Faith-Based Initiative Director Discusses Importance of Funding Faith Groups

( [email protected] ) May 05, 2004 11:00 AM EDT

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the White House made a speech Thursday last week, in ICC auditorium, and discussed the benefits of religiously motivated service and humanitarian work, arguing that the Bush administration’s faith-based initiatives are necessary for the government’s social welfare system.

The faith-based initiatives director James Towey, a Catholic, mentioned his experience with Mother Teresa, as her former legal counsel, saying that her life proves what faith-based organizations can do. He discussed his work with the poor and the mission in Calcutta with Mother Teresa, including an AIDS home she established in Washington, D.C.

“Mother Teresa’s life was a faith-based initiative,” Towey said. “Her life was evidence to the performing power of what faith-based organizations can do. In a world of so much affluence, we still see pockets of despair and hopelessness.”

During his speech, he also discussed some of the problems with state and federally run social welfare programs in providing both physical and spiritual needs of the people. He pointed out that compassion is the crucial element that is needed in state run service organizations.

“If we measure compassion based on the size of the block grant, we should be asking these questions about effectiveness,” he said. “You patronize the poor with failed solutions.”

He continued by saying that faith-based organizations can make up for the compassion that other secular organizations are lack of by effectively providing spiritual nourishment. “So many of [the poor] are hungry for something deeper than just a government handout,” Towey said.

He explained that the concept of faith-based initiatives, does not only refer to funding larger faith-based organizations, but also smaller organizations, playing major role in providing services in the community that lack funds without government support.

Towey also said in order to avoid the common criticism regarding violating separation of church and state by funding religiously groups, it is critical for faith groups to serve everyone regardless of his or her faith and not force anyone to participate in a religious service.

Lastly, Towey commented on today’s contemporary American society where upholding the freedom of religion has blurred the founding fathers’ intentions for the role of religion in public life and abandoned the positive effects of religious profession in favor of a forced secularism.

“There’s been a hostility towards religion, not a neutrality,” he said.