Gary Bass, OMB Watch
Rev. Stephen Burger, International Union of Gospel Missions
Bill Faith, Ohio Coalition on Housing and Homelessness
Richard Foltin, American Jewish Committee
Richard G. Overmoyer, Jr., Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Darren Walker, Abyssinian Development Corporation
Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Stanley Carlson-Thies, White House Associate Director for Cabinet Affairs, will present an overview of the White House report.
MS. MELISSA ROGERS: Good morning. If you could go ahead and make your way to your seats, we’d like to get started this morning. Thank you. My name is Melissa Rogers. I’m executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and we’re pleased today to be able to host this event at the Brookings Institution. The Brookings Institution and the University of Chicago are very important partners in the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and we’re very grateful for that partnership.
The Forum is a project supported generously by The Pew Charitable Trusts through a grant to Georgetown University. We’re very grateful for that support. The Forum serves as a platform for research and discussion of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. We don’t take a position at the Forum on the president’s faith-based initiative, but try to bring together diverse perspectives for discussion on the issue.
The Forum is fortunate to have as its co-chairs two distinguished thinkers in the area of religion and public life. E.J. Dionne, a Brookings scholar and one of the columnists at the Washington Post, is one of our co-chairs. And Professor Jean Bethke Elshtain is another co-chair. Professor Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Political and Social Ethics at the University of Chicago. Neither Jean nor E.J. could join us today, and they regret that and send their well wishes.
Today, we discuss the White House report released yesterday; you have a copy of it in your packets. It’s entitled “Unlevel Playing Field: Barriers to Participation by Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Federal Social Service Programs.” Interestingly, Cox Newspapers is reporting this morning that John Dilulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, will resign as soon as the transition team is put in place to provide his replacement. That’s as reported by Cox Newspapers this morning.
We have an outstanding panel today to offer their thoughts on this report and how it fits with their own experiences in the field. We’ve asked each of them to make brief remarks, and then we’d like to turn to you for your questions and your participation in the conversation. As I look around the room, I see many who have written and thought about these issues for so long, and I am excited about the prospect of your joining in the conversation very shortly.
Let me briefly introduce our panelists this morning. First, is Stanley Carlson-Thies, White House Associate Director for Cabinet Affairs. Stanley is a colleague I’ve worked with on this issue for quite some time, all the way dating back to 1996. He’s one of the people who was there from the start with this issue and has written very widely about it. Next, we’ll hear from Darren Walker, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s leading community development corporation. And we’re very glad that Darren could join us from New York this morning.
Bill Faith also joins us, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. It is the lead organization in Ohio on these issues, and he has worked for 22 years in this field. Next, Reverend Stephen Burger, who is Executive Director of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, which is based in Kansas City, Missouri. He frequently appears on national media. And for those of you who are Supreme Court buffs, you may be interested to know that he is the nephew of the late Chief Justice Warren Burger. Richard Foltin is also with us. He is the Legislative Director and Counsel of the American Jewish Committee. He has also worked on this issue for a very long time, and we’re very grateful for his presence here today.
Richard Overmoyer Jr. joins us as well — Executive Policy Specialist for the Office of Policy Development in the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare. He is the agency’s faith-based liaison and has a good degree of experience in this area, and we welcome him. Finally, we have Gary Bass, Founder and Executive Director of OMB Watch, a non-profit research and advocacy organization that monitors the White House OMB and does workshops on federal legislative and administrative issues. And Gary has recently done a study of the non-profit sector and made recommendations to the president about how his work could strengthen the non-profit sector.
So we welcome all these outstanding panelists, and I’ll just ask each of them to speak in turn, and then we’ll turn to you for your participation in the conversation. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
MR. STANLEY CARLSON-THIES: I guess I’m first. I’m here to listen to the panel and to the audience. I’m sure, over the next number of days, and weeks, and months, there will be a kind of continuing series of reactions to what the White House overview says from panels made up in very different ways, and we look forward to all of that commentary. The Pew Forum, as usual, has been right on top of this issue, and we just put the report out yesterday, and here we are discussing it today. So congratulations to the Pew Forum.
I’m not going to try to summarize what’s in the report. You’ve got it in your folders; I’m sure you’ll hear all parts of it from the other discussants. I want to just make a few broader comments. The White House report or overview in the five cabinet department center reports on which it’s based, are part of, I think, a government reform process — that’s probably the best way to think about it — which is a responsibility of every administration. So everybody comes in, the government’s doing things: are we doing them the best way possible?
So much of what the federal government does in social services it does, as John Dilulio and others have called it, by proxy. It’s not federal civil servants operating programs, but rather, giving discretionary grants to a wide range of service organizations, which themselves provide services or, and even predominantly, to give federal dollars to state and local governments through formula grants, so that they, in turn, can distribute the money to effective non-governmental service providers.
So a large key social policy and social services question has to be, how well are those federal funds in that complex system being spent? So are they achieving their purposes, and can that system be improved? A second key social policy and social services question is, how to improve collaboration between the federal government and other governments, and non-governmental groups that provide services, especially those that are intimately involved in the lives of people who need help? And by intimately involved, I mean they’re close, they’re trusted, and so on. And that means community-based and faith-based organizations.
It’s not so much to me a question of, how can they get lots of federal money. It’s more of a question of, how can government appropriately and fruitfully enlist them, and work with them, and support them and the important work that they do outside. So this is part of this big discussion about government and non-profits or government and civil society, an issue that’s been of longstanding interest and change in this country and around the world as well.
So I guess the question is, how well does the federal grant system work, and does it welcome or create difficulties for these grass roots and faith-based groups that play such an important role in society, and who could be even better partners with the federal government with federal funds?
At the start of this administration back in January, President Bush issued two executive orders: one to set up the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives; the other one, the same day, set up these five cabinet department centers — HHS, HUD, Justice, Labor, and Education — with the mandate to exactly look through departmental programs and see if there were barriers to the involvement of faith-based and community initiatives. So from the very beginning, and even back on the campaign trail, the president said he wanted to look at this issue. And he told these cabinet centers they had 180 days to do the initial review and come up with a report to the White House.
So that’s what they did, and what is in the report before you is a summary or overview of that.
The White House report is just a summary. It picks some highlights, it sketches the terrain based on those five very extensive and detailed reports. Right now, the four cabinet department secretaries and the attorney general are assessing those findings in those detailed reports, and they’ll be formulating action plans they’ll recommend to the president, ways to deal with issues that have been raised. The White House report itself doesn’t have recommendations in it, but it provides an overview of those findings.
I think it’s worth emphasizing that this is the first time through — the president said that this has to be done annually. This is the first time. It was on short notice because of the timeline of people getting appointed and coming into place. The appointees worked with professional staff to look carefully at programs, look at regulations, guidelines, practices, to see if the way programs were running conformed with congressional requirements and intentions, and whether there are improvements to be made. And for grant announcements, grant conditions, award committee decisions and so on, unjustifiable obstacles and the way groups who had performed what Congress had intended, then we thought those were issues that needed to be addressed.
Of course, not all restrictions are unjustifiable, and I’m sure we’ll talk about that a lot, but some of them are. Just one observation on the overview: with minor exceptions, we did not find grant programs that explicitly exclude, in so many words, community-based or faith-based organizations. We haven’t looked at all of the federal programs; I don’t think we’ll find that. In fact, normally, what the programs say is, non-profit organizations are eligible to take part. But it’s in the finer details or in the way the programs operate as to what the actual operating definition of non-profit then gets defined.
So is it defined in such a way because of the conditions that only larger groups can take part? Is it defined in such a way that groups that have a distinct faith-basis can’t really participate? So it’s at a finer level of restrictions and conditions, and the way things work that we’ve tried to get at in this first look, and I hope we’ll get better at it as we go further along.
The question is, are those further details and those restrictions required by the statute or by the constitution? Do they fulfill congressional intention? Do they allow the government to serve people in the best way possible? And if not, what should we do about them? That’s what we tried to lay out in the case and in argument. Thank you.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much. Darren.
MR. DARREN WALKER: Thank you. Good morning. I am delighted to be here to represent the Abyssinian Development Corporation, which is a faith-based, community-based organization that is the outgrowth of the ministry of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is a 200 year old religious institution that has a deep and rich history in fighting for the struggle of people of African descent in this country. We have, in the last 12 years, been extensively involved in contracting with the government across a number of agencies, including HHS, HUD, Department of Education, and the Department of Commerce.
The organization itself has developed over 1,000 units of housing, we have a quite extensive portfolio of programs and real estate as a result of the work that was started about 15 years ago with, in fact, a government grant. So what I would like to say, quite unequivocally, is that we have not encountered restrictive conditions as a result of our religious orientation and our religious affiliation with a Christian organization.
There are some restrictions, however, that are articulated quite well in this report. It is our opinion that those restrictions are appropriate. The restriction that seems to be most repeated is the restriction regarding the separate status, the 501(c)(3) requirement or the lack of, say, formal requirement and an informal understanding of a need for that status in order to secure government grants. We think that that is appropriate.
We think that it is appropriate because, in fact, it protects and under-girds the integrity and autonomy of the religious institution that is, in fact, doing this work. It concerns us greatly that a scenario could exist whereby the federal government would actually have the right to oversee and monitor our work as a religious institution. At this time, that cannot happen, because, in fact, the Abyssinian Development Corporation is legally a separate organization from the Abyssinian Baptist Church. And that was a purposeful decision that was made by our trustees when the development corporation was established.
We are most concerned about the impact of this initiative as it is interpreted in the black church community. The reality is, regardless of what the academic language of this legislation and the policy says, black churches will see this as an opportunity to get money, and an opportunity particularly for those small institutions that are under-financed, or are poorly financed, or have poor membership; that in fact, this represents an opportunity to gain financial stability.
And it is good that we should look at this for small black churches, however, it must come with the kind of technical assistance and the kind of support so that we don’t have the mistakes of the past. And I think any of you who have studied the whole community action movement and the problems that the black churches got into because of a fundamental lack of understanding of the legalities of how these things work, you can sympathize with our position.
The other thing that concerns us is the deference — and it is not to simply say that it’s about leveling the playing, because we think that the playing field, quite frankly, is level. But the deference that simply because an institution is a religious institution, necessarily that it is better positioned, that is not always the case. And I think it’s important to understand we in New York City currently, as a result of a quite horrible situation with HUD, have over 500 buildings that were purchased by quote unquote faith-based institutions.
And because those institutions were qualified as faith-based institutions, they were able to gain benefit and access to HUD programs that allowed them to purchase buildings fraudulently, actually, and ultimately find themselves in a criminal situation. And in terms of our community, we now have over 500 blighted buildings in three boroughs of New York City. And HUD is having a very difficult time unwinding that — there are congressional hearings — and it’s all because the organizations who perpetrated this were going under the guise of faith-based. And by doing that, there was an automatic, almost deference that, in fact, these organizations were doing good work.
And lastly, what I would say is that we at Abyssinian are quite concerned that while we believe very strongly that the black church, in particular, has a profound impact on its community, that this policy and this legislation has, in fact, distracted our attention from the more important issue, which is the level of resources that are being allocated and being appropriated for these programs. So while we are debating whether or not faith-based institutions should be engaged in affordable housing, there are only 10,000 certificates for Section 8 vouchers that were proposed this year in the HUD budget. That’s appalling in a country that is experiencing an incredible housing crisis.
So while we welcome the opportunity to participate, while we are grateful for the years of grants and contracts that have made it possible for us to serve out community, we are quite distressed and quite concerned about this initiative. Thank you.
MR. ROGERS: Thank you. Bill Faith.
MR. BILL FAITH: Good morning. My name’s Bill Faith, so I was thinking that this was a faith-based effort; maybe I could get involved in it; maybe we were finally in favor. Actually, I represent an organization called the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. We are a coalition; we’re an advocacy organization; we have 600 organizational members, the vast majority of which are non-profit, including many faith-based organizations.
Our work involves advocating both at the state level, primarily at the state level, but also at the federal level for increased resources and access to tools that we need to do our work in alleviating homelessness and addressing the affordable housing crisis. We are also involved in training and technical assistance activities with our members. And why do we emphasize that as our second most important activity is because we’re concerned about the quality of services that are delivered to people in need. We’re concerned about the accountability that those organizations that are involved in this work have in order to maintain the trust of the public.
When I read this report late last night and this morning, you know, I had this overwhelming feeling that this is the rationale to back up an already stated policy. So I was a little cynical about it, to be honest with you. But I read through it, and I found in it some truth; I mean, some truth about how complicated our federal government is, and how good people who are motivated to address the needs of our citizens oftentimes face barriers because of how complicated the federal bureaucracy has become. But I think this report illustrates some of those things in pretty clear language.
One of the things that I thought was true in regards to faith-based organizations, for example, is that the federal government, in their different programs, uses different definitions to decide when it’s appropriate or not appropriate to fund faith-based groups. It would be helpful to have some clear guidance that’s rooted in the Constitution, that provide clear guidance when it is appropriate for us to utilize state or federal funds, using faith-based groups as a vehicle to address social ills.
The report, though, doesn’t have an action plan, doesn’t have recommendations. As was pointed out, that’s yet to come. Well, that kind of worries me, because frankly, there’s some things that are talked about in this report that are so far off target in terms of what needs to be changed that I’m worried about where those action plans will take us. And let me illustrate that with a few basic points.
While we’re an advocacy group, we want billions of dollars to address homelessness and affordable housing in this country. That’s what we do; that’s what we fight for. However, if we do not have strong accountability to go with that, then we’re going to just set ourselves up for significant scandals like that one that Darren illustrated. This notion that somehow we don’t need the 501(c)(3) status, I think, is ridiculous. The reality is, fiscal accountability comes with that. You have to file an annual return to the IRS that’s available to the public that shows, what are you paying staff, what are you doing with your money, what are you accomplishing through your programs; what are you doing? How much money are you spending on admin; how much money are you spending on fundraising? This is basic, good information that only is provoked by the fact that a 501(c)(3) status exists.
Now, why should I as a non-profit have to go through that, of any kind of non-profit, faith-based or otherwise? Because I get tax-exempt status. I don’t have to pay taxes on any revenue that comes into my organization. And also, you the public that gives me money can deduct your donation. So this is a huge benefit that we receive, and that’s the least we should expect in return.
So some of that talk in the report about questioning those types of accountability measures, I think, is really worrisome. I feel a little bit, you know, like I’m out of character here, because I should be fighting for more money. But these basic structures we have in place protect our sector, the non-profit sector, in terms of assuring confidence from the public.
Additionally, the report illustrates that programmatic accountability is often hard to find. In other words, are the established organizations that receive money routinely doing the job that they set out to do? Well, I have to tell you, at a local level, we do program evaluation all the time. I mean, most of the programs have to demonstrate to many of their other funders and realize that most of our groups have at least 15 funding sources, the federal government being only one of them. So they do local accountability in terms of what they’re accomplishing with their programs. What kind of outcomes are they achieving? And those are measured and documented.
So these accountability issues need to be in place. I think there’s an over concern about this. Additionally, unless we’re really talking about more money here, all we’re going to end up doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul, to use a couple of biblical characters. I mean, the reality is, to favor sophisticated non-profits with capacity to administer these funds versus smaller, newer, faith-based groups that may not have capacity, I’m not sure what we gain in that exchange. Now, I’m all for participation of legitimate faith-based groups who know what they’re doing to be involved in this work.
And finally, this report slams HUD in a number of ways that I think are out of bounds. First of all, the Continuum of Care program, which is illustrated in multiple places in the report, the irony of this is this is the funds that go to help homeless service delivery systems across the country. This is one of the best programs that HUD, despite itself, ever developed. This is a program where the community is involved in figuring out how to address homelessness in their area.
They have to involve people from the business, religious, philanthropic, service provider, veterans, aids, you know, on and on, all these people have to be involved by HUD mandate in the process. This is a community driven process. The report mentioned that a lot of the money — it’s a minority of the money — but a significant percentage goes to faith-based organizations. I think their number is low. A lot of faith-based groups participate. And to use this as sort of the poster child of a program that illustrates why we need to do more, you know, this program works; it gets to faith-based groups.
And more importantly, it drives a community driven process to fund organizations that are trying to end homelessness in this country. And I work with lots of HUD programs. This is not the one to attack.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you for your comments, Bill. We’ll turn to Reverend Burger now.
REV. STEPHEN BURGER: I’m Stephen Burger. I’m the Executive Director of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, which represents some 280 rescue missions across the United States, in the big cities like New York and the little cities like Salinas, Kansas, and places all over the country who are dealing with issues of homelessness. And addiction: we operate shelters, rehabilitation programs, community outreach, women and family ministries, et cetera. We raise money together, and each one by the way is locally controlled, is their own local corporation. So the association does not either tell them what to do other than general guidelines or set their programs, but raised last year over $500 million to serve the poor in their community.
Of that, 80 percent of that is donated income from individuals; 20 percent comes from churches, from corporations; and 20 percent of our ministries take some government funding. Most of it is local and an awful lot of it is per diem kind of funding for food or for shelter, especially in the wintertime. We are either the largest or, depends on how you count, non-profit provider of direct emergency shelter to the poor. We’re either the largest or right on that level.
We have been involved since 1872, and our organization was founded — that was our first mission in the United States. Our organization was founded in the year 1913, as the International Union of Gospel Missions, and last year, its name was changed to the Association of Gospel Rescue Mission.
I read this report with a great deal of interest, because I’m the guy that hears all the complaints and concerns, negatives and positives from our membership relating to all the things that go on out there. The first statement that I picked up that I think that this administration could a lot to help us is inconsistent policy and regulation interpretation, and you’ve heard some of that. We get different — from different departments, but also from different regions of the country. We read food stamp regulations different, read the surplus food regulations differently, as well as the ones that are listed here.
I’ve said it often, even if we disagree, if we know what we’re getting into, you know, then we know what we’re getting into. Clarity is necessary, and there’s been a lot of lack of clarity. One of the things in reading reports from our people is one of our missions was invited to take part in a faith works program in the State of Indiana, but was not allowed, then, to participate because they actually believed that faith works (laughter). They said they were too faith oriented. And so, we do need to have clarity.
One of the things that has amused me and oftentimes has confused me, and it’s in the report, some organizations were determined to be too religious, and others were determined not to be. Now, how does a bureaucrat decide those kinds of questions? Some of our missions to gain federal money have been asked to set up secular boards; others have not. And it really confuses me, because when I look at the organizations, they look identical, and yet, we have this difference in operation, particularly with HUD programs.
One organization asked, what is this secular board, and they could not get a definition; they could not get a clear definition of what they were supposed to actually set up. And some secular boards look an awful lot like the organization’s board; others do not. So it seems to me that we have a definite issue here where we have to set up regulations that are clear, that are handled consistently. Thus, an organization like ours — and by the way, we’re not in line for government money; we don’t see it as our primary source. We only see it as we look at new programs that the community is asking that someone work together to do.
The other thing we struggle with is government bureaucrats. Like one man told me yesterday, they were in the process of getting money and in the contract it said that they could only keep a person 30 days. All of the sudden, we’ve got a bureaucrat deciding in this city what’s the best shelter policy. And those kinds of things make it very difficult.
I enjoyed reading the part where we talked about the way daycare, how the courts have ruled on behalf of the blind student to go to seminary. And I really think the direction we ought to be seriously looking is how we can put together programs, yes where the program is certified by the government that it does have an outcome, but, two, that is it a client choice program, where the client chooses just like they do now for daycare in many states, and Pell grants. We talked about the competition for the same funds, and if it’s just the same amount of funds the little guys, little missions aren’t going to be able to compete with the big guys, and the question is, should they? I think there needs to be standard outcome standards. We’ve asked for that for years, because when we’re being compared with a government agency supported program we can’t even figure out when they say 70 percent success or 10 or 20 what they’re basing that on. And we’ve asked the government several times to work with groups like groups like us and come up with a set of seven or eight standards that we’re all using consistently for outcome.
I think the issue here is the small versus the regional and the large. I think that’s going to have to be looked at a lot more. I think the president could say, and the government could say in its programs, we want everybody at the table. Let’s get the people from that little church that are doing things, from that rescue mission, from other organizations, make sure they’re at the table when block grant decisions are being made. I think those are the things that I believe this could lead to if it’s followed up with recommendations.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you very much.
MR. RICHARD FOLTIN: Thank you very much. You know, as we sit here some, what, 20 hours after the report was released I feel like the English professor who was asked whether he had read a certain book, and he said, read it, I haven’t even taught it. So I’m going to teach about the report a little bit, but I have at least read it once.
I think it’s a mixed bag of good and bad. So as not to hide the punch line, the bad is yet another step in the continued implementation of what I believe is an ill conceived and unnecessary initiative, charitable choice, which is based on the erroneous premise that somehow long standing structures of church-state safeguards and anti-discrimination rules present an unlevel playing field for religious organizations. We have to understand that the issue is what is the government doing that might be construed as subverting the establishment of religion, as supporting discrimination in hiring and in other ways, not a critique of religious organizations because they may have a religious teaching mission, or may want to prefer people of their own faith in whom they hire, and not a critique of the quality of services they provide either.
The issue is what are the kinds of things that we through our government want to support with taxpayer dollars, and when does that run afoul of these other principles. What we have here in the report is an opposition to equal treatment of religious institutions, opposition to equal treatment of religious institutions by carving out exceptions from principles that have protected beneficiaries, employees, and the religious institutions themselves. But, more on that in a moment.
Let me just say a word about what I think in here is very good. And it’s sort of too bad that until the debate which the administration had led on faith-based organizations has diverted attention from the important work that they’ve done, which is reflected in this report, that I think poses a great potential for constructive discussion and a movement towards consensus. And here I’m talking about the reports, elements that deal with regulations and government practices that have nothing to do with religious restrictions, but that in fact do create barriers to the involvement of smaller, community-based organizations in government funded programs. I don’t know that I subscribe to every element of that analysis, but I think it’s really a positive and constructive discussion of that part of the issue. I think the report also does well to talk about failures of performance monitoring, the failure to implement the 1993 government performance and results act, and of course the list of barriers.
But, as indicated, the issue is not whether religiously affiliated organizations as such have been barred access. In the process leading to this report HUD had solicited comments, were the only reporting agencies to do so, identifying barriers to participation by smaller community organizations. And it’s interesting to note, and this was an analysis that came out recently, in which they gathered some of the comments, and they report that respondents to the HUD notice were three times more likely to list non-religious than religious restrictions as barriers. Moreover, of those who did address religious-based restrictions, more organizations and individuals supported maintaining current restrictions than modifying them to expand government-funded religion.
We also heard much yesterday when the report was rolled out about the lack of data on evaluation of sources. I think there’s also a lack of data about the implementation of charitable choice itself. Here we see a rush to judgment on policy, on the policy of charitable choice. It’s remarkable that with charitable choice, the law is now going on five years, we have really no data about the efficacy, of the services that are provided through this mechanism, and no data for that matter about the concerns that many have raised about the impact on beneficiaries, on potential and actual employees, on the integrity of religious institutions if this approach is going to be implemented.
And yet we see, as reflected in the House’s passage of H.R. 7 and in this report itself, a movement towards expanding this. Again, I know there’s no explicit recommendations, but I think it’s implicit in the report that what is being seen here is a need to expand the charitable choice approach to federal funding, and all this without the kind of study of the implementation that ought to be taking place at the very least.
There’s another rush to judgment, and that is the dismissive and conclusive statements that are in the report about the status of existing law. First, I think it should be noted that the term faith-based organizations is not even defined, but the import of the report seems to be that the kinds of organizations that are religious in nature, that have been partnering with the government and receiving funds for many decades now are somehow not faith-based organizations. Those organizations are sort of dismissed as large and entrenched monopolies. Here I’m talking about Catholic Charities, the many Jewish federations, and I think the report misconceives the role of these agencies and how they interact with local communities in providing services, and minimizes their religious identity, so as to bolster the case that somehow the religious sector is being barred from partnership with the government.
It also avoids the underlying reasons why the courts have said religiously affiliated organizations may receive funds, but not pervasively religious organizations. That it is simply unrealistic to expect them to separate their religion teaching mission from service provision, and if we were to expect that policing this would lead to unprecedented government intrusion. Finally on this point, simply as a matter of court doctrine, I think the reports of the death of the pervasively religious standard are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain. Time doesn’t allow, but I think if one parses Justice O’Connor’s concurrence in the recent Helm’s opinion, I think it shows that this issue is far from resolved. More crucially, I think the report minimizes the concerns that as a matter of policy, with respect to discrimination, doesn’t deal with the fundamental civil rights considerations, and the desire not to have services provided in a setting that would tend to push beneficiaries into religious activities that are powerful reasons why we should question the need for explicitly applying for Title 7 exemption to publicly funded programs, or conversely why we should run programs through institutions that will rely on that exemption in hiring direct service providers.
A couple of points to close with. The report, as has been noted, also doesn’t address the need for more funding. Instead of dividing up an existing pie into even smaller pieces, I think we need, if we’re going to talk about expanding service providers, we need to talk about expanding resources. While saying that there are constitutional limits on how government funds may be spent by religious organizations, there’s no clear answer to what those limits are, or how they are to be enforced, nor is it clear why, if it is a problem, that agencies have been overly suspicious of legally appropriate religious providers have imposed needless limitations on those providers, the answer is not simply to better educate, the agencies, the bureaucrats, so that in fact they are consistent, and they are not over-interpreting what the establishment clause and these policy principles may require.
I think at the end charitable choice, the charitable choice approach remains a solution in search of a problem, and it is clear that there will be much activity in this area coming from the administration, not only in the legislative front, but also in the agencies, and we have to be on the alert for what will be coming out, and to press for an open, transparent process, so that we all have an opportunity to understand what is proposed, and an opportunity to weigh in.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Rich.
And speaking of people who are implementing policies on a state level, we welcome Richard Overmoyer next.
MR. RICHARD OVERMOYER: I just want to thank Pew for the opportunity to be here and talk about Pennsylvania’s program. I think one of the things — we haven’t been highlighted in the national media as being a trend setter, but we are happy, I think, with the way things have been going for us. And I think in looking at the report there are some issues in there that validate the direction that we’ve been going, but also some areas that, as has been expressed, that have us concerned. And so that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today.
First of all, I just wanted to say, when we’ve looked at our programs basically in the winter of 2000, as this issue was becoming more and more hot, we basically looked at the number of programs that we have that are operated by faith-based organizations. With the survey we found hundreds of organizations that had direct grants, or sub-grants with some of our contractors, that were faith-based, or smaller community-based organizations. One of the things that — (inaudible) — around the faith-based organization is anybody will do business with us, because we’re a big bureaucracy and you’ve got to have some kind of faith that you’re going to get paid at some point.
So with that there are a number of organizations that we are working with, and we’re giving them money. And so one of the things we haven’t done, we haven’t gone out and done a big, formal promotion of a faith-based program. What we have done is in local communities, and with local church groups we have gone out and conveyed our message about how you can do business with us, give some of that technical assistance that I think is really needed. But, just also, showing how to partner, maybe not on a monetary fashion, but just in delivering the message. And probably the biggest thing is welfare reform, and its affect on families and communities. We’ve been out doing stump speeches about how we can really both work together.
So with that, some of the highlights that I want to talk about in terms of our success, like I said, we haven’t ever really created a set aside program, or some specialized funding for faith-based organizations. Rather what we’ve done is try to make sure that we do have a level playing field, that all organizations can compete for contracts fairly. As I said, we provide informational meetings. And the other thing is we’ve looked at our procurement criteria, when charitable choice was passed we went back and looked at how we do requests for proposals. And we found some issues in terms of interpretation, and because of litigation and regulations that our procurement process is very difficult, and I’ll admit is still is very difficult. Typically our proposals are about 30-some inches of paper that you get. And so for a smaller church group, or a smaller community organization that can be overwhelming when that comes in the mail.
So what we did in a couple of areas is looked at ways, how can we do an application process that simplifies that, maybe creates a 14-page application, rather than the 30 inches of paper. The other thing that we really started getting into is contracting with umbrella organizations. And I noted that one of the things in our survey we had contractors and then subcontractors. The issue is that you really want to look for umbrella organizations, because in a lot of ways there’s administrative capacity, and administrative ability that an organization needs to have in order to manage the funds that they are given, and do some of the outcome reporting that is necessary. In many cases an umbrella organization can actually do that for you, can subcontract with local, community, and faith-based organizations and collect the data reporting that we need back in order to do outcome measurements, and also report back to the federal government.
One of the other things we did with charitable choice was look at the work requirements in our welfare program. One of the things we allowed to happen is that an individual can actually satisfy their work requirement by doing volunteer work, working with the church. That’s not to say that they can clean the church, for instance, and count that as an activity, but what they can do is work in either the food bank, or the clothing shelter that they have set up for clients.
Some of our concerns that we’ve had recently — think our main concern is that our approach not be disrupted by any sort of mandate that’s going to come out, if one so happens. We think that if the federal government is interested in setting aside funds for faith-based organizations they should not look to the states to administer those programs, because of possibilities of litigation and protest by other organizations. We’re very concerned about that. I think care should also be taken as we broaden faith-based programs, or faith-based funding into other areas. One of the things programs must be aware of is that they still must comply with licensing or certification procedures. One of the things that’s discussed in the report is childcare, and I know that’s been an issue in Texas. Certain childcare centers ask for exemptions from licensing requirements, and there have been a lot of issues around that. In Pennsylvania it’s something that we deal with, and we’re struggling with, is that you should be certified or licensed just like any other organization receiving funding.
Some of the other things — one of the things — at the end of the day, one of the things we have to be concerned about is the size and the administrative capabilities of faith-based or any community organization, because of those things I highlighted with the umbrella organizations, we really have to look at in an organization, a faith-based organization has to have a realization of what they’re able to handle. For instance, maybe they can’t handle a 100-slot employment training contract, because it’s just too overwhelming. But, what they can do is go out and help educate our clients about making right choices, and even accompany the clients to meetings or job interviews, and just be there as a coach for them and to help them out.
I think recently we’ve had really good experience with that, and also it highlights a problem in that in May and June of this year we put up an initiative called our community connections initiative. And the reason for this is as we’re approaching — in Pennsylvania, we’re approaching our fifth year of welfare reform, and some clients are going to be subject to the time limits. We knew that there were some clients who have not been engaged in our system, or have been doing just enough to get by. And so what we really want to try to do is reach out to community and faith-based organizations as a way of partnering with them, and try and get the message out to our clients. What we did is we put out — and that’s where this 14-page application came into play, it worked out wonderfully in this example. We put the information out there, we also went around the state, because we realize that many of these organizations don’t have travel budgets to go to Harrisburg, in Pennsylvania, the capital, and hear about the program. So we went out on the road and we talked about the program. And with that we got flooded with applications, which was a good and bad thing.
But in that, one of the things that we witnessed is something that I would caution, is that we were out there trying to buy a particular service, we wanted organizations that would go out, partner with us, and educate out clients. What happened is we got some proposals from church groups that came in and they were looking to provide that service, plus ten other things that they thought were needed in the community, and asking for a pretty high level of funding. So unfortunately we weren’t able to give them grants, they weren’t successful in the process. They didn’t answer the questions, so they were very disappointed.
I think it kind of goes back to what Darren was saying in terms of faith-based organizations can’t have a run for the money. And just on Wednesday I received a phone call from someone who said, how can I apply for some of that charitable choice money. And so then I had to go through the whole what charitable choice really is, and a lengthy conversation, but at the end of it there really was a program that they thought was needed, but there was an organization we had just recently funded in their community doing the exact same thing, and it’s just a matter of linking them up and partnering together.
So at the end of the day I think the fundamental thing about charitable choice is that it’s created a new focus for us in Pennsylvania on how we can and what role we should play with local, community, and faith-based organizations.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you so much.
Last, but not least, Gary Bass.
MR. GARY BASS: If they’re listening, they’ve got to be going, holy cow, this is amazing. What OMB Watch has maybe a unique angle on this in that we support faith-based funding. At the same time as Senator Lieberman said, the devil is in the details. And after reading the report last night, and comparing it to a survey of nonprofits we did around the country, it was not a scientific study, it was an Internet-based study, about 1000 non-profits from every state responded. I’m sorry, one state did not respond. But, about 1000 nonprofits. We had an advisory panel of about 25 people from nonprofit leaders from around the country take a look at the data, to develop recommendations around what nonprofits are saying really needs to happen, what kind of federal changes need to happen. Some of these advisors were faith-based, some of them weren’t.
The results were really, for this purpose and discussion, three categories. And you really heard them in each of the speakers so far. The first was, accountability needs to be stronger in our nonprofit sector. Without regard to faith-based or faith-based, it needs to be stronger. The notion that was talked about earlier or registering with the IRS to be a qualified charity is essential from the perspective of community groups around the country, because we want greater accountability. And that information should be disclosed, in a better manner, on the Internet, much like how is done today through Guidestar. And, in fact, before this meeting this morning I went and took a look to see Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, and they do file the annual tax return, the IRS-990, and I saw whether or not they got government money, and I saw their activities. There’s also a need for stronger enforcement on all of this information. So accountability is number one.
Number two was also said by the other panelists. Nonprofits said we need more support, particularly for community-based groups. And there were suggestions like something equivalent to a national endowment to provide support to grassroots organizations, to help them build the capacity, not to compete against or with faith-based, but in fact probably the greatest competition in the nonprofit sector is the for profit sector today. And so there is a need to build the capacity of smaller groups.
They were also arguing, not just money but also resource support. For example, the notion in this report it mentioned community technology centers. Well, what the nonprofits said is, not only should that program be expanded for technology support, but have it reach out to small community-based organizations to help nonprofits better employ technologies.
And finally on the support they said, we need at the federal level to invest in our future, in our kids, and our communities, and that federal resources should go in that direction. Which leads to the third point that they raised, beyond accountability and beyond support and that was that the grant process needs to be improved. And there is some overlap with this report that came out. On the other points there is absolutely not overlap. On the grant streamlining side, their first point was that reimbursement schedules need to be improved. They need to be simpler and speedier, that wasn’t mentioned in this report at all, and that’s critical to smaller groups.
They also mentioned that the reporting as was mentioned in this report, as mentioned by all the panelists, the application process for getting a grant needs to be coordinated, not just from agency to agency, but the federal level down to the state level, and on down. We already have a law that groups in Ohio and other places advocated for, which is the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act. It’s barely mentioned in the report, the law is in place, there is a capability to do this, what the report doesn’t mention is that nonprofits also complain about the reporting requirements. That there are a myriad of them, and each agency even though they may run a very similar program requires different kinds of reports. The other thing nonprofits said is financial reporting should be consolidated and simplified. Instead of just on our 990 doing one thing, different than our audits, which are different than our financial reports on the grants, consolidate them.
So all of this is the kind of thing that nonprofits were saying, which is really almost like looking at a modern art picture, you know, where someone is giving a review of it and they’re talking about something, and you look at it and you go, huh? That’s sort of how I felt with the report.
Now, let me turn to the report for a second and talk about some problems. And several things were mentioned. Rich mentioned that it’s a solution in search of a problem. When you read this report those 15 barriers there listed, it’s like taking taffy and stretching it so much it’s like sagging in the middle. They’re very repetitive, they’re like in search of barriers. On top of it, you turn to page four they say that the government data system, because it doesn’t identify that someone is faith-based, which hasn’t been defined, that is evidence of systematic discrimination, is what they say. That’s a pretty weak argument. Plus, if they link it to the IRS 501(c)(3) there is a taxonomy where it does have that information, and you can get it.
Page seven of the report, there’s a statement that’s an incredible assumption, an incredible assumption. Page seven has a statement that talks about a disjunction. It says, there is a striking disjunction between the service organizations that federal grant funds predominantly support, and the organizations that actually provide most of the critical social services. What data do they have to support that? The whole report is based on assumptions like that.
The second point about the report. It was mentioned about no definitions. Well, the issue in the faith-based argument, OMB Watch supports faith-based organizations get funding. We do not support congregations that do not file 990s, and do not comport with accountability standards getting those monies. We need a better definition of what we’re talking about in this report.
The third problem in the report, data. There was no data collection, the closest was the HUD one that Rich mentioned, and the ACLU report also points out that of the 130 entities that responded to the HUD notice only one supported the faith-based initiative. That’s not mentioned at all in this report. Moreover, you can look at other kinds of studies, the National Association of Community Action Agencies surveyed its membership of community action agencies, and it turns out that over 40 percent of them provide contracts to faith-based organizations in doing the services. None of that is reflected in this kind of report. There is no data going out and surveying the groups that are doing the work.
Which brings me to the fourth and final point about the report, and that is there’s an overwhelming emphasis in this report that there is constitutional and legal grounding for doing all this faith-based work. Why are we going for legislation, why are we going through all of these changes and this debate? I’m not sure I get it. The final point I guess I would make about this report is I do believe if you take a federal dollar it comes with a responsibility to abide by federal rules with the use of those federal dollars. I don’t want to go to a daycare center in one place, I should say any daycare center, one that gets federal money and one that does, one discriminates and another it doesn’t. I want uniformity, I don’t want to have an unfair, an inappropriate playing field where certain nonprofits are elevated over others. Otherwise, we will end up with what the title of the report says, an unlevel playing field, and that’s not right. Thanks.
MS. ROGERS: Thanks to all the speakers for their comments, who put a lot on the table for us all to chew on. I wanted to take a minute to — I’ll try to restrain myself, because I want to give time to you all to ask questions, but I did want to give Stanley a chance to make a few comments on the comments that were made here. I thought I’d also mention, since I mentioned the Cox newspaper report earlier about John DiIulio I’d read you one of the quotes in the report. John said, “I’ve always said that I agreed to stay for six months to help launch the initiative, help mobilize people who would not be traditional friends and allies.” DiIulio said, “I want to go back to being part of the direct action of the people and faith groups that help them.” So I thought that would be something that would help you put that in context.
Anyway, let me turn to Stanley. Stanley, perhaps — I know you’ve got a lot that you probably want to say, but we’ll try to keep it short. And perhaps if you can tell us now, or someone with a question might ask, where do things go from here?
MR. CARLSON-THIES: Yes, I actually don’t want to say a lot. They were great comments. I don’t agree with all of them, of course. I learned that I wrote some things I didn’t think I wrote. But, I’ll go back and read them, maybe I did. So I’ve taken a lot of notes, there were some specific things, I think some things weren’t expressed as clearly as possible. For example, we’re not saying there shouldn’t be regulation or that faith-based groups have to have a bias or a fund or something like that. And we’re happy there’s a streamlining process and we want to make sure that works well. So I don’t want to comment in detail.
The process now is — what you have here is I just tried to pick out what I thought was characteristic and based on a very wide range of things that were in the separate — five separate reports. Those reports have been submitted to the respective secretaries of the departments, or the attorney general and the Justice Department. And now they’ll go through a process internally of deciding what to do with it. And it may well be that some of the secretaries will say, here are 18 things, I don’t think 15 of those are problems, here are the three things we need to look at, or we need to get more engaged in the streamlining process, or take it more seriously, or whatever. I don’t know what’s going to happen. They’re going to be making recommendations proposing an agenda of action to the president and then they’ll set aside to make things.
Some of the changes that they want to make are purely administrative, as every administration makes some tweaks and improves things. Some of them presumably could touch on regulation, in which case there’s a whole process to go through, if somebody thinks changes need to be made, and if there needs to be dialogue with Congress about changing things that Congress has said that will happen, as always. So it will be the typical kind of government reform process that if you read the fine print in the Washington Post you’ll see what’s being done.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you, Stanley. Let me take some questions now from the floor. And also, I think I have a question and a comment perhaps from Heather Humphries from the — I hope I’m going to say this right — National Council for Neighborhood Enterprise — National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, pardon me. The national center has done a study recently on its view of the barriers and the problems in the situation, and I wanted to give Heather time to comment about that report. And let me just say for everyone, if you could raise your hand, and then when you’re at the mike, wait until the mike comes to you, say your name, say your affiliation, because we are recording this, and we’ll post it as a transcript on our web site later in the week.[TAPE BREAK] [Heather Humphries, National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, continued…]
…so that is one question, Stanley, that I would ask, is about the state licensing issue because in many states they’re not allowed to use food stamps or anything unless they’re part of a licensed program.
And by the way, in Pennsylvania, where we’ve done quite a bit of work and there’s some very effective groups, a state licensing — I don’t know what it’s called — investigator, regulator, went to one of these faith-based substance abuse programs and said, “I know that you’re more effective, that you do it better than anybody else, but you’re doing it wrong.” (Laughter.)
MS. ROGERS: Well, that’s certainly — Stanley, I think the question was directed at you. And then, Richard, if you have any comments on the Pennsylvania status.
MR. CARLSON-THIES: That issue of state licensing is a complex one. Of course licensing is there to make sure there’s quality programs and people are prepared to do the work, and so on.
Our society — in various areas there are some differences over how best to do certain things, and I’m not sure that licensing always takes all that into account. Certainly there’s nothing in this report or implied by this report that would suggest that there shouldn’t be regulation. The question is, is it always getting us to that aim, which is to make sure that services are good and respectful, and so on.
And I think licensing, particularly as it loops into some faith-based drug treatment programs, there is an issue there that perhaps needs to be looked at. And Congress, in fact, said that this licensing question should be looked at in one law that they passed last December.
MR. : Yeah, I just —
MS. ROGERS: Yeah, and Richard, did you have a — okay.
MR. : Which Richard?
MS. ROGERS: Two Richards down there. (Laughter.) That’s confusing. Go in turn.
MR. OVERMOYER: Yeah, I guess the one thing I just would like to comment, I mean, and that does happen. I think two issues. One, is it is a slippery slope if you start making exemptions to licensing or regulations, that — I mean because a faith-based organization does it this way, who is to say that other organizations should be doing it that way?
I think the only way to have some effect in that is through the licensing; when regulations are promulgated that everybody participates and that it is, you know, the whole community is there at the table represented. And if there are outcomes that dictate that licensing should be –(off mike)–, then do that.
But as I mentioned in my points, I mean the issue of child care — (off mike) — and we wrestle with all the time, the thing there is about levels of education and also staff-child ratios, that in certain areas because they say that they’re operating in a mission think that they shouldn’t be licensed. But you get into some very scary situations where the number of children-to-adult ratio is just out of control. And that’s where that slope comes in. So, thanks.
MR. FOLTIN: Okay, just one other thing. I agree with this — with Richard’s comment, and I think the issue is not — is that there should not be per se exemptions for religious organizations that contract from the government. That’s not to say that every credentialing or licensing requirement that’s invented makes sense, and it’s not to say there should not be some sort of waiver procedure for specific agencies to be able to go in and say, “For the following reasons, we ought not to be subject to this requirement.” And I think that’s something that ought to be available — looking at whether or not a credentialing requirement is really essential is something that ought to be thought about generally, but not especially with respect to religious organizations. And you just mentioned getting away from government contracting. The report just basically focuses on government contracting. I mean, there’s one side comment on vouchers, sort of incidentally.
I do want to say that it’s not the end of the discussion to simply say we’re not going to talk about government contracts, and so there’s no — therefore no issue in how the government funds flow to religious organizations. But that’s a whole other set of issues, which we’ll reserve, I think, for another day.
MS. ROGERS: Okay.
Q My name is Rochelle Friedman —
MS. ROGERS: If you could wait just a moment till the mike gets to you. Thanks so much.
Q My name is Rochelle Friedman with McCauley Institute. We’re a faith-based organization.
Initial announcement of the president’s initiative, I think, set up expectations about money that would be available. Soon I noted that the charitable tax deduction was not included in the administration’s tax bill, and agencies, such as HUD, that provide money to community and faith-based organizations received cuts in the administration’s budget. This raised the concern that this might be more about politics than substance.
Recently the administration supported inclusion of a little-noted provision in H.R. 7, the House Community Solutions Act, which allows HUD, HHS, and others to disburse their funds in the form of vouchers. This has the potential to create instability and great uncertainty for the community- and faith-based organizations who presently receive federal funds. This notion of voucherization seems to run counter to the rhetoric supporting community-based and faith-based organizations. Perhaps voucherization is one of the primary goals of this whole initiative.
I would invite the panel to comment on voucherization.
MS. ROGERS: I think there will be different views expressed here. Gary, you’d like to weigh in and —
MR. BASS: Sure. Sure.
MS. ROGERS: — I don’t know if —
MR. BASS: I’d actually like to weigh in on both your points, which is the voucher issue and the first point, about resources.
It seems to me, from a nonprofit perspective, from a charity perspective, we have not done very well this year. The estate tax was repealed, at least temporarily, which deals with monies going for charitable activities. The non-itemizer deduction, which you were referring to, is a trivial item now in the H.R. 7. So we didn’t do so well, with all the promises. There’s no new dollars, especially because of the large tax cut and other factors.
So the first point, on the resource question, is of concern, and we need to find a way to resolve some of those.
To the voucher side, it creates enormous problems — at least three that I can think of.
One is, the way the bill is structured right now, it allows an arbitrary decision by the secretary of the department to determine whether a program is vouchered. Moreover, the definition of the programs in the bill are vague, so it’s unclear the reach of this.
Second is, from a nonprofit perspective, how in the heck do you plan for the forthcoming year? You have no idea whether services are going to come to you. It basically puts you in an almost impossible position.
The third is, if the standards are changing, although I understand your point that you want to have some certification, if the standards are going to change from the current level, who decides what those standards are going to change as? If they’re not going to change, then why the heck are we going through this whole voucher process in the first place? So those are at least three concerns, and I have many more.
MS. ROGERS: All right. We want to have some more questions. Keith? Keith Pavlischek down here.
Q (Off mike.)
MS. ROGERS: Yeah, she’ll get here as fast as she can. (Laughs.)
Q On pages 15 and 16, they discuss what a couple of you have mentioned about the question under the title of denial of faith-based organizations’ established right to take religion into employment decisions. And they cite Amos as guaranteeing that right unanimously. And they say this, and I just want to read a sentence and then get you to comment.
MS. ROGERS: Hold it close to your mouth.
Q I thought I was speaking loud enough.
MS. ROGERS: You have a booming voice, so that helps, anyway.
Q It says, “Moreover, from 1964 forward, the statutory religious staffing protection has been available irrespective of whether a charity receives government funds. Several courts, both state and federal, have considered this precise issue and ruled that a religious group’s ability under Title VII to foster what the Supreme Court in Amos called a shared religious vision isn’t forfeited just because it delivers government-funded social services.” Next paragraph. “Unless the specific statute authorizing a federal funding program includes different rules on employment discrimination, the time-honored freedom to staff on a religious basis afforded by Title VII remains the baseline for covered religious groups and is the controlling federal law.”
I heard a couple of voices calling into question what seems to me to be, quite frankly, the accurate interpretation of the law, from my viewpoint, but a couple of you think that that is incorrect, as I understand it. Could you tell me why you think either Amos is wrong or it’s wrongly interpreted in this document, such that with government funds should come the stipulation that you may not hire and fire and have employment decisions based on this shared religious vision, such that, say, your Baptist church should be required to hire somebody like a black Muslim or somebody who didn’t believe in your particular Baptist faith, for instance. So I wonder if any or all of you could address that question.
MS. ROGERS: Richard Foltin?
MR. FOLTIN: Yes. A couple of things to say about that. First, Amos addresses only the privately funded activities of a particular religious institution, and in that context, upheld their right absolutely to discriminate on the basis of religion in whoever they hired for whatever position. And it’s important to look at the rationale of that decision. The reason the court ruled that way was because it was basically saying that we ought not be in the situation of deciding among the employment positions in a religious institution which of those positions are religious in nature and which are secular in nature. Now, when you’re talking about government-funded positions, by definition these are people who should be hired to provide a secular service. Therefore, there’s no issue in these cases as to whether — with the government getting involved in deciding whether or not they’re involved in a religious versus a secular activity. So it’s, at the very least, not clear where — what the court would do, given the underlying rational of Amos.
Having said that, if one looks at these decisions, you know, there are cases that have ruled this way. On the other hand, what’s not cited here are cases that have ruled the other way. It is not clear. It is at best unsettled law as to whether or not Title VII can constitutionally be applied in a fashion that allows federal funds to go to a position with respect to which there is discrimination, discrimination in who’s being hired on the basis of religion.
And I think, having said that, one then has to go to the policy question as to whether or not it’s good policy for the funds — for the government to decide that it’s going to have those funds go to those kinds of agencies. And I think that policy issue really raises the question about, first of all, exclusively extending Title VII, the exemption from Title VII, as H.R. 7 would do, but also the whole question of whether or not in order to protect the integrity of religious institutions, pervasively religious institutions, and allow them to engage in this kind of discrimination, we ought to make a judgment that we are best off simply not directing government funds to them, in which case we’re not going to get into this issue of either having to have funds supporting hiring preferences on the basis of religion, or on the other hand, interfering with the autonomy of these pervasively religious institutions.
So I think there’s a whole host of problems with the assumption about what Amos means, and also about allowing these kinds of positions to be funded and having discrimination take place in their context.
MS. ROGERS: Other questions? We have one in the back here. Yes?
Q Hi, my name is Barbara Bradley. I’m with National Public Radio. And I have kind of a couple of questions, and I’m hoping that Mr. Carlson-Thies will start out. The first one is, can you tell us anything about the resignation of Mr. DiIulio, anything you might be able to tell us that would shed a little bit of light on how this came about?
And second, and this is open to everyone, could you suggest — could you tell us if you think this suggests any problems behind the scenes, or how it might affect faith-based organizations and the initiative in general — this resignation. It’s the kind of elephant in the corner that I thought I might as well bring up.
MR. FOLTIN: Well, I certainly don’t have — maybe Stan is better situated to comment on how it came about. I mean, my understanding was that John DiIulio, from the beginning, had said he wanted to come in for a limited period of time and then return to Philadelphia, and that’s what he’s done.
I think at the end of the day, in terms of the implications for organizations, the White House will appoint another director of the office who will be responsible for implementing that policy. And some of us think that policy is bad and, therefore, has bad implications for faith-based organizations, and some of us think it’s — and there are some who think it will be good for faith-based organizations. But I don’t think we need to personalize this or think there’s some huge implications from the fact that John DiIulio has now stepped down.
MR. CARLSON-THIES: Yeah, John has not given a full public statement on what all is involved, but he did say from the beginning — he told us from the beginning, he told the president — this was a time-limited thing. He said six months. He stayed a little bit longer.
It has been a terrible strain on his family. There’s been intense interest in this initiative — let’s put it that way — and so he has been on call, you know, when he’s been on vacation and on weekends, at night, in the morning, coming down from Philadelphia to the office a number of times a week. It’s been a great strain.
His love is doing some of this empirical research that we all hope would happen, so we can understand how these faith-based groups work or how they don’t work, what difference the faith makes, how you have to protect that, and so on.
So I don’t know why he picked this particular time, but it was on the horizon. He’s talked about it in the office. So he’s moving on, and we’ll find another director. And the president’s committed to the initiative. So it is — it’s not a personal issue, in that sense. We’ll move forward.
MS. ROGERS: Right. And the report in Cox Newspapers indicates the family issue and has comments from John Bridgeland, the White House Domestic Policy Council director, saying — praising John and expecting to keep him involved in the initiative. So I hope that all of you can get this report, which is all we have right now. But it will illuminate, perhaps, a little bit more of that issue. And then we’ll look to hear from John for further comments.
Other questions that we might have at this time? Yeah? You’ve got a mike right here.
Q Vee Burke, Congressional Research Service —
MS. ROGERS: If you could bring that close to your mouth, please. Thank you.
Q Vee Burke, Congressional Research Service. I have a question about the original executive order. It says, “Performance indicators. The first report due from each of the five Cabinet departments, filed 180 days after the date of this executive order, shall include annual performance indicators and measurable objectives for department action.”
Now we were told yesterday that to get the reports, the five reports, we should submit our request to each of the departments. Do those five reports, with the 800 pages, include performance indicators and measurable objectives?
MR. CARLSON-THIES: I don’t have the center directors here. They all include a response to that requirement, so they all have some discussion of performance indicators and so on. I think they will all say something like “We don’t have good data points,” so that creates some difficulty.
We’re also very sensitive about this problem — somebody raised this, and let me just say something about this — that one difficulty in starting to identify faith-based organizations is that everybody then gets into the mode of we ought be funding them, we ought to give them preference, or whatever. And that would not be something that we would like to support. On the other hand, without some data points, it’s hard to know are things changing, whatever. So there are performance indicators in those reports.
The reports were actually submitted one day early. People were under great pressure. I think what they have there is the best they could do this time. I think they’ll get refined over the next year.
MR. BURGER: Could I, please?
MS. ROGERS: Sure. Stephen Burger.
MR. BURGER: I think we who have been basically, I always say “in the trenches” because that’s where our people are, we haven’t been up in a lot of this area, we’ve been down doing the work — are thrilled that the White House has really put the light on some of these issues. And my hope is that the office will continue to do that and will sort of center us on not the arguments but on what we’re all doing together.
We’re going to have a whole lot of women coming off of welfare, and we better understand that because my shelters are going to be full. They’re already overflowing. And we need to say how are we going to handle that, who’s going to do what, and get some real strategy going. And I hope we don’t get bogged down in all these other issues.
The one comment I wanted to make before was, we’ve always been for licensing. What we’ve not been for is when licensing starts to — someone’s concept of what the program ought to look like. You know, and if we want to talk about outcomes, if we want to talk about all the things that make sure that it’s clean and well-run and so forth. Our problem historically is when people get in and they say, “The way you deal with addiction is this way, and licensing will include these requirements because we’ve decided that this is where it’s at.” And that’s where we get into difficulty.
MR. BASS: Melissa, could I add something on that?
MS. ROGERS: Sure, Gary.
MR. BASS: The report puts a heavy emphasis — picking up from your point about measurement — measures, performance measures, the report does place a heavy emphasis on use of the Government Performance and Results Act, GPRA. And I think for us it’s a challenge. It’s an important issue, and I think you’re raising it. I think there are three things, though, about the application of GPRA we all have to be careful of and the administration needs to be cautious about.
One is, the law requires all the performance measures to be in quantifiable terms. To get beyond that, you have to get a waiver from OMB. So that’s one concern. And what we deal with in the human service arena, which is a lot of what we’re talking about, we don’t deal with widgets. So it’s very hard to do that.
The second is, under the law, the issue you just raised is a complicated one because who determines what those performance measures are going to be? The law provides for stakeholder input on the strategic plans the agency does, but not on the performance measures. So it’s unclear who sets those, which raises the last point.
When you have quantifiable issues, the challenge is going to be will people start to “teach to the test,” if you will? You know, does that mean you cream, you take the least-hardest to serve so that you keep your numbers up so that you can get more money? And those are the challenges with — you know, dealing with performance measure. It’s a great idea to do this, it’s just going to be very hard for the administration.
MS. ROGERS: Okay. We have time probably for one more, maybe two more. But go ahead in the back there.
Q Hi. I’m Terri Schroeder with the American Civil Liberties Union. And one of my questions, given the process that we’ve been involved with in Washington and around the country on these issues is that given the overwhelming consensus around issues such as the need for greater resources, greater technical assistance, so that all small non-profits, religious or secular, have greater access to providing services. Has the White House has been set on not moving forward with a proposal unless it has the specific charitable choice provisions in it? Because that really seems to be what has limited the movement forward of this process. It seems as though the issue over whether or not taxpayer dollars should be used to discriminate, and just how much religious activity should be permissible in programs is really — while those are very important and we need to focus on those, and we may not come to agreement, it seems as though it keeps us in a position of not being able to move forward. Whereas Democrats, Republicans, everyone in this room, every respondent to every survey we’ve seen seems to really have compelling needs and desires for things that are not related to those two particular issues. So I’m curious.
MR. CARLSON-THIES: I don’t make policy for the administration, alas. (Laughter.) Or some people are happy. (More laughter.)
There has been from the beginning an emphasis on increasing technical assistance. The Compassion Capital Fund, which has some virtual form and is going through the appropriations process, includes some additional millions of dollars for that reason, because it’s real clear that there are some groups that seem to be doing very wonderful things, but they can’t do more of them or they can’t access government funds, they sometimes can’t access corporate funds or foundation funds without a greater structure, without assistance in learning how to do things, so they need technical assistance. So there will be more money.
H.R. 7, on top of what we were talking about, talked about another up to $50 million. So I don’t know what will happen with that. It depends on the fate of the bill.
But there will be additional technical assistance. There will also be efforts to make sure that existing technical assistance efforts are maximally useful. And that was also part of the charge to these Cabinet centers, was to look at the technical assistance that’s provided and make sure that it really is accessible to all the groups who need it, including smaller ones and newer ones who often don’t know it’s available. So it’s partly making things known.
There is this other whole issue — it’s come up many times, it comes up in our office, it will come up perennially, it comes up every time the budget gets discussed — about how many resources are devoted to social services. And that’s a huge debate, and it will be a perennial debate.
But the question of who’s eligible is also a critical issue, and I think the two are somewhat different. And in this report, it is a report on the barriers — the problems that we think exist in terms of eligibility and restrictions and so on. I think that has its own importance. And I know everybody doesn’t like that discussion. It doesn’t suit everybody. Not everyone’s concerned. Not everybody is impacted by it. But some significant part of the American public and American social service community is, so they think it ought to be dealt with.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you.
MR. WALKER: (Off mike) — one quick —
MS. ROGERS: Yes.
MR. WALKER: The thing that I would ask — and to me is quite apparent — is if in fact there is a genuine and sincere interest and desire to make charitable choice and the faith-based sector be a lead in this progress, in this program. It is reasonable to question, given the de minimis amount of money that has been allocated or proposed for capacity building, whether or not in fact it is a sincere effort, because the reality is the capacity that will be necessary in order to carry out this initiative successfully will require a huge capacity-building effort by the government of the religious sector, and the money has not been — certainly is not in this budget to do that. So that’s number one.
And the second thing that strikes me, as someone doing this work on the ground, is that this initiative and this discussion about really sort of the dispersion (sic) of more — of money out into the community actually is in direct conflict with the sort of quantitative goals and the emphasis on efficiency and production that is cut out of this whole paradigm of the last 10 to 12 years of government, and that is — and that is in fact why the intermediaries and the umbrella organizations have become so powerful and have become the main grantees under these contracts, because they are best positioned to most efficiently get the money out the door and get the people served.
If in fact you now are going to propose that 10 small churches in a community can all engage in a whole host of programs, or — many of them doing the same things duplicatively blocks away from each other, that is not efficient.
And so I am very curious to understand how we are going to both maintain our emphasis on efficiency, productivity, and the quantitative part of this, in terms of outcomes, and at the same time doing things on a more smaller, intimate, community-based way.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you. Well, I think we’ve had the issues joined quite well here.
And I wanted to mention as well we’ve had some reports mentioned — the ACLU report on the HUD comments. I believe it’s available outside. The National Center for Community — National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise report was also kindly brought, and it is outside for you to pick up and study.
I want to say thank you to an excellent, excellent panel today for your insights. Thank you to an outstanding audience as well.
I also want to say a special word of thanks to Margy Waller, who worked so hard to put this event together. And I want to thank her for all her efforts.
I also would like each of the members of the staff of the Pew Forum to please raise your hand just for a moment. I would like to thank each of them for their work. (Applause.)
Thank you so much. We look forward to continuing this discussion with you. Have a wonderful day and good weekend. Bye-bye.