The Faith Angle Forum is a semi-annual conference which brings together a select group of 20 nationally respected journalists with 3-5 distinguished scholars on areas of religion, politics & public life.
“With Ben Franklin’s Blessings: A Primer on Faith-Based Initiatives”
Key West, Florida
Dr. John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion and Civil Society, University of Pennsylvania
William Raspberry, Columnist, The Washington Post
Michael Cromartie, Vice President, Ethics & Public Policy Center; Senior Adviser, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: The eminent church historian Martin Marty said recently that there’s no news in the news today that’s not religion news, that’s not rooted in some sort of religious conflict in the world, whether it’s radical Islam or something about the Catholic Church or evangelicals and politics. So one of the reasons we’re running these seminars is to give you all, who are very, very busy, an opportunity to take a couple of days to reflect with some of the best thinkers in the country about this very important subject of religion in American civic life as it applies to domestic issues as well as foreign policy.
We have an advisory group of journalists, and twice a year we meet and we ask them, “What are the topics that are of the most concern that you want further elaboration and discussion on?” And the topics we came up with for this time together are the ones that we agreed were urgent: the role of religion and democracy in Islam, in the Middle East — that we’ll talk about tomorrow morning with Reuel Marc Gerecht. The growth of the mega-churches in America was a subject that everyone said they’d like to know more about, and we’re very grateful that Rick Warren, despite a very busy schedule, is able to be with us. Rick, we thank you for coming.
And then the subject of the ongoing debate about the faith-based initiatives. There’s not a better person in the country to address this issue than Professor John DiIulio. John is not only a political scientist who’s taught many years at Princeton and is now at Penn, but he also served, as you all know, in the White House as the first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Many of you came because you knew John was going to be here, so we’re very grateful that John, with not only his academic expertise but also his practical experience in this work, has agreed to be our first presenter.
John, thanks for coming. It’s great to have you.
DR. JOHN DiIULIO: Thank you so much. It’s a real treat to be here with you. It’s also a special privilege to open this session with Rick Warren. I’d actually read The Purpose Driven Life with a colleague, a friend, a young friend — or at least young to me — who went through the 40 days and at the end of those 40 days, the very next week, he was diagnosed with what they thought was a fatal brain tumor. And thank God he’s in full remission and recovered and fine now, but that book was, as he would tell you, very important in how he handled and coped with it. So it’s a special privilege and treat to be here with you as well on this, the opening day.
Now, of course I’m a social scientist, which means that had I written The Purpose Driven Life, it would have had a different title. The title I would have given the book would have been The Conditions, if Any, Under Which Given Types of Organic Religious Influences Have a Predictable and Desirable, Statistically Significant, Independent Effect on Various Behavioral and Emotional Consequences for Persons Who Self-Select Into the Treatment, Other Things Being Equal.
I am the only person to ever have co-authored a book with Bill Bennett that sold no copies —
— so I am fatal to such enterprises. That is in part because I am a social scientist, and you know that social science is the elaborate demonstration of the obvious by methods obscure and jargon du jour. And I am going to try, in my remarks over the next 30, 35 minutes or so, to limit the amount of social science I inflict on you. It is my constitutional right to bore you — I am an academic — and I have been teaching at colleges and universities for a long time now; next year will be my 25th year at three different schools. So I like to confess that, having spent 25 years at these places, I have learned the true definition of an Ivy League professor, which is someone who can speak for five minutes or two hours on any subject with no essential change in content.
So here is the thesis, and it begins with Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania. He also did other things related to electricity and so forth, but we don’t think that’s that important; we think Penn was Ben’s best idea. Now, the truth is he founded the University of Pennsylvania as something called the Academy of Philadelphia in 1749, which then begat something called the University of the State of Pennsylvania, which then begat the University of Pennsylvania. And we are proud in saying that we were the first nonsectarian Ivy League university. Godless Cornell sometimes demands that title, but we say we are the one because of Franklin.
Franklin was a very interesting character with respect to religion. He was a religious believer. He was a believing Christian. I think that Walter Isaacson’s biography of Franklin is the best single-volume biography on the subject — if anyone else has written one, I’m sorry — and he talks about Franklin as an apostle of tolerance, a person who’s views on religion were driven in the end by pragmatism. Franklin contributed to each and every religious organization in Philadelphia. He gave money and support to synagogues, churches, it didn’t matter. And about a month before Franklin died, he wrote a letter to the president of Yale, Ezra Stiles, in which — and I will quote him here — he reiterated his belief in one God and said, “The most acceptable service we render to Him is doing good to His other children.” Franklin opposed religious oaths and tests in both the Pennsylvania and the U.S. Constitution, but he was a believer — faith-friendly, pluralistic, pragmatic.
Now, please do not make a mistake in thinking Franklin was some kind of a holy roller. He most certainly was not. He was among the least religiously active of the founders, along with Madison and Jefferson and a few others. And he also had other mottos in addition to the one at the top of the page there — “To pour forth benefits for the common good,” the motto he gave to the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731. He also was famous for the motto, “Beer is proof that God exists and wants us to be happy.”
He was a practical and civic-minded man, more often found in Philly taverns on Saturdays than Philly churches on Sundays. But he was faith-friendly yet pragmatic and pluralistic. And that’s the point. So I want to begin there with Franklin, and I want to come back to old Ben in due course.
I’m going to over-argue for pedagogical purposes, if you’ll forgive the term in this context. I want to look at public opinion, at court doctrine, at public administration — I know one of the most scintillating subjects that we’ll be touching upon in due course — at partisan politics or bipartisan politics, and at the empirical research on the subject. Each and every one of these domains points to almost exactly the same civic-minded perspective on the role of religion and public affairs. Each and every one of these different domains, if you will, points to exactly the same faith-friendly yet pluralistic and pragmatic perspective on how religion ought to engage and be engaged in the public square. And I want to suggest — reflecting back to old Ben — that is almost precisely what Franklin had in mind.
Now, you may ask, if there is such a great consensus, if it is such a broad and deep consensus, and if it transcends all these different areas, then what’s all the noise? Why all the conflict? I think Franklin would have some inklings or hunches about that, and I think the two places that he would have us look are number one, inadequate general knowledge or understanding, both purposeful and unintentional on the one side; and two, what might be called in the language of the late 18th century, “the intrigues of political factions” — orthodox secularists on the one side, orthodox sectarians on the other, people who are not a part, who do not share this faith-friendly yet pragmatic and pluralistic consensus on the subject.
I think Franklin would have us look there. I think he can justly be proven basically right in this little case study, and I also think that he would not leave it or have us leave it there; he would want us to look for practical ways to build on this consensus and to pour forth benefits for the common good. That is, practical ways to have public-private, religious-secular partnerships that lift up and support community-serving volunteers, whether religious or secular, who are interested in serving people in need. He would sort of require of us, demand of us, that we look past all the controversy, get back to the consensus and figure out practical ways of doing that. So that’s kind of the structure of what I want to suggest to you.
Now, let’s begin. I’m going to rifle through these things in the way that only a professor with 30 minutes or so can do, and then, trusting that through Mr. Raspberry’s comments and remarks and then the various questions during the Q&A we’ll have a chance, if you want to, to come back, elaborate, fill in, clarify and so forth.
Everybody in this room knows that religion is a major determinant in presidential voting behavior. Everybody has heard that; everybody’s been inundated and some of you have helped to produce statistics on that, and it is certainly the case. Even a person who is far and away one of the most skeptical of all the political scientists on the subject — my old friend and mentor from Harvard, now many years at Stanford, Mo Fiorina, who wrote this book, Culture War?: The Myth of a Polarized America, which came out in 2005 — even Mo realizes and suggests that these data on the importance of religiosity, churched versus unchurched, in presidential voting are real. And I’ll come back to that in a second.
If you flip now to the first page of this high-tech, high-production value handout that I gave you and just eyeball some of those data, you see basically a snapshot of what we know about religion in America. Most people are religious. Most people believe that there is a God. They consider religion important in their lives. They pray daily. They think religion can help to solve many or most of today’s social problems. They even believe that the civic state of the union depends critically on the religious state of the union, a survey that George Gallup did a year or so ago. Likewise about three-quarters favor funding for so-called faith-based organizations, with most agreeing that religiously motivated social service providers tend to be more caring and compassionate than other service providers, and some suspect they are more cost-effective to boot.
But now look at the bottom half, if you will, of those, and also at the very bottom of that page. This overwhelmingly faith-friendly majority is nonetheless pluralistic and pragmatic when it comes to religion. The same surveys that are cited there, and many, many others as well, find, just for example, about four-fifths agreeing that one can be a good American without either Judeo-Christian or other religious faith. About three-quarters are opposed — opposed — to government support for faith-based programs that require beneficiaries to take part in religious practices or only hire people of the same faith. And likewise, the majority — certainly general public majorities and majorities of at least three of the four groups that are disaggregated there — believe that deeply religious elected leaders should compromise with elected officials whose views are different on various hot-button issues.
Ten years ago when I started soaking and poking around in this thing people doubted that there were any religious people in America — I mean, it was really funny — within the academic community, not just the journalistic community. Now we all get it but I think to some extent we don’t realize just how interesting, complex and nuanced public opinion, mass opinion, on religion in this country is.
Why is that the case? Why do we in effect miss this consensus when we talk about it? I want to suggest to you very quickly there are two or three reasons. The first are anecdotal reasons, or reasons having to do with inferences based on anecdotes. My friend Ray Wolfinger out at Berkeley is famous for the phrase — which I have stolen from him and used many times myself — that the plural of anecdote is not data. Now, I happened to buy Mr. Warren’s book. I was visiting Harvard University — we have a joint project going with them on religion and public affairs — and I actually bought my copy of The Purpose Driven Life in Cambridge, Mass. I sincerely doubt that’s where most of the 22 million copies have been sold.
I suspect that it is as likely that that is the case as that, you know, Howard Stern’s Private Parts, when it was a best-seller, was selling like hotcakes on Baylor University’s campus or in Waco, Texas.
The fact of the matter is that it’s a big country. It’s a diverse country. It’s very, very hazardous, very treacherous to generalize or make inferences based on, you know, what’s on the best-seller list, or who’s buying, or even the fact that there are significant demographic breakdowns and cleavages, if you will, in who purchases The Purpose Driven Life.
Let me give you another quick anecdotal example. I’ve heard many journalists say things like, “You know, I write my column, or I do my commentary on television, and no matter what I say — you know, I can ask a Democrat exactly the same three questions in exactly the same way with exactly the same tone as I ask a Republican — and I will still get a thousand letters or contacts or emails on each site saying, you liberal, left-wing, no good, or you right-wing, crazy so and so. You see, it’s a divided, polarized country.” No. It’s a country with 300 million people. You didn’t get 300 million letters, 150 million on each side; you got a thousand letters — if you got that many — on each side. It’s a very faulty inference. Yes, the elite discourse, and people who are highly motivated and who are attentive to politics, have become more polarized, including those who run for elected office and people on Capitol Hill, who go otherwise by the name Republican and Democrat. But it is quite a leap of faith, if you will, and of logic, from those kinds of anecdotes to asserting that the country is polarized, it’s a red-blue nation, etc.
I know that I’m running afoul of what many of you have argued here. I was with Michael Barone last night, and when a Barone confronts a DiIulio, the DiIulios always lose. That’s a historical fact from the old country. And I know it’s going to happen, but for the point of pedagogy and provocation, just flip to the next page of that high-tech document you have there.
Each of those two figures is correct. Each of those two figures is correct, but they look very different. The first figure looks like the proper inference is, “Oh, my goodness; the center cannot hold. People are farther apart than ever.” The second figure, which is plotting exactly the same data, looks like pretty small differences; not a whole lot’s changed. Now, I’m not saying that the bottom figure is better than the top figure — they’re both technically correct. But it matters a lot how you scale things, and then the story you tell. The visual display of quantitative data is one of the subtexts, really, of all of this talk, not just with respect to religion and public affairs, but more generally with respect to the state of the nation, the state of our politics and so on.
But let me pump my brakes there and return to sort of the main text if you will, or the main point. Again, I am not suggesting that the presidential electoral divide isn’t real. In fact, let me now give you very quickly some data specific to 2004. There is no doubt that religion mattered a tremendous amount in the presidential election of 2004 and has mattered in every election a lot since at least 1992. It is the best single predictor. Run the regressions, set them up any way you like, and you will find that religion — high frequency of attending church versus low or no — explains a lot.
In 2004, nearly two-thirds of the people who said they attended church more than weekly voted for Bush. Of the voters who said they never attended church, two-thirds voted for Kerry and a third voted for Bush. But here’s the rub: these two electoral extremes together made up one third of the electorate. The former made up about one-sixth of the electorate and the latter made up about one-seventh of the electorate. So together, the churched versus unchurched electoral extremes were about a third of the electorate. James Q. Wilson, with whom I co-authored an American government textbook, has made the following observation: “Religion makes a difference, but very religious and very irreligious voters are only a minority of the electorate, period.” And I think that’s correct.
Let’s talk now very quickly about moral values. We’ve heard a lot of talk about moral values. Some of you engaged in a fair amount of talk about moral values, and moral values matter. They’ve mattered more — a lot more, it appears — in elections, say, post-1988, to the extent that data allow us to know, than they did pre-1988. But the electoral politics of moral values and related symbolic issues is more complicated and changeful, I think, than we often lead ourselves to believe. Take again the 2004 election. The fraction of all voters who said that moral values were “most important” to them was lower in 2004 than it was in ’96 and 2000. I mean, it was just lower — same question, same surveys. Iraq and the war on terrorism were the two big issues. Does that mean moral values weren’t important? No, they were important. It doesn’t mean they’re not getting more important; they had been getting more important. It just means in that particular election, under those particular conditions, given the two particular choices people had at the time they made those choices, it didn’t come in number one and it was lower — it was less significant than it had been in the previous two presidential elections.
What about regular churchgoers? Well, this is interesting. Self-identified white evangelical or born-again Christian voters — and here they changed the question, which is always something we don’t like them to do — but they changed the question, so these are real guesstimate estimates, but an estimated 14 to 17 percent of the electorate in the 2000 national elections were self-identified white evangelical born-again Christians.
In 2004, this same group — again, with the question change and putting asterisks around this — comprised about 23 percent of the electorate. So depending on what numbers you use, it’s a six-to-nine-point increase over 2000, which would then represent a 64-to-35-percent increase respectively in that group’s share or fraction of the total turnout. In 2004 they favored Bush over Kerry by a 57-point margin — about 78 percent Bush to 21 percent Kerry, versus, of course, 51 to 48 and change in the electorate at large. That’s a big deal; that’s important. But it doesn’t mean the country is completely polarized along red state-blue state lines. A fraction of the electorate that’s pre-disposed — for a variety of reasons, by the way, not just religious beliefs but also there are underlying demographic and socioeconomic and regional things going on here — overwhelmingly favored Bush.
What about other differences on religion? Well, compare the two groups that, in terms of religious values, on many questions, seem to have the most in common: black Protestants and white evangelical Protestants. There are actually some Pew data, which I won’t inflict on you right now — and other data suggest this — that in 2004 and despite a slight increase in 2000 in the Republican share of the overall African American presidential vote, no two major religious groups produced a wider split than black Protestants and white evangelicals. Bush got 17 percent of black Protestants versus 78 percent of the white evangelicals.
Now, again, none of this is to say that churched versus unchurched isn’t important; it is. And that’s not to say that it doesn’t show up in the regressions as a variable that’s important; it does. It is merely to say that you have to be very careful with respect to logic about what inferences you draw. The three rules of statistical analysis my statistics professor told me are disaggregate, disaggregate and disaggregate, and the more you disaggregate I think the more interesting and complicated the picture becomes. The same thing, by the way, is true if you start looking at particular moral issues that supposedly fueled the partisan divide in 2004. School prayer — I don’t think we even know one thing about how that mattered. Abortion was actually less contentious than people generally believe in determining how people voted.
So, again, if you want to read a kind of kindred account, Mo Fiorina I think basically gets the data and data analysis of this right. And I do not have any interest in promoting his book. Mo, I think, has it right.
Let me now switch gears to court doctrine. I will now pick up speed, if you can believe that. Let me go to court doctrine. There is no wall of separation of church and state mentioned in the Constitution, the First Amendment to the Constitution, or in any other amendment to the Constitution. The wall of separation metaphor was penned by Thomas Jefferson in a letter that he wrote to a bunch of concerned Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802, who were worried that they were a religious minority that was going to be persecuted in that federal stronghold called Connecticut. Jefferson, in the course of this letter, uses that phrase. When he refers to their legislature he’s referring to Congress, as in “Congress shall make no law….”
James Madison, who, next to Franklin is my favorite — while I was at Princeton, Madison was my favorite guy; then I went to Penn and Ben Franklin’s my favorite guy — Madison was a New Light Scot Presbyterian. If you read The Federalist Papers and you go read the Westminster Confession, you will see just how much he imbibed from his New Light Scot Presbyterian tutors. When he talks about ambition counteracting ambition and the depravity of mankind, he didn’t pick that up from Ben Franklin, I’ll tell you; he got that at Princeton. You read Federalist Paper 51 and Madison is worried throughout about factions, right? How do you, in a complex, large, diversified, commercial republic, how do you avoid these groups adverse to the rights of other citizens and to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community? The answer is multiply them: one religion, tyranny; two religions, civil war; many religions, civil peace. So the multiplicity of sects — that’s S-E-C-T-S, folks — is his answer in that regard.
And if you look at what’s happened in the country over the past couple hundred years, we have over 70 different religious denominations that claim at least 65,000 adherents. We’ve got a multiplicity there. But Madison, as they went through the deliberations and debate on the First Amendment, furnished alternate language. There are over 30 different versions of the First Amendment’s religion clauses that were considered and rejected. The one they accepted was the most obtuse. I mean, there were 10 that would have saved us a lot of agony and grief. “No establishment” meant no establishment, as in “Don’t tax me to hire Anglicans,” and “respect the rights” meant “We’re not going to have an established religion, a favored religion, a tax-supported religion, but we are going to single out religion for special protections and special restrictions.”
Why did they decide that? — and it was them; it wasn’t Warren Burger or Rehnquist or the Supreme Court; it was their decision, fair or foul, to single out religion for special treatment — they didn’t say they wanted anything else. Did they know what we would call ideology? Well, they didn’t have the word but they knew a little ideology — they knew a few guys from France, the French Revolution, all that. Did they understand philosophies and the power of ideas other than religious ideas to move people for good or ill? Yeah. Did they think there were tremendous social goods as well as social bads, civil goods as well as civil bads, that could come out of other belief systems? Absolutely. But they singled out religion, knowingly and purposely, because they believed it uniquely had power to do good and to do bad, to create strife, to create harmony and so on. And so they used the First Amendment as a way of laying down a marker of how the national government was going to respond.
Now, long story short is that if you go through the Supreme Court cases up to the 1947 case of Everson v. Board of Education — which is the case where, in effect, Justice Black declared for the first time a no-aid separation principle — you get sort of an aberration even for its time, and even in that case the court decides to subsidize buses for Catholic school children attending Catholic school. But it’s even in the Everson case, which declares, famously, the principle of no-aid separation. The court decides that, oh, by the way, you can in fact subsidize these buses. Now, how did the bus drive around the wall? Well, that’s an interesting story. The dissenters were shocked that Black was able to permit the subsidy, having held as he did; but within five years the court was backpedaling from this no-aid separation or wall of separation notion. By the time you get to 1971 — and this is the critical thing — you have the articulation of neutrality doctrine, in the case of Lemon v. Kurtzman.
Essentially the neutrality doctrine — and it’s supported by virtually all the cases between Everson and Lemon and since — says that a relationship between government and religious activities or institutions is permissible and constitutional if it meets three tests: one, it has a secular or civic purpose; two, its primary effect neither advances nor inhibits religion; and, three, it does not foster an excessive government entanglement with religion. Okay?
Jump to 2002. In 2002, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, religious conservatives say, “The Supreme Court finally gets it. The Supreme Court supports a Cleveland school program for vouchers. The Supreme Court finally is catching up to the reality — blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Then in 2004, Locke v. Davey, the Supreme Court in an “anti-religion decision” has decided that a young man in the state of Washington may not attend the school of his choice — though he’s otherwise qualified — with a state scholarship because that naughty state of Washington believes that people should not be able to use public funds to study devotional theology and become clergypersons.
People react to these two decisions as if the first one is a pro-religion decision and the second one is an anti-religion decision. They are not. They are both neutrality decisions. And you may like the former more than the latter or the latter more than the former, or, as I do, think they were both well-decided cases. You have there, in the last piece of that high-tech handout, just the summary of the Locke case where Justice Rehnquist talks about the play in the joints between the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. I’d just submit to you that the First Amendment jurisprudence in Locke is right. Now, I don’t say that just in front of a group of distinguished journalists here in Key West; I actually made this argument face to face with Justice Scalia at a conference at Princeton in October where I spoke — I wouldn’t say opposite him, but I spoke after him — and he had very good counter-arguments, which I’ll be happy to share with you. He had many, many good arguments — he was a dissenter in the case of Locke. But that duly noted, I think that the jurisprudence here is faith-friendly, pluralistic and pragmatic, just like, alas, the public opinion is.
Okay, let me bring this to a speedy end and just hop through the remaining points.
With respect to the bipartisan politics on the subject, let me just give you a quote from one of the more interesting faith-friendly politicians — this is from 2001; I’ll let you guess who this is — this nationally prominent politician said, “The Founders had faith in reason, faith in God, from which the ability to reason is a great gift. Government works in partnership with religious institutions to promote public purposes: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless. Faith inspires these good works, to be sure, but tax dollars are properly used to channel the energies of the faithful in a direction that helps our society as a whole.”
Then the same politician said this past January 2005, “But I ask you, who is more likely to go out onto a street to save some poor at-risk child than someone from the community, someone who believes in the divinity of every person, who sees God at work in the lives of even the most hopeless and left-behind of our children. And that’s why we do not need to have a false division or debate about the role of faith-based institutions; we need to just do it and provide the support that is needed on an ongoing basis.” Thank you, Senator Clinton. Those two statements were made by Senator Clinton, and they mirror statements that have been made by President Bush: “Government cannot be replaced by charities but it should welcome them as partners, not resent them as rivals, whether Methodists, Mormons or good people of no faith at all.”
I know these Pew Forum sessions are not cumulative, but if you go back and look at the transcript of what Mike Gerson — my good pal who I saw only last week — told this group last December, you will see Mike saying much the same thing about the essentially pluralistic, pragmatic yet obviously faith-friendly take — suppositions behind the so-called faith-based and community initiatives.
So why the conflict? Why the trouble? Because these neutrality plans were challenged on both sides by people who did not share these neutrality principles, most especially in the House bill. And here I will recommend to you, by way of closing my remarks, a book that I did not bring with me because a student of mine took it and hasn’t yet returned it. But it’s by Amy Black, and it’s called Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative.
Professor Black is a professor of political science — what else? — at Wheaton College. She co-authored the book with several of her colleagues there. It was published in 2004 by Georgetown University Press. I do not escape criticism in this book, nor should I. It is something of an out-of-body experience reading about yourself this way, but then with a body like mine, that is welcome.
But I would recommend that account to you because what she does is she talks about how essentially there were three groups. There were what she calls religious pragmatists, led in part by yours truly. There were what she calls religious purists. And then she doesn’t give them a label but then there were the people that wanted to turn the clock back not only on First Amendment jurisprudence but also on the so-called charitable choice laws that Senator Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, had signed, essentially in the realm of public administration, bringing neutrality principles to our government-by-proxy government-contracting system, which is essentially what those charitable choice laws attempted to do, albeit not with great success.
The empirical research on this subject tells you three things. Okay, I’ll just finish with those and then turn it over to Mr. Raspberry.
The first thing it tells you is that the civic comparative advantage of faith-based organizations is volunteer mobilization. Faith-based programs come in many shapes and sizes and varieties, from faith-permeated to faith-segmented to faith-integrated. There is a lot of variety. There’s a number of books and articles that have tried to sort of do a taxonomy. So the vast majority of these programs that serve the vast majority of people in need are programs that do segment their more intrinsically or expressly religious components from others. Especially those that operate in urban areas do that. And really the only solid empirical evidence we have is that they seem to be really good, and arguably cost effective at volunteer mobilization.
The second thing is what we don’t know. We don’t know anything of a definitive nature about the unique capacities, if any, of faith-based organizations that operate according to sort of a spiritual transformation modality, whether they’re especially effective in helping drug addicts or prisoner recidivism and so forth. We don’t know. And a lot of assertions to the contrary — “I think that they do have this unique power” — are motivated not by purposeful misreading of the data but by innocent misreading of the data, which has to do with, you know, where you begin the evaluation – when someone enters a program or when someone completes a program. I can tell you more about those things if you’re at all interested.
And the third thing we know — and where I think Ben Franklin would want us to conclude — is that there are things, for all the fog of debate in Washington in particular and for all the elite discourse that runs hot and cold on this, there are things out there that are working. One of them, most especially, is one that the Pew Trusts, under the incredible direction of Luis Lugo, was able to seed, some years ago, just as an example: a partnership between Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America and networks of community-serving churches that have mobilized volunteers to begin to address one of our most acute unmet civic and social needs, namely, trying to put loving, caring adult mentors into the lives of children who have a mom or a dad incarcerated. You’ve got over 2 million kids who fit that description on any given day.
President Bush, true to his word, allocated $450 million for mentoring; $150 million for mentoring children of prisoners. Big Brothers, Big Sisters has been the single biggest winner of those grants. The program has expanded dramatically. And it really would point to a volunteer mobilization strategy, if you will, very much consistent with what the president announced in this 2002 State of the Union address and put under the direction of my old pal, now out of the White House, the first director of the USA Freedom Corps, John Bridgeland.
But let me turn my motor off, Michael, and leave it there.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, John. Thank you very much. We always like to have one of your journalist colleagues respond to our speakers to get the conversation going, to lay out some questions and raise some issues. Bill Raspberry was our first choice for a respondent, and we’re very grateful that he is able to be with us. He’s been with The Washington Post for over 40 years. All of you know him both by his reputation and also personally. And we’re glad that Bill has agreed to come. Thank you so much.
WILLIAM RASPBERRY: Thanks, Mike. I do wish John had left me something to say. Let me just nibble around the edges of your remarks. I wish I could be more reassured by the notion that a sliver of a sixth on one end and a seventh on the other end constitutes such a minority that they don’t matter very much. My experience — and it’s sort of a pragmatic, empirical experience of a journalist, not of a social science scholar — is that the people in the middle, that big majority, don’t do an awful lot of thinking most of the time.
Let me put it this way. I’ll put it as kindly as I can that this great middle of people tend to believe both sides of every argument. They espouse one and suppress the other depending on what company it puts them in. What that means is that they can be led by these slivers that you talk about, and they are being led into a kind of polarization that I think is quite real. Although the people themselves resist with the other side of their minds the very idea of polarization, I think we’re being polarized while we sit here watching ourselves being dragged into a sort of polarization. I find myself being dragged that way and I think hard about these things and I believe the polarizing trend is very dangerous for America. But people can be led.
We used to have — and I’m not talking about historically so much as my lifetime — a sort of different understanding of the role that religion played in civic life. One of the understandings was that public religion and private religion look a good deal alike, but they’re slightly different things. So you had the phenomenon of anybody from the religious community in any town could give the high school graduation invocation. You didn’t care whether he was Baptist or Episcopal or Jewish — whatever — because all of them knew that one can invoke the Creator and certain strong religious-sounding principles, but avoid doctrinal specificity and not offend anybody. There was a sort of public religion that people generally subscribed to. It worked to smooth the joints between the various religious groups.
But people can easily be led to believe that if you are afraid to invoke the sacred name of Jesus Christ in your prayers, you are somehow shortchanging your religion and you’re being unfaithful somehow. So we can be pushed into making sharper lines than we had grown accustomed to making. And there are people in that sixth and that seventh sliver who find it in their interest in push us to sharpen these divisions.
I followed some of the constitutional pieces, and I too am fascinated by the development of the separation principles. But I think most people who think about these things and who worry about these things don’t worry about them so much out of fear that they may not be constitutional, but they invoke the constitution because they fear that they may do great damage. We reach for the constitution not as a first principle, but as a defense mechanism. And there are people who do worry about whether some of the faith-based initiatives might get us going in a direction that we’ll wish later on we hadn’t gone.
I don’t suppose I know anyone who believes that religious people should not be involved in social work. You made a good deal of the point that good people do these things, have done these things for a very long time. They will continue to do them, volunteers and otherwise. I don’t think that’s an issue. What is an issue, I think, is — not to put too fine a point on it — getting it paid for. Who will pay? I didn’t hear any objection, for instance, when the first George Bush launched his Points of Light program. He celebrated people of all sorts — many of them involved religiously — who were doing good things in their communities, brought them up to the White House, celebrated them in various ways and encouraged that kind of volunteerism. I don’t recall any objection to it. We’ve all had our sort of public and semi-public saints over the years. Martin Luther King was very much motivated by his religious beliefs and he inspired in us — in the rest of us — a return to faith on the assumption that if we returned to our faith, we would agree with him on the dignity of man and creating a fair system and so on and so on.
So we’ve not resisted that so much, but we do get a little nervous when two things happen — when people insist that our view of things is wrong, and when they insist on it on the authority of their religion, which they insist ought to be the test of things. And we start muttering words like “theocracy” — it scares us a little bit, and I think with good reason. We’ve seen the theocratic principles in operation in other parts of the world and we don’t like them very much. The other place where we get a little nervous is when these religious organizations that we are a little suspicious of start laying claim to public money — our money. I wish you’d talked some about that, John.
It seems to me that when we first started talking about faith-based initiatives and whatever formulations we were using early on back as long ago as when Bush was governor of Texas, what we were really talking about was getting the government out of the way of people who were doing effective work through their religious organizations. There were organizations that were involved in drug rehabilitation, all kinds of life-rescuing missions, who were in effect told they couldn’t do that anymore because they didn’t have a state license to do it. The state licenses required a sort of certification of credential, but not a certification of any record of success in doing what they were doing. And there were people — often uneducated people — who were rescuing victims of drug abuse and other kinds of social disorders.
I know you say the jury is out on this idea of spiritual transformation, but it does seem to me clear that there are things you can certify and teach. If you want to turn out really good Volkswagen mechanics, you can have a course of study approved by either Volkswagen or the U.S. government Department of Labor and you can break the thing down into its components and you can teach Volkswagen repair. There are lots of things you can teach and if you’re in the business of teaching, you perhaps ought to certify those who do the teaching to satisfy yourselves that they know what they’re doing. It’s a different matter, though, if what you seek to do is to transform individuals. And many of the problems that are most difficult to get at in our society today have to do with changing attitudes.
You don’t reduce teen pregnancy, for example, by improving instruction in human productive biology. People know where babies come from and they know how to avoid getting them. Teaching pharmacology courses doesn’t help you an awful lot if you want to break addiction to crack cocaine. There are people who do these things and some of the most successful ones are those who go to changing the person from the inside. Religious organizations may be better equipped than most organizations to do that kind of thing, and for sure we don’t want the government mucking around with our insides.
So the question was originally about certification, can we allow people who have been doing these things to go on doing them without having the government mess it up? But very quickly, after you came to the White House Office, the conversation — I’m not suggesting you changed the conversation —
DR. DiIULIO: Oh, go ahead. It’s early.
MR. RASPBERRY: But during that period, I’m saying the conversation changed to how the government should deliver money to those organizations that were doing their faith-based things. And it got really tricky. And I think that’s where the debate really still is – not whether the government should have a permissive role and just get out of the way, but whether the government should fund religious-based social programs. It’s probably a bad idea to do so.
I remember a couple of cases where the government’s attempt to do it sort of messed things up. The Salvation Army in Michigan is doing a pretty good job — an outstanding job of some social services programs. And the state said, “Hey, you guys are so good, we’re going to contract with you to do the work our government agencies have been doing. But, of course, you’ll have to take all this God stuff out of there. You’ll have to strip the religious part out.” And the Salvation Army wound up being just another poorly funded social services agency and no more effective than the ones they replaced. The Salvation Army, like so many of these organizations, had been successful because they got at people from the inside. I think there’s still a place for faith-based and other kinds of organizations who want to help people by transforming them rather than simply teaching them or giving them a pattern.
The difficulty for me is at the intersection of these things with government funding, and whether there is, at the end of the day, any practical way of keeping what the faith-based groups do — often very well — and providing public funding for them at the same time. Maybe it can’t be done except through some back channel ways like tax-advantage contributions to them.
There are probably some more things we ought to get into, but I’ll stop for now.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thanks, Bill. I’m going to let the rest of you join the discussion, and I’ll keep a running list of people who want to get in. Before I call on any of you, though, I’m going to give John two or three minutes just to respond to these things quickly.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, you know, I think I accept the letter and spirit of Mr. Raspberry’s comments. I think the way I would phrase it, though, is to ask, what would Franklin do? And I think the case you cite is exactly the right case. You go to May of ’99; Gore gives a speech at a Salvation Army drug rehab center in Atlanta, Ga., and speaks with really unusual passion — although any passion was unusual for the vice president. He gives a speech very similar to the speech Bush gives in July of ’99. One’s got armies of compassion, one’s got paramedics of civil society —
— but they’re essentially the same. It’s about volunteerism, it’s about public and private support, it’s about doing more effectively with smaller, grassroots religious and other values-based groups, as Gore put it, what we’ve always done with Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and so on.
And this occurs against the backdrop of a provision of the welfare reform bill of ’96, sponsored primarily by Sen. Ashcroft, signed onto by President Clinton, and then gets three more versions of this — these charitable choice laws that essentially look at HHS and say, “Hey, you’ve got 65,000 employees. You have over 300 different grant programs, you make over 60,000 grants a year. A lot of the groups that are getting the grants are religious organizations or religiously anchored organizations. It just turns out that the smaller groups traditionally have not been a part of that government-by-proxy system. Let’s change the system so that the system is fairer to those groups and also invites them into the process with no favoritism, in a perfectly pluralistic and pragmatic spirit, between the double-yellow lines of existing constitutional law.”
By the time you get to 2001, however — and I think Amy Black in that book I mentioned, I think she gets this essentially correct — you have a proposed bill that essentially challenges neutrality principles in two main ways. It says, we have to go beyond charitable choice so that organizations that in effect proselytize with public funds ought to be considered, and we also ought to expand existing protections for religious organizations to hire people with some regard to their religious affiliations in ways that would make it possible for groups that receive public funds to hire only co-religionists, if they so chose — and not only co-religionists, but people who follow their particular beliefs and tenets, as the phrase was.
Now, that posed a problem. And there are legitimate provisions that can be made for those problems. It just is a lot different talking about religious hiring rights than talking about how do we work together to mobilize public/private religious/secular partnerships to serve the children of prisoners in north central Philly or south central L.A. or downtown Detroit. So I agree with you; the debate did in fact take that turn.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you. I’ll let E.J. start with the first discussion question.
E.J. DIONNE, The Washington Post: It’s wonderful to hear you, as always, John. I want to underscore something you said – take slight issue with the Mo Fiorina thesis — to throw something at you and then ask a question. To underscore one of your points, if you look at the same exit polling data, Bush gained one point among weekly church-attenders over 2000; he gained one point among more-than-weekly church attenders; but he gained three points among people who attended church monthly or less, and four points among the never-attending church people, which is to say that the change in this election was not caused by religion. Or to paraphrase a great Luis Lugo-ism, 9/11 mattered more than John 3:16.
I think that this was much more about terror and other issues than religion, so that you could over-read the role of religion in this last election.
The slight dissent is if you look at the excellent, well-produced handout on page three and look at those two charts, it seems to me that there are a couple of things about those charts. On one hand, you can say that the first chart may overstate the matter, but I think it’s almost certainly true that the second chart understates the matter and that the reality exists somewhere between those two charts.
Also, note the two spikes in average differences in Republican and Democratic attitudes. What struck me is that in ’94 there was a huge gap between political and policy attitudes and social and personal attitudes. So ’94 was very much about politics whereas in the ’03 numbers — and I presume ’04 might be even more dramatic — the two actually moved in tandem, which suggests that there is some kind of rift.
And where I take issue with Fiorina is that while I think he is right in some sense about the culture war, something has changed in the political war, so that you probably now have 35 to 40 percent on each end in terms of very passionate feelings, or relatively passionate feelings about political parties and in particular President Bush. So in a sense in partisan terms, the middle has actually shrunk considerably. You can keep those two ideas in your head at the same time without being a flip-flopper.
The question I wanted to ask is on the faith-based thing. John knows I have been sympathetic to everything he has written over the years on this, but it seems to me the problem comes as soon as you get specific. In other words, once you move from the general proposition that these organizations have done fantastic work and that government has a history of supporting faith-based efforts on specific issues, things get trickier. For example, hiring practices, what to do about displaced money — does the poverty money just allow churches to move other money to proselytizing? — and the whole question of a religiously rooted methodology that Bill Raspberry raised. You know, if the way you get someone off of drugs is to get them to embrace Jesus Christ as a personal savior, you clearly get to a point where government funding of that methodology is extremely problematic even for people who are sympathetic to faith-based efforts.
And so I guess the question is, especially based on your experience, to what extent is the haggling over faith-based stuff the result of people getting stuck in the one-sixth versus one-seventh — polarizing the argument on purpose — and to what extent is it a problem that these things simply get really hard — that the more you actually want to do this, the more you’re going to confront extremely difficult questions, which will be bothersome on either side to people in that broad middle you described?
DR. DiIULIO: Well, E.J., thank you. No question that it’s the latter. Life is lived in the particular; God is in the details, and the devil too.
On your point about Fiorina — I agree, again, on those two figures, that it’s not that the one is right and the other wrong, but they show you how dramatically different the visual display of the same quantitative data in a simple figure like that can be, you know — you pick a figure, and as you pick a display, you pick an idea. So the ’94 election was about angry white males, but of course they disappeared in ’96 because they got married to soccer moms —
— and then in ’98 we couldn’t think of anything to say so it was a “maintaining election.” Then in 2000 it’s red, blue. I mean, you know, none of them —
MR. DIONNE: And 2004 was contented white males.
DR. DiIULIO: Oh, those are NASCAR dads who were married to security moms who were the next wave. But I mean, you pick your poison, you pick your data, you pick your interpretation of the data and you run from there, and if everybody runs to the same interpretation, it becomes somewhat limiting.
Let me just give you also, on the point — and I’m not here to shill for Mo Fiorina; I haven’t talked to him in many years but I do like his book — let me just very quickly quote what he says. Here is his point in a nutshell: “So long as one party moves away from the center, electoral punishment results and even ideologically motivated party activists eventually get the message, as the Democratic activists in the 1980s who got tired of losing did. But if both parties move away from the center and locate at a more or less equal distance from the mainstream, then electoral punishment need not result. Voters will be less enthusiastic about their choices — they will be aligned and not participate, and we have seen some of that. But given a choice between two extremes, they can only elect an extremist.”
And then the more academic version of it is this: “The correlates of the vote have not changed but this is not because voters have polarized on the moral dimension, nor that they have increased the weight they attach to that dimension or decreased the weight they attach to economic dimensions. Rather, unmeasured changes in the positions of the candidates make it appear that voters have changed.” And this is a point that challenges virtually the last 40 years of social science and political science on the subject. Most national election studies dating back to The American Voter and Donald E. Stokes in 1960 are now suddenly in jeopardy, if you take his points seriously. And I think you need to.
With respect to your second and substantive point, I think that the answer is on the one hand pretty simple and on the other very complicated. The simple answer is that if we’re looking at the vast majority of organizations that are religiously motivated, religiously anchored, that are that subset of the nonprofit sector, and we look at them and what they actually do — for example, in Philadelphia, 40 percent of all groups that supply welfare-to-work services are religious organizations — the majority of those organizations are faith-segmented. That is, they are religious in character; they may hum hymns while they hammer nails or say “God bless you” when nobody sneezes, but they have 501(c)(3)s and so forth.
Stephen Monsma from Pepperdine University, in a book called Putting Faith in Partnerships, goes through these data on Philly and four other cities. Under 7 percent of those faith-based organizations providing that particular service even prefer to hire only co-religionists. So an issue like hiring rights, that is something you should debate in academic seminars and constitutional law seminars, at conferences like this perhaps. But on the planet Earth, in practical terms, if you’re talking about those groups, it may be a moot point.
When you get to the organization that is the whomsoever-shall-we-serve ministry that is for, you know, drug addicts — “You have a hole in your soul; it can only be filled by a belief in Jesus Christ; if you come to Jesus you will be cured” — those organizations — and I am a big fan of many of them and have been on the boards of some such organizations — they have obviously every right to say we ought to be a part of this government-by-proxy system too. I believed it when I was in office and said so in a speech in March 2001 at the National Association of Evangelicals, and I’ll say it again. If you want to go down that path — and I stress if — the way to go down that path is to talk about vouchers, is to talk about indirect disbursement arrangements, voucher certificates.
However, going down the voucher path does not automatically resolve all of the constitutional questions, and anybody who thinks that it does needs to read Zelman. That opinion was on neutrality principles based on true private choice. Some people think, “Vouchers — no more constitutional problems.” Not so, although the threshold is definitely different and lower. And I also think that the indirect-disbursement-arrangement approach makes it much more possible for government to, in effect, take that person coming out of jail detox and say, “Here are 25 organizations on the approved list: here they are; here is your voucher and go.” But then again, if we want to do performance measurement — not to get too far afield into public administration; I know it’s early in the going here, still too early for public administration.
You can read my Brookings books. I have a whole series of Brookings books on public administration. They are the kind of books which, once you put them down, you cannot pick them up.
They are these “everything you ever wanted to know about Medicaid administration” kind of books.
But, you know, the reality is that if you’re going to do performance measurement — let’s say I get my voucher and I go to a whomsoever-shall-we-serve ministry, and the government is saying, “Well, you can be a participating voucher-receiver but we’re going to keep information on performance.” Does that organization have to keep information on all recipients, voucher holding and non-voucher holding, and if it does, by what administrative protocols? And if it does, haven’t we recreated the grant-making regime that vouchers were supposed to avoid? So it’s a problem.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay, I have got a long list. Wendy Kaminer, you get to jump in.
WENDY KAMINER, The Atlantic Monthly: Thanks. I wanted to pick up on a couple of the questions that E.J. raised about the practical implications of some of these programs. But first I have a couple of comments about rhetoric. You started off saying, John, that there is no mention of a wall between church and state in the Constitution, and I have to say, I hear people say that all the time, and it is so irrelevant. You won’t find any mention of sex discrimination in the Constitution either, but in fact, one of the arguments that we have used against the ERA was that we don’t need an ERA because the 14th Amendment covers sex discrimination, even though, by the way, the 14th Amendment doesn’t mention sex discrimination.
So, you know, that really is irrelevant. You get the concept from Roger Williams; it goes down to Thomas Jefferson; it gets interpreted over the course of 20 years of constitutional litigation when you think about when the cases actually happened. But, you know, if you could take some friendly advice, just drop that because it’s an irrelevancy.
Another point about rhetoric: as you may know, I find the term “faith-based initiative” somewhat euphemistic, to say the least, and this goes back to the kind of questions that E.J. is raising because, you know, we are not a country of one faith. You give us this vision of pluralism, which I think the great majority of people, both secular and religious, would share, and what the term “faith-based initiative” implies is that we’re somehow just giving money to this one American faith that everybody likes, or at least we’re giving it to a faith that you like. We’re giving it to the friendly church down the street, and it may not be your church but you know them and you know all of the good work that they do. We’re not giving it to the Scientologists, we’re not giving it to the Nation of Islam, we’re not giving it to David Koresh, we’re not giving it to all of these groups that are in the minority, these groups that we don’t consider part of this “faith-based” family. It is as if the pro-choice movement had completely won the language over rhetoric and we didn’t even talk about pro-life concerns; we only talked about where you fit in the pro-choice movement.
So I think we kind of need to keep that mind. There is a reason, for example, why the ACLU talks about “government-funded religion” instead of a “faith-based initiative.” I usually talk about sectarian social service programs, not to be pejorative, but to remind people that, as John Dewey says, there is not one religion; there are a lot of religions, and we shouldn’t talk about religion in the singular; we should only talk about it in the plural.
You suggested too that part of the controversy over these initiatives is public ignorance. And I think that that is right, and I think that one of the problems is, as you say, that we are all quite ignorant about who is getting the money, what is the basis for giving out the money, what is the efficacy of these faith-based programs. And as we all said, we don’t really know that; I mean, we don’t really have empirical data about the efficacy of a religious approach to drug treatment. It would be good to have that. So there is a lot of money being handed out on the basis of a lot of assumptions, and some even might say biases, about the superiority of particular religious approaches.
And then of course there is the overwhelming problem of accountability, of how do you audit religious programs without fostering the kind of excessive entanglement of government in religion that both secular people and religious people don’t want? We have talked a little bit about the controversy over hiring in religious organizations, which may not be something we need to talk about in the real world. But it’s something that is talked about, as you know, very heatedly in Congress — but of course I’m not suggesting that is the real world.
DR. DiIULIO: I said planet Earth. It is the real world but not the planet Earth.
MS. KAMINER: Yeah, right. That is a huge problem. Now, when the Supreme Court — I don’t remember exactly when — said that religious organizations not receiving federal funds could discriminate on the basis of religious belief — it was a case involving the Mormon church — Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, I believe — one of the reasons that they gave was that they didn’t want the government having to decide whether the job in question is essential to the practice of the religion. That case involved a janitor who was working in a for-profit health club run by the Mormon church. Now, that was, I think, pretty obviously not a job that had much to do with doctrine, but the court said, “We don’t even want courts asking the question; we don’t even want those questions asked.”
So then you get to questions about a sectarian organization that is getting federal money only being able to hire people who share its religious beliefs — you know, talk about government entanglement — and then you have what people talk about as publicly funded discrimination.
But the question that I’m going to leave you with — and this is not just a rhetorical question, but a genuine one — when, if ever, are we going to have some real data on what these programs are doing, on who is getting the money, on how effective they are, on how they compare to organizations that aren’t approaching drug addicts and people with other problems with the help of Jesus Christ?
And before I stop, let me just mention two cases that are out there right now that really demonstrate the problem. There’s a case in Pennsylvania — I can’t remember the name of it — but it’s a program that offers vocational training in prisons and it is entirely funded by federal, state and local funds, and it is entirely permeated with religion. It is an evangelical Christian group. It is the only vocational training program available to prisoners. In order to become part of it, they have to pray or in some way claim that they accept Jesus as their savior. It only hires people who share their religious beliefs. There are a whole host of problems with this. There are a couple of abstinence-only programs that are federally funded that are being sued because they are really quite sectarian, because they are selling Jesus Christ along with the idea of abstinence. We don’t know how many programs like that there are out there, and I think a lot of people would agree that those programs are a problem.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, thank you, and let me just start at the back end with that. One of your points had to do with the public administration — how do you monitor, how do you account? One thing I really objected to when I was in office, and I object to equally today — and it sort of gets my goat only because people in public administration don’t have much else going for them other than knowing these sorts of fun facts – but there is not a single program since the end of World War II in domestic policy — Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, interstate highway, you pick it – where the federal government has directly administered the program that it funds. This government-by-proxy system — working through state and local governments, for-profit firms, and nonprofits – is the way Washington works and has been so since the end of World War II. Those funds have gone in the non-profit sector to large, national, non-profits for decades, both religious and secular. Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Federations have gotten billions of dollars in public funding.
Now, here’s what I object to. Suddenly when these small faith-based or religious organizations — call them what you will — when Minister Jones who runs a housing rehab program steps up, suddenly, we need to have a more rigorous public administration system. And what I say is, it’s a generic public administration problem.
MS. KAMINER: No, John, you’re misunderstanding my point. My point was that it comes up when it’s religious organizations getting the money because we don’t want the government looking into —
DR. DiIULIO: No, no, I take it. I’m not directing that to you per se, I’m just using that to get this on the table because when a non-profit organization dresses in religious drag, the problems of government-by-proxy monitoring don’t suddenly come into being. The University of Pennsylvania gets a grant. It goes to a particular school. That school gets it for particular purposes. Those purposes are specified by the specific terms of the specific grant, the administrative protocols, the accountability protocols, the fiscal protocols. The University of Pennsylvania is responsible for seeing to it that the terms of that grant are met. So if the money sloshes over from that department or program and ends up funding the summer salary of a guy in the medical school, when it’s a program in folklore and myth, the University of Pennsylvania should be called on it.
There are in place existing entities called federal departments — HHS, for example — that do little else but contract-monitor. Along come the faith-based organizations, the smaller ones, call them what you will — the whole point of charitable choice was simply to say, “When those guys apply, don’t put them in the out pile simply because you read their name to be religious in character. If it says St. David’s rather than Joe’s Bar & Grill, don’t put them on the out pile on that basis.” And going back to your first point, I don’t mean to suggest that there is no wall of separation. But in survey after survey, educated people and people who are attentive to public affairs — either pluralities or majorities — say, “Oh yeah, the wall of separation is actually black-lettered in the Constitution.” That’s neither here nor there for this point.
Charitable choice is exactly what addressed this. Clinton/Gore, Secretary Cuomo at HUD wrote rules and regulations. They exist. They are in place. The problem is they weren’t being followed by the federal government – there was no technical assistance and capacity-building effort. And so, I think the key thing to remember here is that I’m not talking about anything other than a nonprofit organization of whatever shape, kind, character, creed or lack of creed having every right to participate fully in the government-by-proxy contracting and grant-making system. It needs to be judged precisely according to all the same rules, regulations and protocols as any other non-profit organization, and to get or not get the grant and to be monitored accordingly.
With respect to the empirical data, this is another slight pet peeve of mine. We have forty years of government-by-proxy. We have these national, large organizations — again, religious mega-charities among them. How many independent evaluations of efficacy do we have on the secular non-profit organizations that have received money year in and year out? Answer — I can count them on my fingers and toes and being from planet Earth, I only have ten toes — you can see my fingers; I’m not going to show you my toes. Even the Government Performance and Results Act of ’93 says, “Keep data, do performance audits.” They don’t even do the internal performance audits.
MS. KAMINER: But most programs don’t raise constitutional questions.
DR. DiIULIO: Some of them do raise constitutional questions, actually. And many of them have been found — when they have been monitored even kind of causally under the normal sort of government process — you know, ding-dong, may I see your books, please? — they don’t show up. They’re taking money and they’re not providing the service. So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t improve that. In fact, all those boring Brookings books were about how to fix that. I’m saying let’s fix it and then let’s apply it equally to everybody.
(Audio break, tape change)
What I meant to suggest is not that we don’t have it; what I meant to suggest was, to the extent that that literature — which has got over 500 refereed academic journal articles in at this point — tells me anything of civic significance, it’s that their primary civic comparative advantage is volunteer mobilization. With respect to the question that is the kind of sexy one in the spiritual sense, that small fraction of all so-called faith-based organizations that are mainly dedicated to spiritual transformation — which are not the majority of that sector, which are certainly not the majority of the religion sector — on those the jury is out. We just don’t know, and we have conflicting studies to this point.
It’s very hard in the end to do experimental research; you can’t randomly assign people to believe in God and not believe in God. And then we have these variable problems, like with the election data; it’s okay, but if my operation has a variable like religiosity, church-not church — the late, great Dave Larson, who was a pioneer in faith-based research and spirituality and health — over 40 programs at Harvard, Penn, other medical schools — he used to have a joke, which I’m sure Dave stole from somebody else, but he used to say, “You know, we do these studies with church-not church. If you think that sitting in a church makes you religious, you must think sitting in your garage makes you a car.” It’s a very crude variable measurement. So the social science of the subject is kind of in its infancy too.
MR. CROMARTIE: I’ve got a long list of folks. Wendy, I know we could continue this over the next day. That’s why we have long receptions, so we can continue these conversations.
DR. DiIULIO: I’m too long-winded. You can say it. Go ahead.
JILL LAWRENCE, USA Today: Actually, Wendy’s question touched on mine and it may have been covered, but maybe I’ll give John a chance to expand a little further. I was thinking about the suspicion that Bill Raspberry was talking about, and this was also touched on in the Santorum profile in the New York Times yesterday, this presumption that faith-based programs and services are better than government services. And I think that leads to suspicions among some that what you’re really talking about is an excuse for government to abdicate its responsibility. Some of the most aggressive proponents of these programs cite a lot of examples of these wonderful programs that work, but you never hear about the local police force or a federally funded drug program that’s doing a great job. So maybe you could talk about that.
DR. DiIULIO: I was going to get a T-shirt at one point when I was in the White House because I got it from both sides, I felt like a dead armadillo in the middle of this road. But I was going to get a fluorescent yellow T-shirt that said, “I love psychiatric social workers,” and wear it, because this cannot be conceived as substitute rather than supplement. Let me go back to some existing data just quickly from a subset earlier — those Steve Monsma data I mentioned earlier about welfare-to-work in four cities, Philadelphia in particular.
So you look at the Monsma data. A typical welfare-to-work organization that is run out of some kind of religious organization — again, most of them faith-segmented, not integrated or permeated or saturated. In those organizations they serve, on average, 200 clients a year on annual budgets of $90,000 a year, which comes entirely, in virtually all cases, from private sources and donors. Look at the secular nonprofits and the ones that receive public funding, okay? They serve populations on average of 400 a year with budgets of $900,000 a year. So they’re serving double the clients but for 10 times the money.
Now, what does that tell you? It should tell you nothing definitive. What is the character of the clients? To the extent that we know, it looks like actually the faith-based groups are getting the clients who have more checkered job histories, more difficult chronic substance abuse and other problems and so on. I wouldn’t take that to the bank of prime time social science, but there’s a prima facie case at least for saying, “Hey, these groups, it’s not like they’re doing a bad job; they’re not doing any worse than anyone else.” President Bush said — and you can go on the White House Web site and look for yourselves — but I catalogued several dozen statements that he made in 2001 and continues to make, I think as Mike Gerson said when he was here with you all, to the effect of “Government cannot be replaced by charities. It should welcome them as partners, not resent them as rivals.” Over and over and over and over again it’s about partnerships, it’s about leveraging these organizations to supplement existing social service delivery in places where there are unmet civic and social needs, and where, in fact, in many cases stained glass windows are the only organizations — literally; I’m not just being rhetorical here — literally more pervasive in the neighborhood than neon flashing beer signs. I’ll just plug Benjamin Franklin on that point.
I mean, that’s the reality, but there are people who seize upon this and say it’s about substituting; it’s about not merely weeding out government regulations that may be unfair but it’s about kind of handing over social service. The entire religion sector in America — I’m not talking about social service; I’m talking about every dollar that goes into the collection plate; if they gave everything, so they didn’t keep the heat on in the church and the choir didn’t have any robes and everything else — the religion sector couldn’t fund half of the government social service delivery budget per year. There’s no way this is a substitute. It’s a creative supplement that can improve, I think, at the margin, cost-effectiveness if it’s done right.
FRANKLIN FOER, The New Republic: I think one way in which you could maybe hopefully disaggregate is if you could just talk about your experience at the Office, and when the neutrality clause came into play, and when government put its foot down and said, “What you guys are doing steps out of bounds and goes too far.”
And secondly, I think that you were the Ron Suskind administration confessee. How the hell does he do that, and what about me, man?
I’ve got years —
DR. DiIULIO: I have an evil twin brother, and that’s it. And he runs around. I saw him. He was out by the pool this morning.
MR. FOER: Well, perhaps you talked about the political atmosphere in this White House and the attitude toward social science that pervades this White House. From your experience in the Office, how much does it matter having a social scientist there? How much does the politics come into play in terms of enforcing the neutrality clause? It seems like it would be very hard for government to step in and say, “You guys are stepping over the bounds in proselytizing,” or whatever, and it seems like a lot of the enforcement of the neutrality clause happens on the margins in these very subtle areas that would be highly susceptible to —
DR. DiIULIO: Manipulation?
MR. FOER: — to politics, yeah.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, I think the simple timeline on this — very simple and very brief — might start with charitable choice ’96 to 2000 under Clinton-Gore. It’s one of the few points of agreement during the 2000 campaign: you get Steve Goldsmith for Bush and Elaine Kamark for Gore — basically the respective point persons on faith-based and community initiatives for each of them. Again, there are different emphases, but they are very kindred. I mean, what they say and do throughout the 2000 campaign are similar. The president comes to office, he makes an announcement and the announcement has two parts. The day the office was announced, if you go back and run the tapes you’ll see there were two personnel announcements. The first and most important one was Steve Goldsmith going to the Corporation for National Service, eventually on the way to becoming chairman of the corporation, and the second was fat boy from Philly coming in for six months to do a study of the federal grant-making process.
And the idea was — go back and read the New York Times or the paper of your choice — it was explicitly stated as a neutrality plan. It says that here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to build on charitable choice and so forth and so on, and we’re not going to get involved in these other issues that are contentious. The president was absolutely consistent in delivering that message, and I think remains consistent in delivering that message.
The problem occurred — and I think this Amy Black book tells the tale about as well as it can be told based on the kinds of interviews that she did, primary and archival digging — when H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act, was introduced. It had three provisions that more than trifled with neutrality principles. Charitable choice has black-letter language that says, “No funds shall be used for religious instruction, sectarian worship” and so on. It’s black-letter language. And there was language in H.R. 7 that was read — may have been intended, I don’t know — to dampen or strip away that explicit language from the extant charitable choice laws.
Secondly, there were the beliefs and tenets provisions, which went to the religious hiring rights issue, and then at the back end in the 11th hour there was a mega cover-all-things voucher provision that said, well, if we can’t get beliefs and tenets, at least we can sort of get vouchers. There’s no way you can ignore a House bill, right? And there’s no way that the debate was not going to be conditioned by that bill, even though literally the week after that bill was voted on — it was all Republicans, and I think 15 Democrats voted for it in the House, obviously dead on arrival in the Senate — but the very next week, as Amy Black recounts well in her book, Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Santorum came into the White House and Sen. Santorum immediately went out to the journalistic — whatever they call them there; you guys know, the polls, the sticks, whatever — and he said, to paraphrase and summarize, “We’re going back to religious hiring rights; we’re going to kind of look at that; it’s not going to be in the new bill and so forth and so on” — basically a charitable choice sort of bill. And they actually worked on it with the White House all summer. Then came 9/11.
In February of 2002 there was a Lieberman-Santorum bill, which pretty much was kind of a neutrality plan revisited. A lot of things obviously had changed. By that time, there were Democrats who absolutely would hear none of it because they had principled reasons to be against it, and Democrats who were for it but they didn’t want to give the president a victory on the issue. By that point it was too late for that bill, and since then, as I think Richard Nathan, who has worked with the Pew Trusts at the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy — you can go on his website at SUNY Albany — has said, the administration essentially has attempted to do some of what it hopes to do through executive orders, and that’s pretty much where it stands.
MICHAEL BARONE, U.S. News & World Report: Look, John DiIulio made the observation that in empirical evidence, the advantage of religious-based organizations is volunteer mobilization. Bill Raspberry talked about Martin Luther King and a lot of volunteer mobilization that was done by religious-based thought that motivated the civil rights movement. I just want to make the observation that we had something of this in the 2004 presidential election that perhaps undercuts one of the points that John quoted Morris Fiorina as saying. You know, the Bush campaign got 1,400,000 volunteers. I have not seen definitive figures on the Democratic side, but there were surely 300,000, 500,000, maybe many more people volunteering for various of the Democratic campaigns or the anti-Bush organizations and so forth.
This sort of politics of the extreme, which Fiorina says is going to repel people, it drew people in — less bowling alone, more bowling in leagues. And it also turned people out to vote. I mean, we had this extraordinary rise — total turnout up 16 percent. Kerry’s popular vote over Al Gore’s, up 16 percent; George W. Bush ’04 over George W. Bush ’00, up 23 percent.
I think it leaves many of us, including me, somewhat uncomfortable that strong feelings do seem to have the power to mobilize a lot of people in various ways, whether it’s at the level of volunteer organizations or in partisan politics. And yet that sort of middle course that many of our civic-minded columnists urge as the best course doesn’t seem to bring out the enthusiasm either of charitable volunteers or of voters on election day.
DR. DiIULIO: First of all, I’m never going to disagree with you on any matter having to do with electoral data — you who have forgotten more than I ever knew or anyone’s ever known about the subject. You know, I was born at night but not last night —
— so I defer.
But I don’t care if they each have 3 million volunteers. I don’t think all those volunteers — certainly the people I knew who worked for Bush and for Kerry, you know — I don’t think they were, to get to the anecdotal, necessarily motivated to do that because of what might have been each candidate’s most extreme position. That is, there is a package of things the president represented, a package of things that Sen. Kerry represented, and a lot of people responded that way.
It was interesting that Kerry got 49, I believe — and you’ll correct me, I know, if I’m wrong — of the independent vote. Kerry actually got one extra point of the independent vote, which was interesting because usually he who gets the independent vote wins. It didn’t happen to Gerald Ford against Carter, but otherwise it generally happens.
And there is no question that there is a power of strong belief to mobilize people — no question about that. I wouldn’t doubt that for a moment. I guess the real question is whether, if you look, for example — you know, as a textbook author you have to go and update these data every so often — look at the Democratic delegates versus the Democratic voters, and then some studies that are able to do very targeted, elite interviewing. If you look at Democratic officials and officeholders and so forth, you go from slightly left of center to pretty far left of center, to very far left of center, and the same thing is true — moving to the right — among Republicans. Mo’s argument — I think he’s right — is that to an extent that is not duly appreciated, especially by elites, culture wars generally, the divide over religion and so forth, is an elite phenomenon. Now, it’s not to say it doesn’t affect mass politics and opinion, it’s not to say that there aren’t people who identify, it’s not to say that it won’t become more true in the years ahead or isn’t more true than it was 15, 20 years ago, but there are other magnets for civic engagement and political participation.
I’ll stop there. Jane Eisner has written a book specifically with respect to the youth cohort, called Taking Back the Vote — I am plugging that book, Beacon Press last year — which talks about what’s happened with youth voting over the past several decades.
REBECCA HAGGERTY, “Dateline NBC”: I just wanted to go back to the data that you talked about on the increase in evangelical voters. I just had a couple more specific follow-ups about that. One is where you’re drawing those numbers from. And also, you said that the question changed from 2000 to 2004 and I was interested in how specifically it changed. And then I see two numbers for the percentage among white evangelicals that went to Bush. I heard 57 percent and I also heard 79 percent. I want to just clarify —
DR. DiIULIO: Fifty-seven-point gap.
MS. HAGGERTY: Fifty-seven-point gap. Oh, okay. And I’m curious about whether the increase in turnout was commensurate with other groups that increased their turnout this year.
DR. DiIULIO: All data that you hear about that are self-identified — Catholics with three kids who live in Peoria or whatever — it’s all exit poll data.
MS. HAGGERTY: There are a lot of different numbers out there, a lot of different exit polls. When you say they’re all from —
DR. DiIULIO: Well, Michael Barone is a better respondent here, but I’m looking at the stuff that’s been kind of laundered and vetted through the national election studies at the University of Michigan, that you can get on their website.
MS. HAGGERTY: Okay.
DR. DiIULIO: All that stuff is self-identified — it’s people who self-identify. So if I chose to be mischievous and identify myself — gosh, it’s hard to know how to identify myself that would be more mischievous than what I am, but, you know, if I choose to misidentify myself — there are all kinds of issues and problems that follow. I think people are looking, or scrutinizing exit polls now — Michael can, again, jump in — more than in the past. What changed was the self-identifier between 2000 and 2004, okay? So you change a question even a little bit — a lot of people would say, “Oh, it’s just a little word change” — but you have to pay a lot of attention to a little word change. It can make a big difference. So they change the self-identifier, which makes it impossible to measure. You’re comparing, you know, an apple to an orange or a Macintosh to a Red Delicious. You really don’t know. It’s probably not an apple to an orange but it’s certainly two different kinds of apples.
There’s no question that if even the lower-bound estimate is correct, the white evangelical born-again Christian turnout increased more than any other self-identified religious group.
MS. HAGGERTY: Do you recall how the question changed?
DR. DiIULIO: Michael may recall precisely.
MR. BARONE: I would have to look that up. I think also you should regard the percentages of the electorate that are reported for each group in the exit poll as having a significant error margin. I mean, you recall in Florida in 2000 we were told that blacks were 16 percent of the turnout and had been 10 percent of the turnout four years before. People who have looked at precinct data tend to doubt that. So those numbers have an error margin on them.
DR. DiIULIO: Just to be clear, there are some people who — I don’t think Michael shares this, and I would not, although my opinions count for a lot less — who believe those data are so questionable that it’s better to do without them. I mean, better to not generalize from them at all — they’re so impressionistic and they’re so spotty that we would do better to do without them.
There is a definite way of doing it right; it’s just a whole lot more complicated and expensive than the way it’s done now, just like with polling generally. You need a certain sample size to get a certain confidence range, and there’s still a lot of polls, especially during the presidential horse race, that get reported in major national magazines and other places that really are inadequate samples.
MR. CROMARTIE: Quick point here, E.J.?
MR. DIONNE: In the last election it appears the turnout went up among all groups, so that part of the problem here is trying to figure out, was there a differential increase in turnout, as best we can tell, an increasing part labeled clearly white evangelical? Is there a differential increase in turnout among certain kinds of voters? What’s your best sense of that?
MR. BARONE: My best estimate is that — you know, Karl Rove was quoted many times as saying before the election — what was it, 3 million? — 4 million evangelicals that they expected to turn out in 2000 didn’t turn out, and was that the DWI revelation first publicized on Fox News —
— or Fox station in Maine. The story was broken by a Fox station in Maine.
I think the answer is that those 4 million did turn out, but probably it’s about the same proportion increase as the electorate generally — I mean, 16 percent. If you go back over 108 years, there are only four presidential elections where you have a turnout increase in the quadrennium of comparable magnitude. It is unusual to have that. And those were — let’s see — 1896, 1936, 1952 and 1992.
DR. DiIULIO: Don’t mess with him.
MR. BARONE: Well, that’s if you exclude 1916 and 1932 because women got the vote and obviously the electorate was vastly expanded.
MR. CROMARTIE: John Parker is up next.
JOHN PARKER, The Economist: I want to ask a couple of questions around the theme of religious polarization. Mr. DiIulio mentioned a couple of points. There’s a group of people who don’t buy into this sort of broad public faith. Can you just talk a bit more about who you think these people are and what their characteristics are. What is it they, as it were, don’t believe? That’s question one.
The other question is, do you think there has been more willingness to legislate for kind of private behavior, or to want to legislate for private behavior, and if so, what’s the source of this kind of demand to legislate? I’m thinking of the Schiavo case, the Federal Marriage Amendment, that kind of thing — you can make quite a long list of cases where there either are laws or there are demands for laws to regulate what in the past would have been seen as a purely private matter.
DR. DiIULIO: Thank you. First of all, I don’t know all the various public opinion survey data. I look at as much of it as I can bear every so often in the context of revising a chapter of a textbook, and I look at it with respect to my own research interests and so forth. Michael Barone, again, might want to kick the ball. He may be able to give a much keener answer than I could. But I would just say this: when you look at group comparisons, it’s not very interesting to notice, for example, that — just by way of analogy — people who live in middle- or upper-middle-income households where they have all of life’s advantages, etc., seem to do better over time than otherwise comparable people of the same age, whatnot, that are low-income, don’t have those life advantages and so on. Uninteresting.
What’s interesting is the intra-group variance. What’s interesting is the fact that within the group of people who don’t have a lot of life advantages — or the former group if you prefer, but I’ll stick with the latter — that some people nonetheless seem to be resilient, to find ways of improving their life prospects, beating the odds and so forth. It’s the intra-group variance that’s interesting.
With respect to this question, what I think is clear is that there is a lot of intra-group variance. So take the two tails, if you will, of this distribution. Take the two tails that add up to a third or a quarter or close to half, depending on who’s doing the counting. The thing that catches my eye is the amount of intra-group variance. Let me give you just one very quick example before I get pinched by Mike Cromartie here for talking too long. The example I would give you is with respect to white evangelicals. White evangelical Christians have probably as profound a generation gap in terms of their views with respect to a whole range of social issues as any group you could name. I don’t want to put that in concrete, but at least it’s striking to me the sort of inter-generational differences within the white evangelical community.
Now, what continuum would you want to use — you know, liberal or conservative or something like that? If you want to use that sort of continuum then you would say, well, the younger evangelicals are somewhat less tradition-minded, somewhat less prone to sort of take the conservative position, or the most conservative position on given issues than, say, their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents.
The problem with this sort of thing is that there aren’t a lot of good data that let you really parse intra-group differences of this kind. Most survey researchers sort of categorically relate that politics and compromise table that I gave you in my high-tech handout. You know, it breaks down Catholics, evangelicals, Jews and non-religious people. It doesn’t tell you anything about the incredible differences within the Catholic community — incredible differences that in the case of Catholics do seem to have some socioeconomic component.
So the long-winded academic answer — at least the only one I can give — and again, maybe Michael Barone knows better — is there’s a lot of intra-group variance within the two tails, or would appear to be. With respect to whether there’s more legislating for private morality and so forth, I don’t know. Let’s take just the national government and what Congress is doing — you wait till the end of the session and you look at everything they’ve done, right, and you compare it to the previous session or previous sessions. And obviously the Schiavo case was cataclysmic — I don’t know, “world historic”; people paid a lot of attention to it, are still writing about it. Tons of ink were spilled. I do not see any greater pattern of legislating on moral issues in those data. But then again, I’ve doubted for years and still am not persuaded that when you have divided party government you have less legislating generally. So I’m one of those people who, if I can’t see it in those data on the total sort of output of the institution called Congress — and I don’t see statistically significant differences in patterns when you categorize different kinds of legislation — I’ll say it’s not there, or at least I don’t see it.
ELSA WALSH, The New Yorker: I just want to make one quick comment and then ask a brief question. I have come to the point where I’m very skeptical of almost all polling data, given that most people in fact don’t respond to polling questions. I think in the last election I remember asking somebody from one of the networks who was doing a poll what percentage of people wouldn’t respond at all to questions, and he sort of hemmed and hawed, and finally I said, “Was it more than three-quarters?” and he said, “Yes.” And so for me, that was the end of my belief in people answering polling questions in a way that represented anybody’s real feelings.
But my question that I wanted to ask you, which puts me in that sort of great, big ignorant middle that Bill Raspberry talks about, is just a very basic one. What are the restrictions on proselytizing for people who participate in the faith-based programs that get government money?
DR. DiIULIO: With respect to your comment, I think you’re right, and I think all of the evidence suggests you’re right. You know, people don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers, and there’s all kinds of that. In fact, National Journal did a story on this a couple of years back. There has been a kind of low-level harrumph within public opinion survey people who do this from an academic standpoint. There is no question. And frankly, I thought that in 2004, this being the case, that you were going to at least see, in everything that’s reported, who’s ahead, even, Kerry or Bush, and why are they ahead, and what are people saying? You were going to see sufficient sample sizes in all or almost all polls, but you didn’t.
I’m seeing very respectable, well-meaning publications continue to use polling data, which, in addition to all the other problems that are associated with doing polling well and finding the stratum and the substratum and going, you know, every fifth block and whatnot, are still using sample sizes that are too small, even if everything else was fine.
With respect to the proselytizing, plain and simple, you may not use public funds to proselytize. You may not use public funds to support an inherently religious activity. When I was in office — I’ll say this on the record; I don’t know if it’s a matter of public record, but I guess it is now — I tried to hire Julie Segal, who was the legislative counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I tried to hire her to work in the White House Office. Now, why would the director of the new faith-based and community initiatives office — apart from the fact that he’s goofy — why would he try to hire somebody from Americans United for Separation of Church and State? Answer: I knew that if it got by Julie, it would certainly get by anybody else. And that’s where you want to start. Keep the bolts as tight as possible. You can then debate.
And when I talked to Julie and talked to other people, friends who take a much more kind of no-aid separation point of view than I do, their concern then was, well, that’s easy to say but then how in practice do you prevent the guy who’s humming hymns while hammering nails from proselytizing? And the answer is, that is, alas, determined entirely within the four corners of the specific grant or contract. In other words, if the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with money from the federal government, declares it has an interest in providing drug treatment, and it specifies the terms and conditions thereof, and it puts out an RFP, a Request for Proposal, and 17 groups apply, one of which is located in a church basement, etc., okay, the way to proceed, and I think the way in fact that government generally has, in good faith, tried to proceed — though not always with best effects and best success — is to hold those organizations, regardless of whether they’re religious, not religious, highly motivated by their religion, to exactly the same performance standards, administrative protocols and fiscal accountability standards as any other group.
MS. WALSH: So what if you have a drug treatment program that essentially relies on people finding Jesus to get them off drugs?
DR. DiIULIO: That type of program would prima facie not be able to receive grants, because first of all — to my knowledge there is no federal RFP that has ever been issued that said, “Bring people to Jesus.”
By the way, let me just say, too, that my first week on the job in Washington I said, rather famously — those of you who are a little bit older will remember the great Allen Sherman hymn of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.”
He also did a version of “Guys and Dolls” where he had the song “Sue Me, Sue Me, Go Ahead and Sue Me; What Can you Do Me?” And that’s what I would say to people: if you have this concern, sue.
MS. KAMINER: I’m confused. You’re not allowed to get money for it, but there are programs that do get it.
DR. DiIULIO: No, it’s not that you’re not allowed to get money, it’s that there is a black-letter prohibition in all federal law, including charitable choice: you cannot proselytize with public funds. Now, you’re one of the 17 groups that applies to get the funds from the state of Pennsylvania, which are in part from the federal government, so it’s operating under the cover of federal law for these purposes, to provide these specific services under these specific terms and conditions. It’s just like saying that the money also wasn’t to proclaim, you know, your favorite ethical cultural society credo. You’re supposed to be delivering services under a set of terms and conditions.
MS. WALSH: Together, is this what you’re talking — you’re blending the money together.
MR. RASPBERRY: You can’t buy a sports car with a Pell Grant either.
DR. DiIULIO: That’s exactly —
MR. RASPBERRY: But you free up the money that otherwise would have been to pay tuition and buy a sports car.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, that’s exactly right, and the relevant question to ask with respect to all grantees is, are you following the terms and conditions with respect to performance, with respect to fiscal accountability? If you’re getting more than $300,000, you have to have a fellow named a CPA who has to give you an audit for every federal grant.
There are a bunch of generic garden-variety requirements, but most — see, the programs are out there. Nobody says, “Ding-dong, hello, federal government; I’m doing this stuff in my neighborhood and I happen to be religious, and I have a Christ-centered mission statement. I know that may pose a problem; can you give me money?” There are these existing programs. Go onto the websites. I think they’ve actually done a good job of this, Health and Human Services in particular, and the charitable choice do’s and don’ts, yes’s and no’s, very explicit — they answer that question in one word: no.
MS. WALSH: Can you give me an example of a religious-based drug treatment program, what they can use the money for and what they can’t use it for? Can they —
DR. DiIULIO: I’ll give you an example of, say, the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers, or ARCs. They’re all over the country. The Salvation Army’s ARCs are sort of a hybrid program. There are components of the program where people can, if they choose to, start the day with prayer. If they choose not to start the day with prayer, they can go over to the computers a little bit earlier, okay? There is a program in Philadelphia that was much talked about in 2001, 2002 at Cookman Methodist Church. This pastor, Donna Jones — I know that many in the room know her. It was a welfare-to-work program. You read the mission statement; it’s a Christ-centered mission statement: “We’re motivated by our faith to serve our brothers and sisters in need,” etc., etc. Look at what she does. She has a program — I think at one point — I’m not sure of this, but a majority of the people in the program were non-Christian and many of them Muslim women from the neighborhood.
So no discrimination against beneficiaries, no conditions for entering the building, receiving the services, participating in the program or any present or eventual profession of faith, complete right to opt out of any portion of the program that you find offensive for any reason having to do with religion, and a right under Charitable Choice that government must guarantee that a secular program option be available to you. So you can reject the whole program and walk around the corner. And it has to be reasonable and accessible; it can’t be, like, “Yeah, you can go to another program but you’ve got to go over the bridge to Camden to get it.” No, it’s got to be reasonable and accessible.
So existing law and existing public administration protocols comprehend all of these issues. Now, again, God and the devil are in the details. If we know anything about the last three years, we know it’s not easy to administer public grants in a way that yields performance. That’s why you can drive through Philadelphia, which has gotten literally hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 30 years since the ’68 Fair Housing Act, and see every fifth house in many neighborhoods abandoned, okay? The government-by-proxy system is fouled and flawed in all sorts of ways. That’s not an excuse for not doing it right with respect to this little substratum of nonprofits, but it is a call to make sure that we improve the system and apply the same standards to everybody who’s involved.
BYRON YORK, National Review: I want to ask a question about this chart you have on page two about people who believe that their elected officials should compromise. You pointed to these majorities in the general public that believe they should compromise, but it looks to me like that number would have been a lot higher were it not for evangelicals who, in most of these cases, don’t want their elected officials to compromise on some of these things. So as a practical matter, if you were in a White House where the president — let’s just imagine he thought that he owed his election to the evangelicals —
DR. DiIULIO: This is a hypothetical question?
MR. YORK: It’s a hypothetical question.
So if that were the case, as a practical matter, the faith-based proposals that are coming out of that White House, what do you think they’d be like?
DR. DiIULIO: Well, I think they would be very much like what was initially proposed and very much like in February 2002 what was proposed. And barring that I think they’d be very much like what’s happened since, frankly.
You know, this president — as I’ve said repeatedly, and I think Mike Gerson said it in this forum as well — has been absolutely consistent in saying, you know, “Methodist, Muslim, Mormon, or good people of no faith at all.” Evangelical Christians are citizens, too, you know? We need to put it that way. They have as much right to say “don’t compromise” as my social-justice, liberal Catholic friends say “compromise,” and my conservative Catholic friends say “never compromise.” Those data ought not to trouble anyone.
Now, you’re asking the practical political question, which obviously goes beyond my pay grade. When charitable choice was adopted in ’96, the chief sponsor, as I said, was Senator Ashcroft, not widely known to be, you know, disfavored by people of faith. It was a great achievement, and it was a bipartisan achievement. And there was some foot-dragging on the part of Democrats who weren’t really sure, but by the time Clinton-Gore got a hold of it and began to implement it at HUD and so forth, they were in the very early stages, in ’99, 2000, of really implementing these charitable choice laws. Everybody kind of got it, from President Clinton and Vice President Gore to Governor Bush, now to Senator Clinton and President Bush.
The problem is if someone chooses to say, “Well, charitable choice is weak tea, brewed to suit the tastes of anti-religious liberal Democrats” — if you think that, then all bets are off. If you think, on the other hand, that this is reasonable, it’s consistent with our constitutional principles, it’s where most people are on this issue, it frankly is where most members of Congress are — no problem whatsoever. They may have political problems on both the Democratic side and the Republican side, standing up for this not-very-scintillating to their respective extremes-in-constituencies position. But that’s where they are, rhetorically and at least from ’96 to 2000, on the record in terms of their voting.
MR. YORK: Are you saying that if Hillary Rodham Clinton were elected president in 2008 and decided to keep the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, it would be doing just the same thing as it was doing under Bush?
DR. DiIULIO: I would tell you that the person who’s been in the Oval Office with President Bush in the last year or so is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, talking about the issue. And I’m not saying it would do exactly the same thing, but I think that there is much more common ground on this issue, even at the elite, ultra, you know, mega-battle of the Titans level than we often let ourselves believe. I mean, take the statements that President Bush has made, lay them alongside the ones that Senator Clinton has made, and then look at all such people in the middle — Senator Santorum, Senator Lieberman. They’re saying almost exactly the same thing, okay?
And, yeah, when it comes to religious hiring rights, there’s going to be a big difference in tone and emphasis. And when it comes to how far to push a particular notion of beliefs and tenets, there’s going to be a big difference of emphasis. But in terms of whether we ought to put government more on the side of communities serving religious charities, particularly those that serve our needy neighbors, Senator Santorum is all over it. That profile in the New York Times captured it exactly right. He’s been all over that issue virtually his whole career. Now, I don’t know how people feel about that, but that is simply a fact, and he has been a consistent supporter of charitable choice laws from the very beginning.
SARAH WILDMAN, The American Prospect: I started thinking about what Elsa brought up, which is proselytizing, because what I don’t understand is there’s not a separate tax structure if you are receiving government funds. And I think that’s complicated when you can have a proselytizing arm and an arm that receives funds, but that it’s not separated. You know, should you be a 501(c)(3) and what does that mean? That’s one piece.
And the other is addressing legislation which is the kind of politics of victimization that’s come into this, which was sponsored by Santorum and Kerry, actually, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, and the questions about both hiring but also what’s permissible in the workplace and how that leads into this question as well: what’s permissible in terms of hiring practices as opposed to what you’re allowed to say, what you’re allowed to post —
— and what that means about who receives services and who doesn’t?
DR. DiIULIO: Well, again, you know, the 501(c)(3) business is much talked about. All I would say is I think that most organizations that want to go down this path should get themselves a 501(c)(3). It’s just easier. It’s the proper way to go. That said, I don’t think government ought to require organizations to get a separate 501(c)(3) if they may not pass the test but if they feel they are otherwise capable of meeting the relevant program-specific rules and regulations.
Also, 501(c)(3) covers a multitude of sins, if you will. I mean, there are churches that are, as churches, 501(c)(3) organizations, right? So we kind of forget sometimes a 501(c)(3) doesn’t mean you’re somehow in the public realm and must follow all public rules with all public resources. It doesn’t quite mean that in practice.
Charitable choice gives, really, five principles that are supposed to handle most of the sort of practical issues. I’ll just state them. The first one is no funds for proselytizing, sectarian worship, or religions instruction. That’s black letter. Don’t treat religiously motivated volunteers as second-class citizens, which basically means you don’t keep them out because they’re religious, too religious, the wrong religion, whatnot. Third, respectfully serve all clients or beneficiaries without regard to religion. That’s easy for the vast majority of these groups because, again, on the planet Earth, people who are changing bedpans or mentoring or doing homeless shelters, they basically, by and large, take all comers, and many times they operate in places most of the rest of society has walked away from or abandoned.
The studies by my colleague at Penn, Ram Cnaan, and studies by Professor Nisha Botchwey at University of Virginia, and other studies — all point to the same conclusion, which is that the primary beneficiaries of faith-based social service organizations in urban areas are young people who live in the neighborhoods who are not themselves members of the church or a religious group that serves them. In other words, it is what Bob Putnam likes to call “bridging social capital,” or spiritual capital in this case.
They’re reaching beyond their own doors and the youth in their own congregations to reach out to neighborhood youth who are not themselves churched or a member of that church or have an aunt or a parent in that church. That’s what the data consistently show. So in practical terms respecting clients without regard to religion is what they do, and this is without receiving any government money. They’re not getting government money and then changing the way they operate; this is how in fact these volunteer-driven organizations operate. Then the fourth rule is about following all existing civil rights laws governing employment, and when there are differences or disagreements about what that is, it’s time to go to court.
And then fifth — this was explicit in charitable choice as well – let religious nonprofits use their properties and display their symbols. In other words, as a condition of receiving the grant, the ’96 charitable choice law says explicitly, you don’t need to remove the Star of David or the cross with a crucifix or the crescent or whatever; you can use your religious property, you can park the lumber, you know, in the churchyard. You don’t have to go to a Ramada and buy space to hold your meeting and so forth. And some people find that to be skating over the line, but charitable choice established this in ’96; each of the other charitable choice laws reinforce this, and that’s where the law stands.
MS. WILDMAN: I think I’m just still not convinced about the anxiety that Elsa brought up and Bill Raspberry brought up earlier, which is how — I mean, why is it not advancing —
DR. DiIULIO: Look, there’s no way to allay all anxieties on this subject, but there’s a very basic question. And again, I don’t mean to put it in coarse terms, but in West Philadelphia you’ve got a choice. If the Cnaan data are correct — and we’ve got it on over 1,200 congregations based on four-hour site visits and 20-page questionnaires — these groups are providing the lion’s share of over 200 discreet types of social services to their own needy neighbors. They’re doing it, you know, out of shoeboxes, okay?
They are willing, the vast majority of them, to work within the terms of a government-sponsored public -private partnership. Where it’s been studied where they’ve done so, as in Steve Monsma’s aforementioned study, and they’ve surveyed people in the faith community who have been involved, guess what? Forty percent of them complained about government paperwork — welcome to the world, right? — but under 2 percent say they felt that the partnership with government required them to — and I forgot the exact terms — gut, disembowel, destroy their religious character, or being. And then when you look at who they are serving, they continue to serve the people they were serving without regard to religion.
Now, is it possible that you’re going to have a leaky-bucket effect, you know — of course we never have that in government, right? Government never diverts funds or things go to other places. Is it possible that one in 15, one in 50, one in 75 are going to skate across the line and not only say “God bless you” when no one has sneezed but say, “You really ought to get you to church, or you really ought to believe in Jesus”? Is it possible? Of course it’s possible. Will it happen? Of course it will happen. If we apply that standard — a sort of strict following of all rules and regulations governing any given grant — we will shut down the federal government tomorrow. Everything will come to a grinding halt. The leaky bucket effects attend government contracting in all other areas — I mean, all you have to do is just look at non-compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act; it’s staring you in the face.
I’m not saying they should get a free ride. I’m saying that unless we want to single out this particular substratum of the nonprofit sector for special scrutiny and treatment well beyond what is constitutionally required because we just want to be absolutely sure, I think that the laws that are in place now and the administrative regimes that are in place now, although far from perfect, give us a really good running start to what we need to do, especially if we involve organizations like the Corporation for National Service and AmeriCorps volunteers, which have traditionally worked with some of the larger religious nonprofits, being involved with providing technical assistance and capacity building help. I think it’s workable. But I cannot, and I would not, pretend — and I did not pretend when I was in office, which is probably why I’m an impolitic guy — to allay everybody’s fears. There’s no way to do that. There is no way to do it.
JANE EISNER, Philadelphia Inquirer: John, a couple months ago your dear friend David Kuo posted a very strong column on Beliefnet lamenting where the faith-based initiative had come in the Bush administration, specifically saying that a lot of the programs were not being funded or the funds were just being shifted from one thing to another. So I was wondering what your assessment is of where the initiative is now and what, if anything, might change in the next couple of years.
DR. DiIULIO: Mike Gerson’s ears must be burning this morning; he’s like a saint; his first miracle has been performed.
Mike Gerson is a good two-word way to begin that. I think Mike being in charge of the president’s compassion agenda is more important than, I think, even the National Journal cover story might suggest, and that was a heck of a cover story. But Mike being there and being in charge of that means that a person of real intellect and real drive — and I know he sort of had some health problems and all, but Mike is just a force of nature on these issues, and he was kind of present at the creation, not to be blasphemous about it, with respect to these issues.
And as I mentioned earlier, I think that the volunteer service mobilization effort that was begun in 2002 has repaid dividends to a degree that hasn’t been fully appreciated — and I know there are a lot of problems and nothing’s perfect, but there really has been some tremendous progress. I mean, in the end AmeriCorps went from 50,000 to 75,000. In the end you’ve had an increase in Senior Corps. In the end, you’ve had an increase in funding for federal entities that support volunteer service both at home and abroad. You have the creation of an entity that is now — I don’t know what factor, but it’s several times larger than the Peace Corps. Volunteers for Prosperity I think it’s called. So even though you haven’t had maybe a full-court press on volunteer mobilization, there are some very good things happening there.
The White House has issued, a couple of times, reports or statements summarizing the state of play with respect to federal grant-making — I guess to quickly answer that piece of your question. The number that’s used is that $2 billion went out the door in the last year for which there are reasonable data available. But if you look at the report the White House put out, it’s very careful and explicit in explaining what that $2 billion figure is and is not. It’s $2 billion in competitive non-formula grants across seven agencies that are going to organizations to fund faith-based community-serving organizations, up from $1.17 billion in the previous year across five agencies. But alas, the overarching reality of federal government-by-proxy administration is that state and local governments are the main proxy players — i.e., the vast sums of money that go in grants and contracts get administered through state and local governments.
Now, this is a discussion for a separate day about block grants. I have always defined block grants as money the federal government doesn’t have, which it spends for purposes it won’t specify with results that it cannot measure. I don’t particularly like block grants, and it didn’t start with Republicans; Lyndon Johnson did the first major block grant program, so we’ve had them a long time.
Because the great majority of funds — I mean, the hundreds of billions, depending on who’s doing the counting, that’s available in the non-formula competitive grants — is out there, we have no idea whether the fraction of those funds going to qualified faith-based groups has changed much or little, or in which direction. We know that in any two-year period since charitable choice first went on the books in ’96, you have states like Michigan, in one of those two-year periods — I think it was ’98 to 2000 but I’m not sure; I can’t remember exactly — that have like a 10-fold increase in the number of state contracts that went to community-serving organizations that had some religious affiliation.
So it’s 2 billion over a denominator of 14 to 17 billion in competitive non-formula grants over another denominator of several hundreds of billions in all grants. But we don’t keep any data that anybody who doesn’t want to spend their entire life tracking it can easily access on intergovernmental finance administration. In other words, the money goes to Harrisburg or it goes to Sacramento; where does it go from there? Just try bird-dogging that. Oh, you can do it, and there are some great journalists who do that, some of them in this room, but it’s very difficult.
So it’s kind of difficult to know what’s happening. But I look at Philadelphia and I look at the aforementioned Pastor Donna Jones, and I look at the denominator. If 40 percent of all — just to take that one example again — if 40 percent of all welfare-to-work organizations out there are in some way religious, and they are presently getting virtually no public support for what they do, the question I would ask is, how many such organizations now that would be qualified in a given catchment area, say, in the 12 square blocks surrounding Pastor Jones’s church, how many of them are now engaged in some way or another in a public-private partnership, and how does that compare to 1996 and so on? What are the time series data? There aren’t any!
I suspect the answer to that is that the increase has been negligible. It’s not just about how much money is going out the door, because that’s a moving average; that could be affected by lots of things. We would like to know what fraction of those organizations that are qualified, and would like to try to compete, and could use a little technical assistance to do so — what fraction of them are engaged in the process? And I think the increase there has been very small, and my hope is that we’ll get some greater progress on that by whatever means over the next couple of years.
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Can I ask you for an unprofessional, wild judgment? I keep reading about the sharp decline in teen pregnancies and teen violence, all this sort of stuff. The CDC has teen pregnancy down by a third, or something quite dramatic. The quick version of my question is why is that happening? Does it have to do with these organizations, these faith-based groups or other local groups, or is it broader societal trends?
DR. DiIULIO: You know, I don’t know, but I can tell you that — and not to be a broken record on this — it’s a lot different in Baltimore than it is in Milwaukee. That is, with respect to any of the things you just named, the inter-city differences are rather striking. There is no question of what the national slope of the line looks like. My answer, I guess, is the variables that I look to are ones that ought to do with both government programs — some of which people say ostensibly failed, but I don’t think Medicaid pediacare failed — on the one side, as well as a genuine increase in sort of the density of civil society action, if you will — people wrapping themselves around the lives of otherwise at-risk children and youth over the past five to 10 years in ways that have been happening all along but we weren’t very good at, A, measuring, or, B, tracking.
Some of the social policies have had a very important and positive impact, including even income-maintenance ones. I mean, the earned-income tax credit, you don’t hear much about that anymore, right? — or maybe you never heard much about it — but really the biggest single anti-poverty program that Clinton-Gore did was the EITC. That made a lot of difference for a lot of people. There are still places where a lot of EITC-eligible people don’t get their EITC, but what do you think the impact is of increasing somebody’s income by 40 percent overnight? What do you think the impact of that is? What do you think the neighborhood effects are and dynamics are of just that one policy?
See, a lot of good things happened from the government side and the civil society side over the last 10 to 15 years. We kind of saw the effects before we had any theory of the causes, or causality if you will.
MR. BROOKS: John, you mentioned the faith-based groups have their advantage in volunteer mobilization, and groups like Rick Warren’s are trying to get a lot of volunteers to mobilize both here and abroad. How good are the volunteers? Do we want volunteers or do we want professionals?
DR. DiIULIO: You can’t get there with just professionals. I mean, that was part of the consensus. Most of the organizations that are thought of as professional organizations actually rely extensively on volunteers. You know, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America is a marquee institution that has been around 100-plus years now. It’s got professional staff. It’s quality case-managed. I mean, it’s a professional social-service delivery organization, secular nonprofit, with 500-plus federated entities. It also couldn’t do anything without massive mobilization of volunteers, and it mobilizes volunteers both retail and wholesale from corporations, colleges, retirement communities, churches and so forth.
For the vast majority of entities that are about social service delivery, I think the one more or less safe generalization one can make is that volunteers who stay at their particular task or organizational affiliation for a year or more do great work. The problem is with the 90-day wonders — it’s the in-and-outers, it’s the short-term programs — and Jane will tell you more than I know about it, about this whole service learning business. I mean, service learning would appear to be something of a hollow shell. I don’t want to put words in Jane’s mouth on this, but I think there is some evidence to suggest that we’re not getting a whole lot of bang for the interest, as it were, in that particular part of volunteer mobilization. But, Jane, maybe you want to add or subtract from that.
MS. EISNER: Well, I think it’s starting to become clear now because there are so many schools, cities, districts, the state of Maryland, requiring a certain amount of community service hours for a student to be able to graduate and there is not a really good sense that these things are very effective. And now there’s starting to be a debate in the service learning community about whether or not hours — time on task — is really the way to judge it or whether it ought not to be outcomes.
And there is also some data that goes back many years that says in some cases volunteers can actually do more harm than good, particularly when working with vulnerable populations like the elderly. Judy Rodin did a study many, many years ago, long before she became president of Penn, in which she looked at college students who were volunteering in a nursing home and went very regularly to visit the residents. And then their semester was over and they left. And they actually found that the health declined more rapidly in those residents who had been seen and then were dropped than the residents who hadn’t been seen at all.
So you’ve got to be really careful, especially when you’re working with vulnerable populations, about how you do this stuff.
MR. DIONNE: Is there any evidence that service learning promotes volunteering later on? In other words, is there any learned experience in the process, even if it doesn’t solve a problem effectively, that it actually creates a habit of service which recapitulates itself later?
MS. EISNER: I think that’s the hope. I’m not aware that there has been any long-term studies on it. Lew Friedland out at University of Wisconsin did a study in his area and found that a lot of the students who were doing community service said that they — it’s not that they didn’t like what they were doing or didn’t think it was worthwhile, but they were also doing it to pad their résumés. Now, this is not just true of kids who were going to Penn; this was true of kids who wanted to go to a vocational school but felt that it made them look good or — and in fact it might — I mean, I don’t think we should minimize that in that there might be some real usefulness in saying that they showed up every day and did what they were supposed to do.
MR. BROOKS: You know Steve Trachtenberg’s line, the George Washington University president, of his students’ community service: “I don’t know where these kids find lepers, but they find them and they read to them.”
DR. DiIULIO: Our friend Ira Harkavy, our head of Service Initiatives at Penn, says there was a kid who said, “Man, that service learning course where I did the homeless shelter was so great, I hope when my kid comes to Penn he can have the same experience.” You know, basically the one thing that you can say that has distinguished faith-based, religiously anchored — put it how you will — local, congregation-based volunteer mobilization is the rapidity with which organizations that had been trying for years to mobilize volunteers for a particular and particularly difficult kind of service delivery, the success they had in mobilizing those volunteers with religious organizations, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters here too is an example.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters, you know — you have to have one adult in your life basically who calls up, right? So you’ve got to have at least that one person who is together enough. Well, let’s say you’re the child of an incarcerated person, that maybe mom is home but mom’s not quite together enough or doesn’t think to call? Who are the most severely at-risk kids? It’s the kids who don’t even have that one adult. Well, how do you get them and then how do you get them a mentor, because they’re going to be a particularly difficult-to-relate-to population, in all probability.
So they tried to mobilize the volunteers, but it was sort of hit or miss. But the fastest mobilization of volunteers in the history of Big Brothers, Big Sisters was when they started working with and through churches. Not only that, but they did what a lot of the research evidence suggested you couldn’t do, which is they mobilized volunteers, including males, from the community to serve as mentors, and they’ve now done it at scale, and they’re on the way to doing it at an even much bigger scale.
So not only volunteer mobilization and character and quality when you have the year-plus commitment, but also in working with particularly distressed populations, or difficult-to-serve populations, the churches seem to have some comparative advantage. This is not proven, but that’s what the preliminary evidence would suggest.
JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: John, do you ever feel that you’re being used by political professionals whose goal is simply to funnel money into religious groups that are their political base, to expand those groups so that they can benefit politically? And what was your experience with the far right in terms of their reception of these programs? This comes to mind as just last week, you know, standing behind Bill Frist there were these black ministers who were recipients of faith-based money, who were being used as props.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, the only person I can really speak for is myself. I think what I’ve said about this has changed in 10 years only with respect to how the data have changed and how I’ve interpreted the data. In other words, if there had been a change in the data, or more evidence, whatever, I have changed accordingly. And with respect to, say, people who challenge sort of this Franklinian to-pour-forth-benefits-for-the-common-good-is-divine perspective on each side – you know, you get used by each side, especially when you’re in public office, right?
I make a statement like the one I made here earlier in the first part of the session – I made that when I was in office all the time. You get asked, “Well, are these programs more effective?” And I would say, “No, we don’t know if they’re more effective; we don’t have any experimental or quasi-experimental research.” And then you get some direct-mail organization putting out, “Director of Faith-Based Office says these programs don’t work. Then what the hell are they doing?” That’s what you get. Or you come out with a statement on the other side that says, “There’s some evidence to suggest that these organizations have a real comparative advantage of volunteer mobilization.” And the next thing you know, there’s this statement, “Director of Faith Office says proven fact, these things work.” I mean, that’s the nature of the beast to some extent, and I kind of accept that.
I think the two important things to remember — and I’ve tried to remember the last couple of years; I’ve just turned to my own little haunts in Philadelphia and work with the charitable groups there, and associated with them, that do these kinds of good works — one, Washington isn’t that important in the end to what happens. These organizations, whether they’re high-octane religiously motivated or just faith motivated and work with social service delivery, have been out there, continue to be out there, will continue to be out there, making bricks without straw in some cases but they’re out there, and they are people of all faiths, diverse faiths, and of no faith. And they were here yesterday, they’re here today, and they’re going to be here tomorrow. And in the end, all the sound and fury signifying nothing that sometimes comes out of national politics is not going to matter in a major way, I don’t believe, to how they succeed.
Number two, however, is that the path they walk, especially in urban America, is a very difficult path, and this is where I think the national government should come in.
MR. WILLIAMS: I love being answered, I’m interested in the answer, but that’s not the question. The question was about you getting used by people who have a political agenda.
DR. DiIULIO: I don’t feel like I’ve been used. I feel like people take things — and I’ve had this on other issues throughout my career — people hear what they want to hear. People use what they want to use.
MR. WILLIAMS: The debate about this theory — back and forth, whether it’s effective, who gets the money, the basis on which decisions are made about which religious organizations, the Scientologists’ camp or the black Muslims’ camp — we can have all these debates. But I think for most people who are looking at this, they say, “Hey, wait, this is a political strategy that’s quite effective. And John DiIulio can go around and have all these fancy debates, but as long as we can get the money to the right people we can expand the base of support for the Republican Party.”
DR. DiIULIO: Let me try to answer the question this way, the best way I know how, which is to say if you look at the grant-making that is comprehended by the $2 billion figure I cited earlier, and you go to a particular piece of the grant-making, like, say, the Compassion Capital Fund, and you look at that, I think there are many ways you can interpret it. But the way I look at it is, I’m not sure exactly how the University of Hawaii fits in this grand plan, if there is one. In other words, I try to proceed inductively — look at it from the back end. Forget the theory of it. If you were coming from “planet nowhere” and looking at these data about how things have gone, would you naturally conclude that there is some pattern or plan here, whether it’s to get money to small grassroots groups, or get money to people who have a particular political point of view? I look at those grants, and I say it’s a scatterplot.
Anyone can take a single grant or action and say, “Oh, look at this group who knows this guy,” and that’s what sometimes happens. I’m not saying that I know the reality of that; all I’m saying is it doesn’t appear to me to be a clear-cut pattern one way or the other. And regardless of that, we’re talking here about people who live in places that have had 50-plus years of public and private disinvestments and really have only one major social institution left in many of these communities that is a hook on which you can hang support, and that to me is the issue.
MR. WILLIAMS: Frank asked you about political influence while you were in office. You didn’t answer that one. Were there people who were coming —
DR. DiIULIO: See, I learned something there. I mean, you’ve got to give me credit for learning something over these last —
MR. WILLIAMS: Were there people who were coming to you and saying, “Listen, we’d like money to go to X group?”
DR. DiIULIO: No one ever came to me and said any such thing. Of course, I’m also the fellow who gave a speech in March 2001 at the National Association of Evangelicals explaining why you can’t proselytize with public funds. So no one ever came to me in any way, shape, manner or form; I never felt any pressure, direct or indirect, for me to modify anything I said, thought or did. That said, however, that too is irrelevant because in the end the social issue that has, for me, nothing to do per se with faith, except insofar as I happen to be a born-again Catholic – which I can explain over lunch —
— before we say grace, then over lunch.
MR. DIONNE: You are saying grace.
DR. DiIULIO: I am saying grace.
I’m giving one of those invocations that anyone used to be able to give.
What’s at stake here is the future of the federal government’s role in delivering vital social services to people in need. That’s what we’re really talking about. You’ve got a system that, under both Republicans and Democrats, has been ill-funded, ill-administered, and little scrutinized except when somebody had a bee in their bonnet for some reason to scrutinize it. If we do not figure out a way to improve and increase the services and improve the quality of services – maybe we can just keep on going along the way we have the past 10, 15, 20 years. But I tell you, the world does not look like — David is absolutely right about these data, these national trends. It doesn’t look that way, however, in every part of north central Philly. You know what I’m saying? And if there’s something about faith-based and community initiatives from the federal government that can do something positive, let’s follow Ben Franklin and figure out what that practical approach is.
MR. WILLIAMS: What was the response from the Jerry Falwells of the world to your —
DR. DiIULIO: I was the only person — I don’t know if I was the only person; this does not make one virtuous — but I was, on the same day, publicly criticized by both Reverend Falwell and the ACLU. And they both might have been right, I guess.
MR. CROMARTIE: What was the issue?
DR. DiIULIO: The issue was the speech I had given at the National Association of Evangelicals, which got a standing ovation, by the way — which was not reported, by the way.
MR. DIONNE: But you don’t bear any grudges.
DR. DiIULIO: I don’t bear any grudges — I let it all go. I did The Purpose-Driven Life too in that regard and I’ve learned to let things go.
DR. DiIULIO: In any case — you get the point. I mean, the bottom line here is this is a discussion about social policy and poverty and people in need, especially children. And if the national trends are good, that is great; but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t literally millions and millions of kids who aren’t making it, who can’t read.
MR. WILLIAMS: Listen to this: as I understood it, Falwell initially was resistant on the idea that he didn’t want government interference in the business of his church.
DR. DiIULIO: Well, that was Reverend Robertson. But to be perfectly fair — and I think it’s important to be perfectly fair — Reverend Falwell is a very interesting man in this regard because he had a kind of a theological worldview that said charitable activity is the role of the individual and not the government. And then over time he kind of had to square the circle theologically. You know, it’s easy for Catholics, as it were — you know, “faith without works is dead”; we start there and we’re in the faith-based-social-service delivery; we have got kind of a theology that supports Pope John Paul II and Ben Franklin as one on this.
And so there were those issues. With Reverend Robertson I think initially it was more about his thought that what this should be about is identifying criteria by which you would decide which kinds of groups would get in and which kinds of groups wouldn’t and I think he was making an honest effort to think this through.
MS. KAMINER: He complained specifically that the money was going to go to the wrong religions and so he was opposed to that and then he withdrew his opposition when he got a half-a-million-dollar grant.
DR. DiIULIO: I don’t know about that, but the criticism that Reverend Robertson made at the time in 2001 was, “What this should be about is, you know, to find the criteria.” And the response that I made then and will make now — and the position he subsequently adopted — was, “Oh, okay, charitable choice is precisely about — it doesn’t matter whether you are religious — or what religion you are. Are you an organization that is qualified under public law on the terms of a specific grant following those protocols to compete to administer these particular services to benefit these particular people? If the answer is yes, you should be considered; if the answer is no under those terms, you should not be.” So scientologists, no problem; sociologists, big problem — big problem — no funding for sociologists.
MR. WILLIAMS: Wait, wait, Robertson then goes from opposing it to getting a grant. Is that what I understand?
MS. KAMINER: Yes.
DR. DiIULIO: To my knowledge — and you know, I haven’t thought about this in nearly four years — to my knowledge, he never opposed charitable choice; he advocated a particular way of going about this initiative, which involved specifying criteria for the qualifications groups ought to have, which is a reasonable thing for somebody to do whether you went to Yale Law School or not; it’s a reasonable thing to think of.
I think what happened was when he understood more on the charitable-choice side of things, he saw that that’s not really what this is about and he rescinded that criticism — at least I was not subsequently criticized — and that is really what is important in the end, isn’t it?
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, John.
(End of Session)