President George W. Bush's initiatives on government support of faith-based social programs met both criticism and praise during the Dallas convention of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in March.

Hit broadside by the unexpected evangelical criticisms, allies in Congress are moving slowly on the plan, partly to give the Bush administration time to address concerns. At the NAE convention, John J. DiIulio, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, gave one of the first major policy speeches on Bush's program.

"Compassionate conservatism warmly welcomes godly people back into the public square," DiIulio declared. "Community-based organizations, religious and nonreligious, can work together and across racial, denominational, urban/suburban, and other divides to achieve civic results."

Evangelical leaders heard criticisms from Marvin Olasky, who began influencing Bush's thinking about compassionate conservatism while Bush was governor of Texas. Olasky, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and editor of the conservative Christian weekly newsmagazine World, urged revamping of proposed charitable choice rules, which he said discriminate against evangelicals who provide a spiritual witness while carrying out social programs. Yet Olasky also praised Bush as the first federal leader in 40 years to seek partnership with religious groups.

During a question-and-answer session, DiIulio said the current proposal would make funding problematic for groups that openly evangelize while offering social services, but a voucher system might change that. After the convention, DiIulio said he would clarify the initiative to address the concerns he heard.

The NAE, ...

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