This WaPo article summarizes this report, which provides grist for any number of mills. On the one hand, there are those who argue that what the Bush Administrations "faith-based initiative is really all about is de-funding social programs and dumping responsibility for the poor on the charitable sector." The study shows that some categories of social spending declined from 2002 to 2004. Hence while the faith-based share of the pie remained the same (roughly 18%), the pie got some $230 million smaller over those three fiscal years.
Others could point to evidence that more groups shared in the federal largesse, indicating the increasing vitality of the grassroots and a salutary movement away from the usual suspects to smaller, perhaps more innovative groups closer to the people they help.
Stanley Carlson-Thies observes that the relatively constant faith-based share
"gives the lie to alarmists" who think the administration is funneling vast sums to churches.
"Look at the huge percentage of money that continues to go to secular organizations," said Carlson-Thies, who formerly worked in the White House faith-based office. "The image that theres this Bush push thats going to turn the government into a religious apparatus -- if people think that thats whats happening, theyre wrong."
Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, doesnt like the study at all:
The study did not count grant-making programs that were created after 2002 and ignored such programs as Head Start, which he said was the second-largest source of federal funds for religious organizations, after the Department of Housing and Urban Developments Section 202 housing program for the elderly poor.
"They have picked rotten cherries and come up with a rotten pie," Towey said. "They took a very small sample of programs and grants and are drawing conclusions that are completely inaccurate."
Towey said the White House has been collecting growing amounts of data on grants each year, beginning with two federal agencies in 2002, five in 2003, seven in 2004 and 10 in 2005. When it issues its report for 2005 in March, he said, "well look at 25,000 grants in just one year" and "will show theres been an increase every year in the category of competitive, nonformula grants for social services."
Ill reserve final judgment until I see the White House report, though I would take issue with those who measure the character of a governments "compassion" (as if a government can have compassion) simply by the amount of money it spends.
And while Im at it, heres a commentary on the state of the faith-based initiative that doesnt just look at money.
Hat tip: Get Religion.