding fathers are very aware of precisely this effect. George Washington, concluding in his farewell speech, very deliberately knowing he was leaving it for history and for the history of the nation, drew attention to this particular dimension, as fundamental to the future of the country and to the strength of the nation both as a nation and as a nation struggling to be a free and democratic people.
So the part that I would like to just draw to your attention is that that very area where everybody is in total agreement, no government money should ever go to proselytizing or to worship is precisely the area that is the most powerful and yielding both for short term and long term benefits.
And with that mystery, this Irish man will look forward to the bar. Thanks.
JULIE SEGAL: I will be very, very brief and very quickly yield back the balance of my time. Frankly I don’t have substantive information to add to this debate. I’ll associate myself with all of David’s remarks and really just make a couple of brief, little comments.
I wrote a note to Melissa Rogers and said should I even bother to get up there; I don’t have anything to say. And she said, “Well, reflect on your experience, because you were there from the very beginning when charitable choice was first introduced as a part of welfare reform in 1995, so reflect on that time period until now.”
Recently I completed an article about the 20-year legislative history of charitable choice and the faith-based initiatives going back to the Adolescent Family Life Act, going back to the child care debate. The most disheartening part of this research was that nothing that we’re talking about is new. I’ve been in rooms with Jim Wallis for many years now where I’ve heard him say we need to change the debate and focus on fighting poverty and dealing with justice, and all of these questions and comments have been around for many years, a lot longer than I have, a lot longer than the White House faith-based office has been around.
And so I was starting to get a little disheartened when I was sitting there because it was the déjà vu all over again, and I left this work and here I am still doing this a year and a half later.
But I think that there has been some progress. One of the very first comments that David made as soon as he stood up was, “Here’s where we agree.” And I have to tell you it’s taken a lot of time and energy and effort to get to the point where the opponents of public funding of faith-based pervasively religious programs can get up here and say, “This is where we agree.” We had to have opponents and proponents of the proposals sit in a room together all day one day a month for years and years and years in order to be able to say, “Here is what we’re talking about, here’s not what we’re talking about; let’s see what kinds of efforts we can make in these areas of agreement.”
And I think one of those is what we’re going to be seeing a lot of coming up, especially post-September 11th, is the issue of partnerships and what those partnerships can look like. Issues of partnership are not just about the non-profit sector and the faith community with government. I’m doing some work right now with corporations. Critical infrastructure companies need to also be looking at what they are doing with respect to partnering with government and how they can help provide for the security of their employees and of their communities, while not getting embroiled in the inevitable governmental regulations that will follow those partnerships. So these questions really pervade all sectors and they’re not unique to this.
I think my role here as the defender of the First Amendment separation of church and state requires me to say that religious liberty and other uniquely American freedoms are especially critical right now to all of us, given recent events. The United States is an amazing country, a unique country, and the rights embedded in our Constitution vest us with liberties that we should all hold dear. But for some reason the separation of church and state remains one of the least understood and most maligned concepts in current political discourse, and I want to underscore the word “political” because unfortunately having worked legislatively over the years on these issues I do think that where this stuff breaks down is on politics, not on the philosophy of serving the poor and on the philosophy of funding faith-based programs to serve the poor; it’s on the agendas held by politicians and politics.
Many forget that the separation of church and state is a two-way street, and we’ve heard two-way street mentioned in one context; I’ll mention it in another. The separation of church and state provides for both the free exercise of religion and the prohibition on establishment. One could not exist without the other. The U.S. Constitution is not an obstacle to effective public policy or a pesky detail, and serving the poor and protecting religious liberty are not mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, over the years charitable choice and its precursors have eclipsed the myriad appropriate ways that religious organizations can partner with government to serve those in need, and I’m heartened by the attention that is being given to those in the new legislation on charitable contributions.
I think that if we direct our energies to make the recent spirit of giving permanent by changing the laws regarding private funding and charitable donations, then we could serve all of those in need with the Constitution’s blessing and, although these are fun, maybe not have as many of these events where we need to come up and talk about whether or not we can do that, and if so how.
E.J. DIONNE: Bill Galston has an exquisite ear and heart for fairness and the way we had originally set up the program is that we had two very strong advocates of charitable choice – John DiIulio and Keith Pavlischek – neither of whom for their personal reason could come today. Bill has offered to reply to some of the arguments. In the spirit of that sense of fairness, thank you, Bill, for making this offer because I think it would be a good idea before we close for you to do that.
BILL GALSTON: Let me just make a couple of observations to underscore some points that E.J. just made. First of all, this book is an outstanding collection in no small measure because of the balance in this book and the enormous, the intense effort to achieve a fair and full representation for all of the different important arguments that have been brought to bear on this question. John DiIulio and Keith Pavlischek are enormously intelligent, committed and full throated defenders of charitable choice, with, in addition, a great deal of practical grassroots experience to back it up. It’s not just theoretical. And so I think that their absence has left a hole, which I cannot venture to fill because I am more equivocal and not as full throated as they are.
But let me just make a couple of points. The first is a reading assignment. One of the chapters in this book is the re-publication of a document called In Good Faith, which in my judgment is the single best summary discussion of the issue of charitable choice with arguments for and against it fairly arrayed. I would commend it to everybody’s attention as kind of a crash course in the sorts of things that intelligent, well-informed and fair-minded people can say on both sides or should I say all sides of this discussion.
Now, one of the points that’s made in the course of this document – a point not of contestation but of agreement – is that the law and, in particular, the constitutional law bearing on this question is unsettled. We cannot speak as though the Supreme Court has definitively interpreted its doctrine of church/state relations in order either to include or preclude the sorts of relationship between government and faith-based institutions that the Bush administration and not only the Bush administration but also Vice-President Gore proposed in 2000.
So what we are arguing about is not what the law is on this question, but what the law ought to be, and I think it is not correct to argue as though the major premise in this Aristotilian practical syllogism has been established definitely one way or the other.
The second point: I think precisely out of concern for questions of social justice – and I want to underscore the thrust of the remarks that Jim Wallis made on that point – we ought to pay attention to the empirical research that Mark Chavez has summarized in his chapter. In particular, we ought to note the different propensity or inclination of different kinds of congregations situated in different kinds of neighborhoods and representing different ethnic and racial groups in our society, their differential response to the possibilities offered by this legislation.
I take Reverend Veazy’s point that there is a division of opinion within the African American community. I will not masquerade as an expert on the African American community. But my gut tells me that Mark Chavez is right when he sees that by a margin of better than two to one African American churches, particularly in inner city neighborhoods, want to take advantage of reasonable and constitutionally appropriate opportunities provided under this proposed statute.
To the extent that we see those institutions as not just a vehicle of social betterment in these communities, but in many cases the principle vehicle and in a few sad cases the only vehicle for real social action and social progress, I think we have to think long and hard before slamming the door on these possibilities.
Third, and this is a point made in the spirit of social science, I have been involved in a number of different public policy controversies, and many of the arguments take the form of what is sometimes called the parade of horribles. If you do X, then A, B, C and D will happen and they are all terrible and no right-minded person would open the door to the possibility that such terrible things would occur, and therefore let us stick with what we have because what we have is good enough.
Well, one of the characteristics of the parade of horribles argument is that it is a prediction about what will happen and not a description of what we already know is happening, by its very nature.
My response is very simple. Why don’t we proceed socially in a genuine spirit of experimentation? Let us not inscribe a new policy into law forever and ever, amen, as part of an entitlement program. If we are genuinely unsure as to whether the good will outweigh the bad or vice versa, why don’t we conduct a five-year experiment with careful evaluation mechanisms built in, an experiment that will sunset at the end of the five years, that must be affirmatively reconsidered and reauthorized in order to go forward? I submit that if we were willing to suspend disbelief all around and see what would happen, proceed empirically and to be guided by our eyes rather than our fears, we would be in a much better position to make progress as a society.
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you very much, Bill.
I appreciate Bill calling attention to the In Good Faith document – Julie Segal and Melissa Rogers were involved in that, as was Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee. It is a very fine document that really outlines where there are grounds for agreement and where the real issue lies. I think one of the interesting things about this question is it raises in a more difficult and interesting way the idea, as someone once said, that the hardest thing in the world is to reach authentic disagreement. A lot of times we people argue about fault issues and side issues, and I think in this area it’s especially important to understand the grounds of agreement so we know where we really disagree. The In Good Faith document is in that spirit and this book is in that spirit.
I just want to thank three groups of people. At the Brookings Institution, Tom Mann, Paul Light and Mike Armacost have been incredibly supportive of this effort. At the Pew Charitable Trusts, Rebecca Rimel, Luis Lugo, and Kimon Sargeant, who is with us today, have been very generous. And at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, we have Christina Counselman and Kayla Drogosz, who acted as if this book were her own. She saves us from more errors than just having churches responsible for teen pregnancy. Without Staci Simmons, the Pew Forum wouldn’t exist and this book would never have happened. She was here at the beginning and God bless you and thank you so much, Staci. We also have Amy Sullivan and the great Melissa Rogers.
And as Melissa comes up, I want to say that one of the great things about working on this issue is you meet great people, people like Julie and Mary and the people on this panel. To anyone who wants to do good work and be involved with very worthy people, I commend your engagement in this issue.
MELISSA ROGERS: Thank you all for coming. I want to thank E.J. and our other co-chair, Jean Bethke Elshtain, for all their work for the Pew Forum. I want to thank each of you for coming.
It’s interesting, Bill, you were mentioning the experiments – I was just noting in my head that we already have charitable choice in law in several places, so one could argue that the experiment is underway already and that in the next couple of years we may be reading some of the tea leaves from that experiment, which will be very interesting to see.
I thank you each, all the panelists, for your excellent remarks. Thank you for your participation and thank you to each of the Pew Forum staff members that were named, Heather Morton and Kirsten Hunter as well, for your very hard work on this event and for all your hard work at the Pew Forum.
Thank you very much and please join us again some time.
(END OF EVENT.)