This partial transcript of The Beltway Boys, April 28, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST:  Welcome back to The Beltway Boys.

The pillar of President Bush's compassionate conservative agenda, faith-based initiatives, is under fire from both the left and the right.  Joining us to talk about selling the plan to the public and Congress is John DiIulio, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives.

Welcome to the show, John.


BARNES:  Now, the Pew Research Center, John, did a poll last month on this topic.  You may have seen it.  And in any case, it's a good news-bad news scenario for you.  A whopping 75 percent backed the idea of government funding of faith-based groups, but majorities within that group have some important concerns when that idea is put into practice.  Sixty-eight percent are concerned government will become too involved with religious organizations, 60 percent are concerned that people will be forced to embrace religious practices in order to get social services, and 52 percent worry the line between church and state would be blurred.

Well, let me just ask you about one of them, the concern that people will be forced to embrace some religious practice in order to get social services.  This is a concern, I know, that's been expressed by Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.  What about it?

DIIULIO:  Well, you know, Senator Lieberman raises an important point.  He stated that concern with a degree of precision that I respect.  But the fact is that under charitable choice -- which, by the way, has been on the books for over four and a half years, so we have some actual experience with it -- beneficiaries cannot be discriminated against on any basis,
including a religious basis.  Gender, age, you name it.

So it's a concern, I know, when people got asked in polls, and there are whole rafts of polls that have been done where you get somewhat different, more positive results across the board.  But it's addressed in the existing law, and it's certainly addressed in the expansion legislation that's now in the House.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST:  Well, but addressing that, isn't it true that part of drug rehabilitation, for example, is actually infusing religion and trying to, trying to change people's faith, trying to have them reach out to a higher power, as in the case of A.A.?  I mean, that,
that is inculcating religion as part of the treatment.  How do you handle that?  Isn't that separating -- violating the separation of church and state?

DIIULIO:  Not in the least.  Again, this has been around -- this is nothing new.  Congress passed the first version of this beneficiary or charitable choice law four and a half years ago.  We have experience with it.  There have been studies done across nine states, looking at the actual implementation of the law to date.

And it just is not -- it's not really a concern.  You got to remember, it's beneficiaries who choose program, it actually increases the options for them so that they can choose the program, the social service of their choice.

And the same is true for the social service providers.  It simply makes it possible for faith-based organizations to compete for federal support to administer programs on the same basis as any other nongovernmental provider.

BARNES:  John, I'm convinced that faith-based social services probably work better.  And yet, as you've said before, there's no empirical data that shows that.  And it -- and my question is, are we going ahead with this whole faith-based initiative based on anecdotes?

DIIULIO:  Well, you know, I've often said, the plural of anecdote is not data.  There are several different questions, and there's been a lot reported, and a lot reported out of context by various people.  But the fact of the matter is, we have compelling evidence that the -- on the fact that the faith-based organizations are out there en masse, that they provide over 200 different kinds of social services, that many have collaborated with government in the past, that there hasn't been a level playing field, and that when we get good public-private religious-secular partnerships, we achieve remarkable civic results, whether it's preschool,
prison ministry, health care, housing rehab, you name it.

What we don't have definitive empirical evidence on, by any means, is the exact efficacy of given faith-based programs.  But I also should say, we don't have definitive evidence, after 30-plus years of funding non-faith-based programs, that they have much efficacy.  So if one were to compare, you know, comparative terms, there's a pretty robust body of

KONDRACKE:  Right.  Well, two points.  I mean, one, faith-based initiatives now, as I understand it, do not participate as fully as they might where, where they are invited to by the existing law.  And secondly, you have all these public programs that don't work, partly because they're weighted down by bureaucracy and regulations and stuff like that.

Now you're going to submit these faith-based institutions to the tender mercies of government regulation.  Aren't you going to spoil the work that they can do?

DIIULIO:  No, because, Mort, the reality is that faith-based organizations opt in.  Nobody makes them opt in.  There are, we know, for example, that only about 7 percent of the urban communities serving ministries out there, they're doing all this good work, even know about
charitable choice on the books for four and a half years.  We also know that 60 percent of them, when explained -- when it's -- when asked and when they -- when the law is explained to them, 60 percent say, Yes, we'd like to consider getting involved in it.

So they opt in, and...

KONDRACKE:  So during, so during the Clinton administration, when this was all passed, the, the law was there, but there was no outreach and try...

DIIULIO:  There wasn't, you know, to be completely fair, I think President Clinton and Vice President Gore really did a good job of getting that law on the books and of beginning to implement it.  There was some real action at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Cuomo.  But there wasn't really implementing legislation.  And in 31 states, nothing at all has happened in those four and a half years.

And in my home town of Philadelphia, we've got over 2,000 communities serving congregations, we've got exactly one that's received any help and support.  And we know these grassroots groups are out there.  We know they're making bricks without straw.  Just want to level the playing field, and so that they can compete for support in the area -- service areas where they're strong.

BARNES:  And John, how, how big a program can this be?  I mean, how big a role can government play in steering  money, government money, private money, to these face-baith -- faith-based groups?

DIIULIO:  Well, I mean, again, I don't want to -- you know, the locutions here are critical.  No one's talking about government funding for religion or religious charities or faith-based programs.  What we're talking about is, if faith-based organizations are out there with
government putting hundreds of billions of dollars into nonprofit organizations to administer government programs, we're saying faith-based organizations, including small, grassroots ones, ought to be able to step forward and say, Hey, here's our track record, we'd like to seek support to administer these federal programs on the same basis as any other
nongovernmental providers.

So potentially, we don't know what the upside potential is.  But as a matter of fairness and in constitutional law, they ought to be able to enter and compete on a level playing field.

BARNES:  John, a quick final question, and remembering that you're a Democrat...


BARNES:  ... is there anything that you wish President Bush had done in his first 100 days that he didn't do?

DIIULIO:  I think the president, in all honesty, Fred, I just continue to marvel at the fact that he has such a big heart for the least, the last, and the lost of our society, and that he continues to strive on so many different areas of domestic policy and international affairs as well.

So no, I think we've gotten tremendous traction.  We done some, I think, really interesting things.  We've had a great Senate debate and discourse.  And now we're looking forward to really reaching out and helping those people who need help the most by getting government in behind these faith organizations.

KONDRACKE:  Thank you, John.

DIIULIO:  Thank you very much.

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