California needs an Office of Faith-Based Initiatives


After listening to the State of the State Address last night, it is clear that California still has a long way to go before our budget problems are behind us. So one would think that we would be looking whatever money is available to help meet the needs of our citizens. In the Democratic reply to the Governor’s speech, Senator Don Perata stated that we need to do a better job of getting back more of the tax dollars that we send to Washington. However, there is one source of money that California is doing little to tap into… Faith-Based Initiative Grants.

In a recent Associate Press (AP) article Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives pointed out the following:

…in 2003, groups dubbed “faith-based” received 1.17 billion in grants from federal agencies, according to documents provided by the White House to The Associated Press. That was about 8 percent of the $14.5 billion spent on social programs that qualify for faith-based grants in five federal departments.

Why isn’t California going after some of this money? Well, there are many on the Democrat side of the isle that continue to fight against faith-based initiatives, despite the fact that the law supports their funding.

Brief History

In 1996 Democrat President Bill Clinton signed Welfare Reform into law. This also included provisions known as “Charitable Choice Provisions” which made it illegal to discriminate against faith-based organizations who applied for federal dollars to administer social service programs. Despite this fact, many states (including California) have still failed to come into compliance with this law.

During his time in the State Assembly and State Senate, Assemblyman Ray Haynes has repeatedly introduced legislation to bring California into compliance. Needless to say, Democrats never allowed it get out of committee, keeping our state from being able to work with faith-based groups.

In 2001 President Bush introduced the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, designed to bring the federal government in line with Charitable Choice Law and to seek out opportunities in every federal department to work with religious groups. AP reports:

States were initially slow to warm to the Bush initiative. An independent 2003 study of state efforts to contract with faith-based groups found little activity. That was partly because states did not see a need to target religious groups and partly because their budgets were so tight that there was little room for new contractors, said Richard Nathan, director of the Rockefeller Institute at the State University of New York in Albany.

So, why does California need an office of Faith-based Initiatives? I’ll give you two reasons:

1. To insure that California is in compliance with Charitable Choice Laws when it comes to administering federal dollars.

2. To go after some of that multibillion-dollar pot of money available to help those in need in our state.

Whether or not you believe government money should go to faith-based groups, the fact is that someone is getting the money. Why not us? These other states are meeting the needs of their citizens with no additional cost to their taxpayers. The only question left to ask is “Are we going to go after these resources to improve conditions here in California?”

You can also check out my commentary Let Us Rebuild on this same topic.

Craig DeLuz

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