April 11, 2005

Dilulio Discusses Charities

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Prof. John Dilulio, political science, University of Pennsylvania, the former director of the office of Faith-based and Community initiatives, spoke Thursday on the federal government’s resistance to fund faith-based charities. “Faithful Consensus: the Right and Wrong Ways to Provide Government Assistant to Faith-based Charities” was delivered in 165 McGraw.

Dilulio said that about 40 percent of all welfare-to-work programs in inner cities are faith-based. However, most of these programs are denied public funding at a rate three times that of their secular counterparts. In addition, faith-based organizations do not receive federal funding, even though they tend to take on tougher clients, such as those who have never held a job, have substance abuse problems or have been incarcerated.

“There are [faith-based initiatives] in south central L.A., western and northern Philadelphia and inner-city Detroit that have been systematically discriminated against by the government,” Dilulio said. “They are doing the work without getting the pay.”

Citing research that examined faith-based organizations in four cities, Dilulio said the average program serves about 200 clients per year with a $90,000 budget. In contrast, the typical secular social works organization has about 400 clients per year with a $900,000 budget.

Some public organizations are wary of donating funds to faith-based social works programs, believing the separation of church and state may be blurred. Dilulio believes that most faith-based initiatives keep the religious elements entirely separable from its social works agenda.

“The majority of urban community programs would have no trouble staying within the double yellow constitutional lines,” he said.

Such discrimination against faith-based initiatives should not exist, according to federal law. From 1996 to 2000, former President Clinton passed laws known as “charitable choice,” which clarified the rights and responsibilities of faith-based charities that receive federal funding. The laws stated that the government cannot discriminate against faith-based non-profit organizations.

In addition, in January 2001, President Bush created the office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives to “give religious groups a role in the delivery of government social services and ordered agencies to figure out ways to work with such groups.”

Bush appointed Dilulio to head the office, although he left a few months later because of health problems.

Dilulio said the majority of Americans are in support of faith-based initiatives, as most believe in God and link the country’s overall well-being to the religious state of the union. But most Americans also respect pluralism, proving that they are inclusive of religions other than their own. Citing a Gallup poll, Dilulio said about 75 percent of Americans agree that faith-based policies are more compassionate and cost effective than their secular counterparts.

“The American people are ready, willing and able to have the government collaborate in a way that involves the lives the needy and neglected,” he said. “But politics are uniquely tough.”

Dilulio does not believe there is a religious cultural war that has divided the country. Rather, he views most Americans as “squarely Madisonian,” meaning they are tolerant and pragmatic.

“The politics surrounding the culture war and faith-based cleavages have been exaggerated,” he said. “The death of the central moderate [American] has been exaggerated.”

“[Dilulio gave] a wonderful talk which laid out clearly the issues involved with faith based initiatives and the contending parties,” said Prof. Glenn Altschuler Ph.D. ’76, dean of continuing education.

“[Dilulio] advanced a persuasive argument for faith-based initiatives as he understands it.”

Erica Finkle ’06, who attended the lecture as part of her Law and Society concentration, said she enjoyed how Dilulio separated one particular aspect of faith-based initiatives to make his case.

“I agreed with how he looked at things in the inner city, rather than just the argument [about] the separation of church and state,” she said. “He focused on what [the government] can get done, especially among the poor in inner cities.”

Archived article by Olivia Oran
Sun Staff Writer