Political Climate for Faith-based Programs
In 1996 a welfare reform bill called the Personal Work and Responsibility Act (PWORA) was enacted and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The Personal Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act, PWORA, has altered the landscape of American religion. Embedded in the PWORA was a small provision Section 104 also known as Charitable Choice, which makes it illegal for state governments to discriminate against social service providers whose organization, has a religious mandate. President Bill Clinton during his presidency did not do a lot to further it. The PWORA was implemented primarily through a variety of executive orders issued by President George W. Bush. Executive Order 13199 by President George W. Bush called for eliminating “unnecessary legislative, regulatory and other bureaucratic barriers that impede effective faith based and other community efforts to solve social problems”. Charitable Choice blurred the boundaries between Church and State. Faith based initiatives were policies that were based in a larger concept of fiscal conservatism, decreasing the size of federal government, along with collaboration and cooperation in partnership with the religious community. Thus through Charitable Choice a stamp of authority was given to change the basic way in which the church and state interact. These faith based initiatives appeal to conservatives who want to decrease the size of government and see the initiatives as providing an inexpensive alternative to government-sponsored social services. The withdrawal of federal funding for social services creates a void which places the burden of care upon the nonprofit sector. This is sometimes called the “hollow state,” in which the government is much less active in its role for the financial responsibility to provide welfare services.
Prior to Charitable Choice, all 50 states already worked with religious organizations to provide social services. Many larger religious organizations have long been a part of the traditional provision of social services to the public through separate nonprofit agencies such as the Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services. These agencies are religiously influenced, but maintained separate nonprofit organizations through separate 501 C 3 IRS filings and did separate their social service functions from their purely religious functions (a bright line). These new faith based initiatives paved the way for a political system which relies more heavily on religious organizations and partnerships with them, while removing federal governmental funding for social services. This places a greater burden on the faith based community to take up the slack during the cuts in governmental funding through their own fund raising efforts.
But not everyone was in agreement that Charitable Choice was an appropriate way to spend taxpayer’s dollars. The Washington, D.C. based Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious freedom advocacy group in the United States which promotes the separation of church and state, has voiced opposition to the tax funded religious program. “Any program that relies on or requires a conversion to a particular religion is going to be a poor candidate for public funding.” Texas Freedom Network, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan alliance that includes 7,500 religious and community leaders, is challenging what it calls "the growing social and political influence of religious political extremists." Samantha Smoot, executive director of Texas Freedom Network, calls the faith-based effort in Texas "a lose-lose-lose deal." Taxpayers lose, she believes, "because they are forced to financially support religious activity, and they get virtually no accountability for how the money is spent," she said. "Churches lose, because the government strings that come with government funds threaten their independence. Poor people lose because they may be compelled to practice a faith not their own in order to receive services, and because Bush has exempted many of these programs from basic health and safety practices." Teen Challenge was cited by civil libertarians as flawed use of state funds for being a church-based drug rehabilitation program that argued that drug addiction is not a disease but a sin, with prayer and Bible reading as treatment.
One of the first constitutional challenges to a charitable choice contract came from the American Jewish Congress. AJCongress monitors issues like "charitable choice" proposals, in which federal funds would be given to faith-based institutions to provide social services historically the responsibility of government. The First Amendment separation of church and state is emphasized at AJCongress naturally and inevitably as part of its insistence that Jews in the United States are not guests but full-fledged citizens by right. Key to accomplishing its mission is the belief, “That only through the assertion of – and defense of – human rights in general, can Jewish rights themselves be guaranteed, that only through the pursuit of social justice for all can it achieve the narrower goal of justice for Jewish Americans.” The American Jewish Congress describes itself as an association of Jewish Americans organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad through public policy advocacy, using diplomacy, and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit in 2000 to invalidate a contract between the Texas Department of Human Services and the Jobs Partnership of Washington County (JPWC. The suit claimed that "Protestant evangelical Christianity permeates" the partnership's job training and placement program. The complaint charged that JPWC uses tax dollars to convince students of the need to "change from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, and that can only be accomplished through a relationship with Jesus Christ."
The concept of Charitable Choice was that small religious groups should not be discriminated against in government funding decisions. Most states have adopted faith-based practices and 39 states have appointed persons into Faith Based Liaison positions (FBL), 22 states created state Offices of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCIs) and some have done both. Forty one States also have passed legislation or enacted administrative policy changes and some have run state-sponsored policy conferences.
Exemption from Governmental Regulation and Inspection
George W. Bush as governor of Texas rapidly incorporated the provisions of Charitable Choice into Texas policy and politics. It was in Texas that the first state Faith Based Liaison positions were created. But there was opposition to the charitable choice proposals by the members of the Texas Faith Network which is made up of more than 400 clergy. Rabbi Peter Berg of Temple Emanuel in Dallas Texas asked “Who will decide which churches or synagogues, which denomination or sect, will be funded and which will be excluded?” There was clearly a lack of accountability on one hand and the unconstitutional lack of separation of church and state on the other. Thus although faith-based groups certainly play an important role in provision of social services, it is still necessary that they remain independent from the government. Taxpayers through the faith-based initiatives program end up financially supporting religious activity, but with no accountability or transparency for how that money is spent. There are strings that come with governmental money and also poor people are compelled to practice a faith that is not their own just to get services.
In 1995, George W. Bush’s first year as governor of Texas, Teen Challenge a Christian based drug treatment program was threatened with closure by a state regulatory agency, The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Although Teen Challenge did not receive any government funds, it did offer treatment to drug users and therefore fell under the state’s regulatory powers. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) threatened to close the doors of Teen Challenge for violations of its regulations in April 1996. Roloff Homes was also a program supported by George W. Bush and it was also in violation of basic health and safety regulations. So two programs who were in trouble with the state of Texas for dangerous treatment practices were publicly defended by religious right leaders. Bush publicly defended these programs and changed state law to protect them even at the expense of quality of care and public safety.
In the mid 90s, Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) attempted to close down the San Antonio branch of Teen Challenge, a residential Christian program that relies solely on faith-based methods to treat drug abuse. According to a TCADA spokesperson, the organization violated Texas state policies, procedures and licensure standards. There were problems with hiring practices, not meeting training requirements for counselors, client grievance procedures, release of confidential records. Teen Challenge was also charged with disregarding state standards for the screening, orientation, treatment and discharge of follow-up of clients (Austin American Statesman, July 2, 1995).
In June 1995, TCADA suspended Teen Challenge’s license based violations that may even cause a potential danger to the residents. Bush intervened publicly on behalf of the faith-based program, saying TCADA was following procedure and stating publicly that he strongly supported the faith-based programs. (World Magazine 1995).
On Bush’s urging and other outside pressures, TCADA postponed judgment of the organization, dropped licensure demands, and agreed to wait until the legislature considered bills that would change the rules for faith-based organizations. According to the Houston Chronicle, the flap about Teen Challenge made the organization-a cause celebre among the religious right, placing Teen Challenge to the forefront of the faith-based self-help movement. Support came not only from Christian leader Pat Robertson, who featured the group on his 700 Club television show, but also from the conservative policy crowd (Houston Chronicle, December 1, 1995)
On May 2, 1996 Governor Bush in a show of continuing support of such organizations, Bush vowed to assembled an Advisory Task Force made up of 16 clergy and volunteer leaders and charges the Task Force with 2 objectives: (1)survey Texas legal and regulatory landscape to identify obstacles to faith-based groups and (2)recommend ways that Texas can create an environment in which these groups can thrive, free of regulations that dilute the faith factor.
On August 22, 1996 The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act is signed in law (PL 104-193). Section 104 of this federal welfare reform legislation - authored by then-Senator John Ashcroft - opened the door to so-called Charitable Choice provisions that allow states to contract with faith-based and community-based organizations for the provision of welfare services. This provision has been interpreted to apply to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Social Security Income (SSI), food stamp and Medicaid programs.
In 1997 legislation was passed exempting religious child care and drug treatment facilities from health and safety regulations.
For more than two decades, the Roloff Homes which was a group of faith-based homes for troubled teens - had been the subject of allegations of severe abuse. Efforts in the 1980’s by the Texas Attorney General’s office to force the homes under state regulation led to a long legal battle. The organization’s founder, Lester Roloff, was a fundamentalist and leader of the People’s Baptist Church in Corpus Christi who maintained that the state had no right to license his homes (Houston Chronicle, March 13, 1999). The Roloff Homes became a high-profile cause among religious right circles, with one minister even chaining himself to the Texas Supreme Court doors in protest.
The case found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the homes had to be licensed by the state or close down. Wiley Cameron who had worked for Roloff since 1973 took the leadership role after Roloff's death. Cameron eulogized Roloff as having bravely spent the last eight years of his life fighting "the forces of hell" and vowed to continue the late minister's battle with the State of Texas.
In 1985, a court order stated that Cameron had to obtain a Texas state license for the youth homes or shut them down by January 1, 1986. Cameron instead decided to move approximately one hundred teenagers left in the Roloff homes, loading them onto a convoy of buses and beginning the long drive north to Missouri, where a state license would not be required. So in 1985, rather than accept state oversight, the homes closed down and moved to Missouri-where they stayed "in exile" until invited back to Texas by Governor George W. Bush to receive licensing under his newly created alternative accreditation agency - the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA).
The first facility to apply for and receive accreditation from TACCCA was one of the Roloff Homes. According to the Washington Post, TACCCA is supposed to inspect the facilities once and year and make sure they meet minimum requirements (Washington Post, April 11, 2000). April 10, 2000 Texas authorities arrested men connected to Roloff Homes for allegations of severe abuse of juveniles in their care. Two weeks later, the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA) re-approves the Roloff Homes license. April 15, 2000 Wiley Cameron, the head of Roloff Homes, resigns from his position on the accreditation committee of TACCCA.
Teen Challenge might not have survived without the help of then Governor George W. Bush. Because Teen Challenge claimed it did “treatment”, it thus needed to abide by state regulations regarding having persons who were qualified with academic degrees and a certain amount of clinical expertise. Teen Challenge did not hire counselors based on those criteria because Teen Challenge promoted the view that addiction is a sinful behavior prompted by a lack of religious commitment. Claiming spectacular results –which turned out to false- they demanded that the investigator be fired and the laws changed.
The supporters of Teen Challenge viewed this as infringement of their rights as a religious organization, so the shutting down of the organization by the government offered a ripe opportunity to question the rightness of church-state separation. These objections to the shutdown of Teen Challenge created the political support for the creation of the broader faith-based initiatives. George Bush created a Governor’s Advisory Task Force on Faith-based Community Service Groups, changed the course of faith-based public policy by creating a redefinition of faith-based practices in Texas and a report in December 1996, called “Faith in Action: A New Vision for Church-State Cooperation,” and George W. Bush announced it personally with enormous fanfare at a ministry in San Antonio. This report had concrete policy recommendations to exempt Teen Challenge from state licensure and oversight. In 1997 the Teen Challenge Bill which changed the role of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) to one of just registering the names of programs in a single one page document (name, address, and what they do). By granting Teen Challenge in 1997, a crucial exemption, Governor George Bush went against Texas State regulators. With the governor's exemption, Teen Challenge and other faith based addiction programs are allowed to call themselves treatment facilities. That, exempted Teen Challenge counselors so they didn’t have to get the 270 hours of clinical training and thousands of hours of supervision, as was required of non faith based treatment programs. As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, Teen Challenge facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.
But there are critics, who argue that the drug counselors need this kind of professional training. This legislation removed Teen Challenge from any governmental regulatory oversight. Teen Challenge would then claim to be an exclusively religious program not a blend of religious and medical treatment. A medical model program would require governmental regulation and therapeutic clinical records. So in order to be exempt from governmental supervision and oversight, these programs had to be purely religious ministries designed to help people with addiction problems through religious devotion.
Teen Challenge in Texas was exempted from licensing and inspection regulation. The arrangement between governmental financial support and Teen Challenge meant that Teen Challenge was not required to meet regulatory health and safety standards, and their facilities were not inspected even though Teen Challenge received taxpayer funds. Amidst all the media coverage over Teen Challenge child abuse and without this influx of federal funding from faith based initiatives, the centers would surely have lost clients and probably closed.
Establishment of Alternative Accreditation to Evade Inspections
In Florida and Texas, Teen Challenge centers were being accredited by the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA) and the Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (FACCCA). The programs have no medical component and center instead of around prayer, Bible study and religious conversion. Teen Challenge facilities did not uphold First Amendment rights and also did not enforce workplace anti-bias laws. There was also lack of proper oversight over the educational standards of the program.
Florida also decided to exempt Teen Challenge in that state from regulatory inspections by allowing Teen Challenge facilities in Florida to be alternatively accredited. Florida has certified an alternate accreditation board for "faith-based" groups, and its head of Department of Children and Families and Department of Human Services heads are both former Straight, Inc. leaders.
Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies is just the same as the Texas agency and Teen Challenge center in Florida are members of Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies or FACCCA. Not surprisingly, evidence of extensive abuse has turned up with the Florida facility of almost an identical manner to what was documented in Texas. West Florida Teen Challenge Boys’ Ranch in Bonifay, Florida is a confirmed abusive teen program. The contract parents must sign with Teen Challenge states that the Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies’ (FACCCA) "intent" is to "insure the physical and spiritual health, safety, and well being" of the children and therefore that the boy’s ranch must meet FACCCA’s "minimum standards." Parents have to agree to hold the ranch and its employees harmless from "any and all liability" for injury to the child "even injury resulting in death." Parents must agree "that God desires that they resolve their dispute with one another within the church and that they be reconciled in their relationships in accordance with the principles stated in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 5:23-24, and Matthew 18:15-20." If they cannot resolve their disagreement privately within the church, parents must accept resolution through "biblically based mediation" by rules of the Association of Christian Conciliation Services. There is no refund of tuition or deposits if the boy leaves the ranch before 15 months even if the ranch has expelled him. Many residential treatment centers were run with no insurance liability policies and these legal waivers were used to prevent liability law suits. Thus parents were told that if they signed the waiver they had no legal rights even if their child was injured.
Further Protections through Official State Liaison Positions
To further insulate Teen Challenge from governmental regulation and oversight, Governor George W. Bush’s advisory board made recommendations which resulted in state legislation creating official state liaison positions in several key government entities and limiting certain licensing requirements for FBOs. Texas was also the first state to create a formal OFBCI. Creating an OFBCI, as well as appointing liaisons in various sections of government, was part of a larger cultural and structural shift that redefined the boundaries between church and state in Texas. An adviser was appointed by Governor George Bush to change key agencies to alter their regulatory procedures and protocols to make them more receptive to faith-based programs such as Teen Challenge. In addition people were selectively chosen based on their receptiveness to the new policies and then place in positions of power and authority on state governing boards. In Texas, Governor George W. Bush had a close relationship with leaders of the resurgent evangelical community, such as Joe Loconte, Marvin Olasky, Stanley Carlson-Thies, and Carl Esbeck. This led to the Bush administration creating far reaching changes in state government policy and administration. This state level implementation of Charitable Choice did not create new funding for faith based organizations, instead it consisted of a symbolic alteration of the relationship between church and state and manifested in laws, policies and procedural practices.
The Bush policy team in the Texas governor’s office worked with Stanley Carlson-Thies and Carl Esbeck, who were the chief architects of Charitable Choice as it passed through the US Congress. After Charitable Choice passed through Congress, Carlson-Thies and Esbeck went to Texas to meet with state agency heads to help them understand the new law and to garner support for it by creating Texas faith-based policies. These changes in policy were then presented to the executive directors of the state agencies (TWC-Texas Workforce Commission, DHHS-Department of Health and Human Services, TEA—the Texas Education Agency) and to certain key board members of those agencies. These discussions were to push Charitable Choice principles that Congress enacted in August 1996 as part of federal welfare reform. Texas also added a “nondiscrimination” section in 1997 but did not label it as a Charitable Choice provision. The early political goal was to change the governmental culture from within and without needing to confront and convince state legislators to get on board with legislative changes. Thus only 10 states only enacted 41 laws between 1996 and 2000 that were related to faith based initiatives. But since then, there has been an increasing amount of legislation specifically focused on the initiatives.
In July 1999 Bush delivered his first major policy address as presidential candidate in Indianapolis. There he unveiled his new pro-faith agenda and to paint himself as a “new kind of Republican” – one that is politically conservative, fiscally conservative but who would support the use of faith-based nonprofit organizations to deliver help to those in need.
After the election of President Bush in 2000, 230 additional laws regarding faith based initiatives were enacted, and now 31 states have enacted some form of legislation. Several states of note are New Jersey, Oklahoma and Florida. In each of these states, George W. Bush has close ties. New Jersey’s Governor Christie Todd Whitman was a close friend, so was Oklahoma’s governor, Francis Anthony "Frank" Keating. In Florida, Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush was the governor. Jeb Bush asked for increased legislation including new faith-based prison wings, and a new office for the initiative. A OFBCI was established in Florida in 2004. Jeb Bush assigned a point man in each office to oversee the implementation of faith based initiatives.
Establishment of Funding to Faith Based Programs
In January 2001, President George W. Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives within the Executive Office of the President by an Executive Order. Later Executive Orders created centers for the Office within the Departments of Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Agriculture, as well as at the Agency for International Development. Then during George W. Bush’s first term as president, the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) established in 2001 through the Department of Health and Human Services and distributed almost $200 million dollars to various faith and community based organizations. Through a series of executive orders and creating separate faith-based centers in 11 agencies and departments within the federal government, George W. Bush expanded faith-based initiatives significantly from a political standpoint. President George W. Bush also issued executive orders that would religious organizations to discriminate in their hiring practices, making it possible for them to hire only those who share their religious beliefs, despite their receipt of federal money.
President Bush actually promised $8 billion, during the campaign trail but the Compassion Capital Fund fell dramatically short of that goal, leaving many that supported the Charitable Choice with added social responsibilities and no federal funding stream to cover expectations. These faith based initiatives first obtained their support mainly from the evangelical churches, but later support came from a variety of black churches, and even the Catholic Church. Many in religious circles saw Charitable Choice as a means to allow the church greater religious freedom while performing social services. Critics maintain that vast amounts of this funding was funneled to political allies such Christian organizations that had politically supported George W. Bush and who endorsed Operation Blessing, a charity run by television evangelist Pat Robertson. This political bias in granting funds can also been seen in the support of the InnerChange Prison Program. Governor George W. Bush supported Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministry which became part of the Texas prison system. Colson was sent to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Chuck Colson was known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man” and is Believed to be a member of the Family (also known as the Fellowship).
But for many who politically supported the faith based initiatives these were just empty promises which did not increase funding for beleaguered faith based social service programs. This was especially true for the smaller religious organizations, as they were still in competition with the larger established church based providers, as well as community based NGO’s and there was a smaller pot of federal funding actually available due to welfare budget cuts. Charitable Choice federal funding did not ameliorate the problems of poverty for all but instead only seemed to materialize for the chosen politically correct few. So the actual shift of money in the faith based programs was away from government run welfare programs for the poor which often served minority, immigrant, migrant or disabled persons and instead toward upper middle class Christians.
George W. Bush White House OFBCI sent letters to all state governors in 2002, 2004, and 2006 encouraging them to create their own OFBCIs. But there were no guidelines on how to establish the offices, or on how to fund them, and thus an unorganized program implementation ensued. Most States relied on administrative changes to encourage faith-based groups to apply for and receive government money. There are three primary means by which states have implemented the faith-based initiatives:
1) Creation of liaison positions and/or offices,
2) Passage of legislation and administrative policies
3) Sponsorship of conferences
Three states have added Charitable Choice provisions to legislation. These are: Arizona (1999), California (1999), and Mississippi (2004). Since 1996, legislative appropriations processes in 16 states have offered some type of funding to FBOs or OFBCIs, leading to 42 separate appropriation bills which have allocated approximately $70 million. In 2007, a total of 10 appropriation laws were passed in 10 states, thus increasing the overall funding for faith based initiatives. Florida passed appropriations bills directed to faith-based and community groups for teenage pregnancy prevention programs, granting them $1,500,000 of non-recurring maternal block grant trust funds. New Jersey has allocated approximately $3 million a year since 1998. In fact, the vast majority of state legislative funding of FBOs has come from this one state. Thus public money has gone to faith based groups, but what monitoring and oversight occurs once the funds are distributed is a concern, as is whether there is political bias in selecting recipients.
While the vast majority of OFBCIs and FBL positions have been created administratively, some states have given these positions greater permanence by enacting them with legislation. Kentucky (2005), Iowa (2004), Missouri (2007), Virginia (2002), Louisiana (2004), North Dakota (2005), Ohio (2005), Alaska (2007), and Maryland (2008) have created FBL positions or OFBCIs by statute.
President George W. Bush by Executive Order created the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in each of these 5 federal agencies to work in tandem with the White House OFBCI, to make federal grants available to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives nationwide. Cabinet Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
1. Department of Health and Human Services;
2. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
3. Department of Labor;
4. Department of Justice; and
5. Department of Education.
For additional information about the Charitable Choice faith-based initiatives see:
Or Read full report at www.governor.state.tx.us/Faith-Based/faithful.pdf
For information about Teen Challenge Child Abuse http://www.heal-online.org/childtortureusa.htm#teenchallenge
A detailed report provided by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. Nov. 4th, 2004 newsletter. http://childrenshealthcare.org/