Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Days: The Nuts and Bolts of Obama's Faith Based Initiative

[Democratic National Convention] "Now a lot of you aren't going to want to hear this," warned John Dilulio, the former Director of the Bush administration's Faith Based Initiative "But President Bush deserves enormous credit for getting [faith based initiatives] on the agenda and for keeping them there," Dilulio told the crowd of democrats at the convention's forum on Obama's proposed faith based initiatives.

Dilulio saluted the success of Bush's multi-year, multi-billion dollar faith based successes in providing aid to communities in sub-Saharan African countries. Dilulio while defensive of the previous administration for getting the program going, was one of the original refugees of the Bush administration and was adamantly behind the Obama take on faith based initiatives.

Citing Obama's criteria that his program would not give federal dollars to programs that proselytized, that federal dollars had to support secular programs and that the programs must work Dilulio commented: "All I can say to that is, amen, amen and amen."

Diluli0 thought the Obama initiative could be more broadly applied and with a strong "fiscal reality" principle could make sure programs were effective and that the money would not be crowding out other financial programs that would be more effective.

Dilulio also agreed with other panelists that the most constitutionally sound way to broker this unique kind of private/public partnership was for faith groups to create nonprofit 501c3's with secular purposes, or for that matter interfaith 501c3 groups where common ground amongst religious groups, informed by separate faiths would drive their mission.

The importance and potential of such partnerships was for Dilulio and others a no-brainer.

"You cannot go to north central Philadelphia, south central Los Angeles or New Orleans and not find that faith communities are the ones that are driving and leading the human recovery process," Dilulio said.

Rev. Otis Moss, a black church icon, who was an integral part of the civil rights struggles of the '60s and a potentially strong voice on religion in the Obama administraion, concurred and hoped that faith based initiatives would flourish and expand under Obama. "I think we need to look at how can we engage, interact and access all the departments. of government," Moss said of an exchange that would help educate faith groups about the workings of government, but with a warning.

Moss reminded the crowd that martin Luther King Jr. has described faith groups as being neither the master nor the slave to the state, but the conscience. That standing he warned could be jeopardized if faith based initiatives only drive faith groups to bow to the government for financial support.

"Getting a grant should not be the front side or at the head of the agenda," Moss said. "If getting the grant is the number one agenda, how can you then be the conscience of the state?" (Eric S. Peterson)

1 comment:

  1. Finally some red meat for us policy wonks! I've heard enough chants and platitudes to last a lifetime, its sad that these discussions are not prime time. Maybe some sort of chant about FBOs needs to be devised....


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