Thursday, April 2, 2009

Faith Based Initiative

While most of us may have thought this effort began with President George W. Bush, it actually began earlier and will be continued by President Obama.

What is crucial for the future of this initiative, as it relates to prisoner reentry from our perspective, is that programs using conversion to Catholicism as their major rentry focus, become part of the government funding stream.

This article from the Hoover Institution Digest notes the history.

An excerpt.

“One program many thought would not outlive the Bush presidency is his faith-based initiative. Seemingly fueled by his personal evangelical Christianity and enacted unilaterally by his first executive order as president, the policy allowing religious organizations to receive government funds to perform social services was a signature Bush effort from the start.

“Imagine the surprise, then, when Democratic nominee Barack Obama announced in a campaign speech that, as president, he would continue a program of faith-based initiatives. The new president’s support of faithbased programs makes it clear that these programs are not merely shortterm priorities of one leader but instead have become a new way of doing business.

“Some on the right dismissed Obama’s campaign statement as political posturing, an effort to appeal to regular churchgoing voters who once turned out heavily for Bush and who favored Republican candidate John McCain 49 to 37 percent in the recently concluded campaign.

“Others, from the left, were dismayed that Obama would continue a policy they believe promotes government establishment of religion prohibited by the First Amendment. The Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said, “This initiative has been a failure on all counts and ought to be shut down, not expanded.”

“The roots of faith-based initiatives can be traced back more than a decade before Bush’s executive order in 2001. President George H. W. Bush, building on Ronald Reagan’s “devolution” of many social programs from Washington, D.C., to state and local governments, began his “thousand points of light” initiatives. Speaking of a “kinder, gentler” nation, Bush used the bully pulpit of the presidency to recognize and encourage volunteer efforts, religious and otherwise, in local communities.”