April 4, 2001
The State of Religion and Public Life 2001
Dr. John J. DiIulio, Jr.
Director, Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
WITH COMMENTS BY
Reverend Dr. Floyd H. Flake
Funding for this lecture was generously provided by The John Templeton Foundation
THE JEREMIAH PROJECT
The Manhattan Institute’s Jeremiah Project is an effort to study, promote and replicate the work inner-city ministers are doing in reducing youth violence and restoring civil society to urban communities across America.
Dr. John DiIulio founded the project while he was a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Through this effort, the Institute conducts research, hosts conferences and shares information on these faith-based organizations in order to highlight and replicate the most successful efforts around the country. We methodically research their efficacy in the areas of youth violence, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, illiteracy, joblessness and other social ills that remain so heavily concentrated in predominantly minority, inner-city neighborhoods.
Our 1998 conference, Can Churches Save the Inner City?, highlighted scientific evidence showing that religious belief and involvement reduces juvenile criminality. In 1999, we featured five successful Washington, D.C.–based ministries at Faith-Based Approaches to Saving Our Capital’s Youth, an event we co-sponsored with Empower America. And in 2000, we joined Reverend Herbert H. Lusk, II of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia to host a roundtable entitled Religious Leaders in the Public Square.
The Project has also released five studies analyzing the positive impact faith-based organizations are having in urban America and the effects of religious belief on juvenile crime and drug use. These studies are available online online.
Dr. DiIulio was required to leave the Project when he entered government to head the new White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. He has designated his colleague, Dr. Byron Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania, to succeed him as Director of The Jeremiah Project.
The Project also funds successful and promising faith-based efforts through its Jeremiah Fund.
Leadership support for the Jeremiah Project and Fund was provided by:
Achelis and Bodman Foundations
Ms. Katherine J. Adams
The Honorable William J. Bennett
Mrs. Aimee Simon Bloom
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Mr. Robert Buford
Mrs. Ann J. Charters
Mr. Charles Colson
Courtney and Chris Combe
Michael and Joyce Critelli
William H. Donner Foundation
Michael and Marilyn Fedak
Mr. Foster Friess
Mr. and Mrs. Neal Gilliatt
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Goergen
Mr. Timothy Hulquist
Elizabeth E. Kennedy Fund
Mr. Joe Klein
Mr. Leo Mandrakos
Mrs. Virginia Manheimer
Mr. Philip Matthews
J. M. Foundation
Mr. Francis J. Menton, Jr.
John M. Olin Foundation
William E. Simon Foundation
Theodore and Vada Stanley Foundation
The John Templeton Foundation
The Manhattan Institute is a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. EIN #13-2912529
FIRST ANNUAL LECTURE ON THE STATE OF RELIGION AND PUBLIC LIFE
MR. MONE: Welcome and thank you all for coming. My name is Larry Mone, President of the Manhattan Institute.
Four years ago, John DiIulio came to me with the idea for the Jeremiah Project, a program to both study and nurture faith-based initiatives in America’s inner cities. John soon convinced me that anyone who is serious about dealing with the problems of the underclass could not afford to ignore the heroic efforts of the storefront ministries who are on the frontline of America’s urban battleground.
We’ve had an educational and productive four years with John at the Institute. So we were very pleased—but not surprised—when President Bush appointed John as Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. No one in the country has done more—in terms of both his professional and personal commitment—to heighten our awareness of the positive role that faith can play in healing our social wounds. This is an idea whose time has come, and in John DiIulio, the President has found an effective and courageous messenger.
Several months before his appointment, John agreed that it would be useful for the Institute to host an annual lecture in New York to inform the opinion and policy-making community of the latest social-science research on faith-based initiatives. Good intentions are fine, but they are not enough. We must measure what we do, if we are not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Through the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, we are here today to begin that process of education and exploration. I would like to acknowledge Charles Harper of the Templeton Foundation for helping us launch this lecture.
We are also pleased to note that, even with John’s temporary departure from our program, the work of the Institute’s Jeremiah Project will continue. Among his many accomplishments, John has established a Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Professor Byron Johnson. Byron is an Adjunct Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Over the course of this year, he will be releasing a series of reports for us on faith-based efforts around the country. This spring, Byron will present his most recent study, The Role of African American Churches in Reducing Crime Among Black Youth. This is an exciting effort and one with which we’re proud to be associated.
We applaud John on all that he has accomplished to bring us to this point, and we look forward to continue working with him and making sure that we leave no one behind in our pursuit of a better life for all Americans. Please join me in welcoming John DiIulio.
MR. DiIULIO: Thank you very much, Larry. I am deeply honored and grateful to be with all of you here today. It’s a special honor and privilege, and I praise God for this day and for this wonderful gathering.
After 20 years at Harvard, Princeton and Penn, my standard joke was to say that I have discovered the true definition of an Ivy League professor: one who could speak for either five minutes or two hours on any subject—without any essential change in content.
Now, however, after two months at work in Washington, D.C., I believe I know the true definition of a senior government official: one who could speak for five minutes or two hours on any subject without saying anything at all. While I’m both a card-carrying professor and a duly authorized government flack-catcher, there is much that I want to say before you today and relatively little time to say it.
The first thing I want to say to Larry Mone, Roger Hertog, Myron Magnet, Henry Olsen and the rest of the Manhattan Institute’s board members, staff and colleagues—to all of them, familia mia, I want to say “thanks.”
Several years ago, when I began my spiritual, intellectual and civic journey on religion’s role in public life, I had relatively few fellow travelers. In fact, friends and colleagues—who had hitherto supported and encouraged me during my 15 years as an academic who challenged the left on certain issues and the right on other issues—advised me not to tackle religion and public life. They suggested that I stifle public God talk and they predicted—rightly, as it has turned out—that I would draw heavy flack from both flanks—left and right.
But Roger, Larry, Myron, Henry and others at the Manhattan Institute, joined by Gary Walker at Public Private Ventures and a few other loyal and farseeing friends, said “go for it.” They advised me to keep the focus on facts, not just faith; to conduct and promote research, not just religion; to speak my mind and heart, but to do it in both a civic and spiritual way, and to push the envelope and try to speak the truth to power.
Were it not for the Manhattan Institute, I doubt that I would have been able to both keep the faith and keep up with the faith-factor research. And that is what has brought me to my present misery.
My present job can be compared with drinking water from an open fireplug for 20 hours a day. There are moments, Larry, when I wish I had just written a book.
But I am always deeply grateful for the Manhattan Institute family’s support, and extremely proud of my association with them and their brand of thinking—on issues from broken-windows policing and probation to school choice, from government over-regulation to tort reform. The Institute has led our civic discourse with grace, with goodness, and with an empirically, if not always politically, correct taste for the truth.
The state of religion and public life—or if I may rephrase, the state of religion and its relation to public life—is better today than at any point over the last 50 years of American history, perhaps better in some respects than at any point in the last 100 years. In the just-released Spring 2001 edition of The Public Interest, Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb summarizes much of the latest and best data, from surveys and other sources, which shows how vibrant religion remains in America. Much of it is produced by our country’s preeminent pollster, and my good friend, George Gallup.
Most Americans—of practically every race, region, socio-economic status and demographic description—want religion to have a greater influence in American society. Seven in 10 Americans believe that “more religion is the best way to strengthen family values and moral behavior.” The latest issue of The Journal of Policy History, a publication of Penn State University Press—frequently you find people reading it on beaches around the country—is dedicated to religion and public life. The volume’s opening essay, by my former Harvard colleague and now George Mason University Professor, Hugh Heclo, describes the secularization of the American public square, and is worth quoting:
“In contemporary discussions of religion and public affairs, until quite recently, the master concept has been the idea of secularization. Just as secular political organizations replaced welfare, educational and other social functions of religious institutions, it was thought that science and enlightened humanitarianism would provide the new and only creed, that many expected to displace supernaturalist religion. As society modernized, religion would be increasingly confined to the private zones of personal belief, while policymaking would deal with worldly affairs in a scientific manner, neutral and indifferent to religious faith.”
This describes what became known—in very crude terms—as “the secularization thesis.” But something happened on the way to privatizing God. For the first two-thirds of this century, secularization predominated. In the last third, the picture has changed considerably. Religion refused to stay in the private ghetto to which modernity had assigned it. Professor Heclo gets it almost exactly right. While I’m not positive that we are in the midst of what the great Nobel economist Robert Fogel has described as a Fourth Great Awakening in this country’s history, there can be no doubt that, over the past decade, foundations, philanthropies, even universities—and now even governments—have been either welcoming godly people back into the public square, welcoming religious programs back into civic life, or at least not wantonly waving them off. Those institutions once led secularization, and insisted, with the force of public law to back them up, that religion remain gagged and bound in the civic closet, if occasionally trotted out for suitably secular expressions of religious sensibility. We’ve witnessed a sea change.
Let me stand for a moment or two on the shoulders of one of my favorite and ever faithful giants, who is with us here today—he’s far enough away that I think I can say this safely. Father Richard John Neuhaus wrote a book with Professor Peter Berger a few decades ago that caused open-minded public intellectuals to consider that families, churches, voluntary associations and all the other mediating institutions really do have a vital role in the public square—the role that Tocqueville and other great thinkers had borne witness to—in weaving together our social fabric and fortifying our public life.
As Father Neuhaus has phrased it in the April 2001 edition of First Things, it is important to let these institutions “do their thing” without excessive government interference. If I may quote him at some length: “the minimalist proposition is that government should get out of the way, and let the mediating institutions—families, churches, voluntary associations, etc.—do their thing. Getting out of the way requires many changes, including changes in tax policy, professional certifications, and the freedom to hire in accord with an institution’s constituting vision. The maximalist proposition goes beyond getting out of the way and suggests that the government should use the mediating institutions in achieving public purposes. It is here that we need the most careful thought and experimentation, lest the mediating institutions be co-opted and fatally compromised by well-intentioned government policy.”
To that statement, I think one can only officially say, “Amen.” Both God and the devil will be in the details of the Bush administration’s faith-based and community initiatives, and my office is now working out these details.
It’s important to remember where we begin: government has already decided to spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year through nonprofit organizations to carry out the purposes of social policy. The U.S. government does little in the areas of welfare and social policy that is not done with and through nonprofit organizations and providers. It is very much “government by proxy,” as Don Kettl of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has called it.
There is only one federal employee for every six people who carry out government-funded domestic social programs. The vast majority of people who work for the federal government—13 million of them, compared with 2 million federal civil servants—are employed by the nonprofit sector, the for-profit sector, or by state and local government agencies. The work of our office will be to open up these government-by-proxy networks to community-based organizations—whether sacred or secular—that provide social services. Our work is not about providing religious organizations with direct funding for religious purposes. It’s not about religious set-asides. It’s really about administering the public’s business through new government-by-proxy networks, with and through organizations that have—for some good reasons, but mostly for bad reasons—been left standing at the gates.
President Bush has been steadfast in communicating both the minimalist and maximalist propositions. From his remarkable speech in Indianapolis in July of 1999, “The Duty of Hope,” through his budget address this past February, right down to his most recent radio address, the President has wisely and steadfastly maintained that—I’m going to quote him here (every time I think of him I reach for my cell phone and make sure it’s on, but for now it’s off)—“government cannot be replaced by charities, but it can and should welcome charities and volunteers as partners, and not resent them as rivals.” Were the state of religion in public life the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, more people would take exception to that statement than take exception to it now.
The President has consistently called attention to the fact that community-based groups—both sacred and secular—are working in every neighborhood in America to fight home-lessness, addiction and domestic violence, and to provide hot meals, mentors and safe havens for our children. Government, he has plainly, persistently and persuasively argued, should welcome these groups into poverty-fighting and other problem-solving partnerships that it funds—not discriminate against them, but level the playing field.
The President has forthrightly acknowledged that many local “armies of compassion” are outflanked and outgunned. We should not praise their good works in one breath, then discriminate against them in the next, or ask them to make bricks without straw. Rather we should rally additional human and financial, public and private, volunteer-hour and charitable-dollar resources behind them all, in the common public interest and for the sake of the general public good.
The President has also spotlighted and celebrated the enormous social contributions of secular independent organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. It so happens he visited a Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington, Delaware, just the other day.
Likewise, the President has recognized the enormous social contributions of local church congregations, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based organizations. He has warmly welcomed godly people back into the public square—people who perform good social works, who offer help and love, one person at a time, whom Bob Woodson of the National Center for Neighbor-hood Enterprise calls America’s “grassroots Josephs”—but whom I, for the sake of political correctness, will call grassroots Josephs and Josephines.
Every major survey shows that the American people agree with the President in wanting to support the good works of community helpers and healers, whether religious or secular. In a Gallup survey released just yesterday, we learned that 69 percent of people believe that faith-based organizations do the best job of reaching out to youth in poor communities. Only 25 percent felt that the federal government did the kids much good. Maybe if we connected the federal government to those groups, it would do a little bit better.
Likewise, in a Pew Commission survey released the week in which the President signed my office into being, churches, synagogues and mosques were ranked as the top nonprofit problem-solving organizations in their communities. National independent-sector organizations like Goodwill Industries came in a close second. The federal government again brought up the rear. Maybe if we connected the federal government more closely and intelligently, but still well within constitutional bounds, to these community-serving, grassroots-anchored organizations, people would think better of it, because it would be doing a better job.
A national study released in March by the Hartford Institute found that 85 percent of religious congregations offer community-serving programs, including cash, food, clothing, daycare, shelter, addiction counseling, and healthcare. You don’t think of faith-based organizations when you think of cervical and breast cancer screening, but I assure you it’s the case, especially in urban areas throughout the country. In Philadelphia alone, we have 300 congregations providing health counseling and healthcare of various kinds. Small armies of religious volunteers are now mobilized and delivering healthcare services to both children and the large and growing population of infirm elderly. They’re out there doing that work.
A national study released in January by the umbrella non-profit organization called Independent Sector, led by my good friend Sarah E. Melendez, found virtually the same thing. The findings are being replicated over and over. They’re becoming harder to dismiss the way some did a few years ago.
The massive social-service contributions of local faith-based organizations are also meticulously documented in an ongoing series of studies by my Penn colleague, Professor Ram A. Cnaan. Based on three-hour site visits and 20-page questionnaires administered at over 1,000 congregations in Philadelphia and hundreds of congregations in other U.S. cities, we know that urban congregations make enormous community-service contributions in over 200 different types of social services. In Philadelphia alone—putting an annual dollar value on what they do, at sub-Motel 6 rates for the space and sub-minimum wage pay for the volunteer hours—these groups contribute a most conservatively estimated quarter billion dollars of hidden social safety net every year.
That’s a lot of money, a lot of value—and we underestimate that value, because we only count the top five services they provide. Many of these groups provide seven or ten different services. They run a health clinic. They run a school. They run the after-school program. They provide what exists in the way of mentoring. They run the senior center. They provide recreation.
We also know that the primary beneficiaries of these faith-based good works are local children and youth who are not members and whose families are not members of the congregations or faith-based organizations that serve them. This to me continues to be the single most remarkable and inspiring fact.
Remarkable also is the fact that, as every serious study shows, only a handful of the myriad community-serving congregations—even those who define themselves as highly motivated to evangelize—make a current or eventual expression of religious faith a condition of entering their buildings, receiving their services, participating in their programs and getting their help. I still find it remarkable, even after six years. This finding is consistent, both in the systematic survey data and in the anecdotal data.
I had lunch a day or two ago with one of my favorite fellow-professors of political science, former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. As we agreed, a significant—perhaps the most significant—but little understood fact about the federal government is the extent to which government-funded social services are contracted out, and that so little of this government by proxy funds organizations that actually are in the communities they serve—that share the zip code, the neighborhood, the problems, the tastes and smells with the people who receive the services. It’s remarkable.
One of the things that President Bush has asked me to do, and that I’m going to do—I guess I can say, after seven weeks, that “I’m fixin’ to do”—is a performance audit of five cabinet agencies: Justice, Education, Labor, Health & Human Services, and Housing & Urban Development. We’re going to take a hard look at why it is that, while Charitable Choice legislation was passed in 1996—supposedly opening the way for religious organizations to compete for social-welfare grants and contracts on the same basis as any other non-governmental providers—almost five years later, 31 states have had zero—zero—Charitable Choice action. In the city of Philadelphia, where we’ve got one of the country’s richest and most well documented community-serving ministry sectors—25 percent of the housing rehab work being done in many neighborhoods is by community-based faith-based organizations, and a third of all day care—why is it that only one congregation, Cookman Methodist, has received any help under Charitable Choice? Why is it that only four or five states have gotten any real traction at all? Charitable Choice was passed four times—the original law in 1996, the community service block grant, welfare-to-work, and last year the mental health bill—and yet no action? Isn’t that interesting? We’re going to try to find out why that is.
We’re also going to take a hard look at the extent to which these federal agencies have been complying with the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act—better known in Washington, the land of the acronym, as the GPRA. The GPRA requires every federal agency to justify how it chooses grant recipients. (To underline again the important reality Senator Moynihan and I again were discussing the other day: the federal government is a grant-making and compliance machine. That’s how it runs its domestic policy. Outside of air traffic control and federal prison wardens, there is no direct administration.) How is it that certain nonprofit organizations have been in the funding loop year after year without any independent performance evaluation? For example, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on 135 programs by five cabinet agencies to serve at-risk youth, with no evidence that children who came in reading two grades below reading level entered the government-funded program and exited reading at or near their grade level. Or housing rehab programs that spend millions of government dollars in neighborhoods where a fifth of all the buildings are still abandoned and falling down.
The answer can’t be, “we’re doing a great job, we just need more money.” The answer is that there is something wrong with the existing government-by-proxy network—not all the organizations in it, some of which do fantastic jobs. But it can’t hurt to open up these networks to any qualified organization—religious or secular—that wants to step forward and partner with government agencies.
We believe the government-by-proxy system would work better and cost less if it were performance-managed, performance-measured, and opened up to tens of thousands of community-based organizations—including, but by no means limited to, faith-based organizations—rather than funding the same organizations from whom you get the same tepid results year in and year out, decade in and decade out.
If community-based organizations, both sacred and secular, are out there with small staffs and a host of volunteers providing vital social services at the grassroots level—from day care to healthcare, from preschool to prison ministry—then why should government get in their way with bovine rules, bogus regulations, or perverse licensing requirements? Why shouldn’t the same community-helping, community-healing organizations receive private, corporate and philanthropic support vaguely commensurate with the size of their role in helping the least, the last and the lost of our society?
Why shouldn’t these Josephs and Josephines, if their leaders so choose, be eligible? In Philadelphia, we know that 40 percent of the urban congregations don’t care what Charitable Choice says, or what protections it provides—they don’t want to do it. God bless them. That’s their benevolent tradition. That’s the call of their leadership and their members. God bless them. But 60 percent say they would at least think about it. I would estimate that 20 or 25 percent would step up.
If they decide to seek public support for the social services they provide—which is not government funding religion, but government funding people who provide social services under given performance and procurement protocols—why shouldn’t they be as eligible for support as any of the other non-governmental providers of those services—even if they’re small, even if they do it one person at a time? Why shouldn’t they be able to receive support for the services they provide without having to divest themselves of their religious character, or their non-secular symbols or speech?
These are rhetorical questions, of course. I believe that they should be able to hum hymns as they hammer nails. I believe they should be able to say “God bless you” in a health clinic even when no one has sneezed. It is vital that we ask people to come as they are rather than as someone they have to pretend to be.
We have built our successful social programming largely around these institutions for 35 years—and we have the results to prove it. I don’t say they hold all the answers. One measure of the real state of religion in public life will be how open we are, as people of good faith—not necessarily religious faith, as the President says, not just Methodists, Muslims, and Mormons, but also good people of no religious faith at all—to come together in a reasonable way to say how we can together improve the lives of needy children, youth and families who live in poverty and have broken lives. Can we come together to do that? I believe it can be done. Certainly the President has empowered us to try and do just this.
Let me just conclude by suggesting to you that there are many details to be hammered out with respect to both the minimalist and the maximalist propositions I described earlier. We know from previous research that there are myriad perverse rules and regulations on the books that discriminate against community-based social service providers, both religious and secular—especially the smaller ones. We know that even in places where community-based organizations and faith-based groups do most of the local service work, they receive little if any private support and almost no government support.
We know and accept as a settled matter of constitutional law that no public funds can be used for proselytization or sectarian worship. But within these boundaries, is it not possible for us to come together in a new spirit, and welcome godly people back into the public square, and welcome religious programs back to the bar of consideration? Our president has an especially big heart, and he wants to do this to best reach out to people in need, so that we can revitalize and resurrect needy neighborhoods, so that we can make sure that our material prosperity has some worthwhile purpose.
I thank you kindly for your time and consideration. And thanks again to the Manhattan Institute.
MR. MONE: Thank you John. Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce the Reverend Dr. Floyd Flake, who is the living incarnation of many of the things that John has discussed here today. A former U.S. Congressman, President of the Edison Schools and a Manhattan Institute Fellow, the role closest to Floyd’s heart is being Pastor of the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Queens, where he has launched numerous education, housing, and economic-development initiatives that have become models for the country. An extraordinary individual and a great New Yorker, please welcome Floyd Flake.
REV. DR. FLAKE: Thank you very much Larry, and I am indeed grateful for this opportunity. During my three-year association with the Manhattan Institute, I’ve had many opportunities to be on panels and programs with John, and I don’t think the President could have done any better in his choice of someone to head his faith-based initiative.
When the press called and asked why I thought John was a good choice, I said that nobody in America combines theology and academics, theory and practice, as well as John DiIulio does. Under these various hats he wears, he is able to articulate our message both to those who already understand faith-based services and to those who don’t yet have a full understanding—and you’ve all had a demonstration of that this afternoon.
So, John, let me again congratulate you for doing what I did not have the strength to do again—and that is to go back into government. God bless you, my brother. You need all the help you can get.
I would have been divorced, you see, because my wife made it very clear: “I don’t care who called. If it wasn’t the Lord, then I have first call on your life. And I’m tired of living in politics. You have to make your own decision, Floyd, of course. And whatever you choose to do is all right with me, as it always has been during these 25 years of our marriage. But understand: this is not a decision that I will be happy with.”
So that’s the reason I’m here today to support my brother who is in government.
Let me just say a few things. I generally prefer being on a panel with John. I don’t understand this respondent role because you’re not only trying to capture the essence of the speech, but trying to take it to a level where people can have a full understanding of what it all means.
I don’t think there’s anything in America that makes people more irrational and emotional than discussions about religion. We talk about religious people as if we’re talking about a people so different that they are not taxpayers, that they don’t understand basic civic teachings. But consider Jesus’ saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto the Lord what is the Lord’s.” Religious people know that there are times for a distinct separation, but that there are also times for a synergy; there are times when there is a tying-together of our commitments and our roles as both religious people and as citizens who feel a responsibility for trying to meet the needs of the people who share this nation and this planet with us. And John is saying that religion ought not be a barrier to meeting these responsibilities.
More people need to understand that regardless of a person’s choice of religion, there are three basic defining components of faith—its teachings on respect, its teachings on responsibility, and its teachings on redemption. These three principles of respect, responsibility, and redemption guide the religious person’s efforts at trying to provide for people who find themselves in situations and circumstances where their needs are not being met, in spite of the fact that in many instances they are taxpaying citizens. They are people who understand their responsibility to government and expect government to reciprocate at the point of their need or their neighbor’s need, and in many instances find that government cannot do it.
So why a faith-based alternative? Faith-based for four reasons. One, because in most instances, there has already been established a level of trust between the person in need and the church—or the temple, or the mosque—as the place where that need can be met. Where that trust relationship is, people will come much more easily than they will go to where government is. And it does not matter to them what the symbols are. It does not matter to them what the denomination is. What matters to them is: this is a place where I can be served with respect. So how do we empower those institutions, so that they have the resources to do more of what the majority of them are already doing?
The second reason is location. The church is a place with which those in need have some measure of familiarity. It is not just a place: the churches have not defined themselves as their buildings but as a community, and a community within a broader environment of which the person in need is a part.
The third reason, with trust and location, is a sense of commitment—and it is real commitment, because in most instances there is not enough coming in the collection plate to meet the needs of all those who come. (And they come with all the categories of needs for which government provides funding, but in most instances, government funding does not go directly to the places where people have the greatest needs.) People of faith serve out of commitment. The majority of these people are volunteers. They do it because they believe that they have been called to do it. They don’t do this because they’re expecting something in return. It is their calling, and they respond accordingly.
Lastly—with trust, location, commitment—is a measure of compassion. Faith-based services are human being–to–human being. We don’t view these people as the rejected of society, and help because it’s a job, without consideration of the fact that maybe they can be redeemed. The faithful person’s sense is that they may be in this condition because they put themselves there. In many instances, they are trying with all of their might to come out of that condition. And it is only the religious institution that gives them some hope.
Religious institutions do not see themselves as competitors to government. They see themselves as completing the task of government—completing it without in any way abrogating their responsibility and commitment as religious institutions. In my testimony two weeks ago before the Senate Finance Committee—people are raising such firestorms about whether or not religious institutions can succeed where government has not—I offered the following three things, John.
First, we honor the tradition of creating firewalls, so that the church does not have to worry about the problem of the commingling of funds. Those firewalls are generally created by the traditional 501C3 corporations. These should be part of the process so that everyone clearly understands what the institutions are expected to do. They need to understand that this vertical model allows them to do their work without risking the damage that can come about if they are left to their own devices without being required to make the necessary reports.
Second, I said that there must be accountability. Let’s not replay the Model Cities Program. We spent billions of dollars, and have no model cities to show for it. So government has a responsibility to build in an accountability component. I know from experience that there will be many who will react vehemently against it. And those who so react, who do not want to be accountable, need not be in this business, because they will ultimately destroy the possibility of success for those who want to be accountable.
Lastly, faith-based organizations need the kind of technical assistance that helps them to better define how to do what they propose to do with reasonable, measurable objectives, so that, at the end of the day, they will be able to point to successes—successes that correspond with the goals that polls seem to indicate religious institutions can achieve.
If government can help with those things, we will succeed.
In closing, I’d like to respond to a concern that John mentioned and that you hear constantly. Most religious institutions, including my own, do not provide their services exclusively to their own members, nor do they proselytize those they serve. They provide services simply because it is in the best interest of the community of which they are a part. Proselytization is not necessarily a part of their programs—though we would be foolish to believe that some would not try to use it that way.
As I was considering this assignment, I called the various agencies—eleven of them—under the corporations of our church, to find out exactly how many of the people served by these various institutions are actually members of my congregation. Only fifteen percent of the 500 students at our school are Allen AME Church members. Of the 166 brand new homes that we built, only one of them went to an Allen family—assignment was by a lottery process. Our home-care agency serves 500 units, and only 34 of those units house Allen AME Church members.
The list goes on and on, with every service that we provide. The majority of our services are not for the majority of our members. The majority of our services are for the majority of our community. By providing the services we make the community more stable, we create an environment where people understand that these services are available for the masses, and not merely for the classes. And that’s what this faith-based initiative is all about.
Thank you all very much.