The White House has decided it cannot achieve for now significant legislative and administrative goals for its faith-based initiative. Instead, Bush officials now talk in terms of years of efforts that will only gradually strengthen faith-based organizations and slowly transform a federal bureaucratic culture alien to American faith-based goals.
In October, President Bush told the congregation at Tony Evans' Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas that the efforts at legislative change had stalled. "We're making changes of the culture in Washington, D.C.," Bush said. "It takes awhile."
The shift means there will be no new significant faith-based legislation before next year's presidential elections. The Senate is expected to debate bills for Head Start and job training funding that allow faith-based groups to require a religious test for hiring. But Republican strategists in Congress told Christianity Today the administration hasn't indicated how hard it will push for passage of these bills.
As head of the President's initiative, Jim Towey said there is "a great deal of interest in the faith-based initiative when you get out of Washington." But in the capital, faith-based forces have bogged down in incremental trench warfare. "The interest groups in Washington have made this a fairly polarized issue," Towey said, adding that progress comes by the spadeful rather than by a bulldozer . "The truth of the matter is that faith-based groups were victims of decades of efforts to secularize the public square. A lesser President would have thrown in the towel."
Consequently, Towey is reluctant to give any benchmarks to measure progress: "There was never a time with the President where there has been a figure that faith-based groups get ...1