On January 13, President Bush elevated Jim Towey, already Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to be Assistant to the President. Christianity Today senior writer Tony Carnes interviewed Towey about the administration's plans to reinvigorate the faith-based initiative during Bush's second term.
President Bush's main legislative faith-based initiative, the Charity Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act, failed to pass in 2001. Will you try again?
I hope, now that the president is not running for reelection, that some of those politics are out of the way. A Pew poll showed a 16-percentage-point difference in favor of government's granting money to faith-based organizations for social services.
All the reauthorization bills are tied up on [the question of] religious hiring. Disagreements on religious hiring [by recipients of federal funds] are blocking the Workforce Investment Act, Head Start, and Community Service Block grants.
The last thing I want to see is a replay of the July 2001 standoff. I will tell you that my marching orders from the President are to listen to all reasonable offers.
Are you going to move the faith-based initiative down to the state and local levels?
Now, we have 21 governors and 116 mayors with faith-based offices. I want to stress that many of them are Democrats.
However, there are 18 states that basically tell these groups that if you are going to take any state funds, you can't hire according to your religious beliefs. The President will identify state and local governments that aren't very friendly to faith based organizations.
Will you increase the use of vouchers for social services?
The President will continue to explore the use of vouchers in recovery or job training programs. A couple of states are already issuing vouchers for drug addiction recovery programs. There are areas where social problems are so bad that it's worth looking at other approaches.
There is still some debate on how to set up guidelines to measure the success of the grants.
There is a lot of support on the Hill to start putting more of an emphasis on outcomes and effectiveness. The President's budget is going to reflect that.
Certainly, the local groups can help us by making a better case for what they do. There is not a lot of outcome measurement. The more they can say, "We got this grant and here is what it changed," the better.