President Bush moved to establish a White House office that
he hoped would distribute billions of dollars through
religious groups and charities over the next 10 years. The
U.S. president wants to let such groups administer taxpayer
money to provide after-school programs, prison ministries
and drug treatment, among other things. Critics say using
public money for such programs could violate the wall
between church and state that is mandated by the U.S.
Constitution. Up to now such programs have been administered
only by secular nonprofit organizations.
Another key element of Bush's approach is expanding tax
deductions for charitable donations. He wants to make such
donations tax deductible even for those who do not itemize
deductions, encouraging many more people to give to
Mr. Bush announced on Monday that he has settled on
University of Pennsylvania political science professor John
J. DiIulio Jr. to head a new White House office and that
former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith will chair a new
advisory board whose work will complement the new White
House office. Bush is Protestant, DiIulio is Catholic and
Goldsmith is Jewish.
Some churches are wary of government money that might come
with strings attached and other critics have come out
strongly against the approach.
Bush said religious groups must be part of the solution to
society's ills. "A compassionate society is one which
recognizes the great power of faith," Bush said last week.
"We in government must not fear faith-based programs, we
must welcome faith-based programs."
In other areas, Bush also was trying to formulate a long-
range national energy policy. Aides said California's power
crisis was certain to be at the center of the discussion
among Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Treasury Secretary
Paul O'Neill, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham.
Bush has said the California crunch is a state problem, not
a federal one. But by participating publicly in the meeting,
he signaled it is moving up on his agenda.
On Sunday, Cheney again hinted that the administration would
explore easing environmental regulations that have hindered
building new power generators. Bush also was dispatching top
energy officials to meet with governors of Western states
affected by the crunch.
On his fourth day in office, the new president sent a major
initiative on education to Congress, an area where he has
both expertise and strong support for change.
On Monday, Bush unveiled his plan to provide prescription
drugs to seniors through the Medicare program. Bush,
borrowing elements of a congressional Republican plan,
pledged to revamp the entire Medicare program, giving senior
citizens a choice of health plans, including some that offer
But Bush said this overhaul would not take effect for four
years. In the meantime, he would give states money to help
low-income seniors pay for drugs. Mr. Bush said his proposal
provides access to drug coverage for 9.5 million of the most
vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries, until Congress approves
fundamental changes in Medicare. This is about a quarter of
all Medicare beneficiaries.
Critics question the wisdom of creating a new web of
programs that may disappear four years later. They also
argue that once created, the grants would be hard to stop
after four years.
The encouragement and government financing of faith-based
programs was a major campaign issue for Mr. Bush, who has
said he reads the Bible every day. And the decision to
entrust the new federal office in charge of that effort to
Mr. DiIulio, a widely published expert on juvenile crime
with impressive academic credentials, is an example of the
political caution with which the Bush administration will
Mr. DiIulio will head the new White House Office of Faith-
Based and Community Initiatives, which will serve as a
liaison to nonprofit groups and identify exemplary programs
that can serve as national models. Mr. Bush also established
centers at the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor,
Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development
to ensure that they cooperate with religious and secular
In addition to Mr. DiIulio, the other central figure in the
effort is Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of
Indianapolis who was the chief domestic policy adviser for
Mr. Bush's presidential campaign.
Several Bush advisers said Mr. Goldsmith would be the
chairman of a new national advisory board, called the
Corporation for National Service, whose work will complement
that of the new federal office. Mr. Goldsmith will also
serve as an official adviser to Mr. Bush on the issue.
"It is about faith-based institutions, but it's also about
more than that," said another Bush adviser, referring to Mr.
Bush's plan to encourage all kinds of private groups to
administer more of the kinds of local programs often
provided by government.
A more thorough integration of faith-based and other not-for-
profit groups into federally financed social services is a
cornerstone of compassionate conservatism, a political
philosophy with which Mr. Bush has strongly identified
Compassionate conservatism holds that while the government
should limit the scope of the social services it provides,
it should take an active role as a catalyst and source of
financing for work done by neighborhood and religious
Mr. Bush has said some of the groups with the best results
for rehabilitating prisoners or fighting drug abuse are ones
that take religious and spiritual approaches. He has also
said the government should not hesitate to give money to
these groups, as long as secular groups that provide similar
services are also available.
Mr. DiIulio is a fellow at both the Manhattan Institute,
which is a conservative think tank, and the Brookings
Institute, which is not. He identifies himself as a new
Mr. DiIulio has also done extensive work with black pastors
in urban areas, and one of the Bush administration's hopes
is that its advocacy of faith-based programs will be a
bridge to black ministers and win some support with the
Congressional Black Caucus.
Mr. Bush garnered the support of about 9 percent of black
voters in the presidential election and has been reaching
out aggressively to African-Americans ever since.
For his work with churches, Mr. Goldsmith, a Republican, was
lauded by many evangelical Christian leaders. But some
Jewish leaders said they were nervous about an approach that
redirects tax dollars to churches.