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Roundtable 2003 Annual Conference

The Public Benefit of Private Faith

Click here for 2004 annual conference program

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(PDF document)

Date: November 12 & 13, 2003
Location: Washington D.C

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy's fall 2003 conference drew from several multi-pronged national studies, the November conference presented critically needed new information about the scale and efficacy of faith-based social service programs. New reports assess what significance the "faith factor" has on the level of program effectiveness.

Transcripts and Reports:

Wednesday - November 12, 2003

Opening Plenary Session

Faith-Based Services In Action: A Look at One Program and the Questions it Raises

"Faith Partners" is a welfare-to-work program in Colorado Springs that uses church volunteers to serve as "mentors" to people who need help finding and keeping a job. It was the subject of an in-depth report on the PBS program "NOW with Bill Moyers."

After watching an excerpt of the PBS report, a panel of civic and religious leaders conduct a discussion on how FBO's new to social service delivery differ in method and motivation from long standing religious-based providers. What is happening on the ground as FBO's combine faith and service? What are the implications of more overtly religious approaches to social service delivery?

Breakout Sessions

"The California Community and Faith-based Initiative: Preliminary Evaluation Findings"
"Funding Good Works: Faith-based Social Service Coalitions and Funding Issues"
"State Fiscal Crises and Faith-Based Organizations"

Luncheon Remarks:


Legal Plenary Session

Defining Permissible Uses of Public Funds by Faith-Based Social Service Providers: A Conversation Among Lawyers, State Officials, and Representatives of Faith Organizations

The courts have established a set of activities - labeled as "inherently religious" - that may never be undertaken at public expense (religious worship, proselytizing). Some have taken this to mean that tax dollars can be used for anything but "inherently religious activity," but the courts have struck down public funding for activities - substance abuse treatment, for example - that while not religious in inherent character, were nonetheless impermissibly religious activities as performed.
The plenary was structured as a special teaching session. Case scenarios presented describe program activities and situations involving clients of publicly-funded faith-based social services. Members of the expert panel react, offer their perspective, and together, draw out their views on the extent to which religious themes and contact can be intermingled with government-financed social services.

Breakout Sessions


Exploring the Impact of a Faith-Based Program for At-Risk Youth
Private Sector Contributions to Faith-Based Social Services

The Public Benefit of Private Faith: Religious Organizations and the Delivery of Social Services

"FASTEN's National Study of Faith-Based Human Service Programs: A Progress Report"

The Public Benefit of Private Faith: Dinner Remarks by Peter Steinfels

Thursday - November 13, 2003

Comparative Case Plenary Session
Comparative Views on the Role and Effect of Faith in Social Services

A discussion of a new Roundtable study comparing the methods and results of drug treatment programs in Washington, employment/training programs in Indiana, homeless housing programs in Michigan, and responsible parenting programs in Mississippi.
Researchers compared and contrasted faith-based and secular providers of essentially the same service to essentially the same clientele, using variation in the intensity of faith integration to highlight the "faith factor" as an influence on process and effects.

This set of linked comparative case studies help to answer questions that are central to the debate surrounding the President's Faith Based Initiative: What are the differences, if any, between how FBO's and secular agencies deliver services? How, if at all, does a provider's level of religious integration influence its delivery of social services?

Breakout Sessions
The Effectiveness of Faith-Based Employment Programs: Findings From New Studies in Los Angeles and Indiana

"The Cultures of Faith-Based Substance Abuse Treatment Programs: Anthropological and Clients' Perspectives"

"Understanding Spirituality in Community Programming: Overview of Research in Progress"

State Scan Plenary Session - 2:15 pm
Charitable Choice and Faith-Based Social Services: The View from the States

State Case Studies - In-depth looks at faith-based social service program activity in five specific states

Questions addressed include:

To what extent have states passed laws, issued regulations, provided guidance on contracts or taken other actions relating to FBO participation in social service delivery?
Has there been increased involvement by FBO's in this arena?
What are states doing, if anything, to encourage involvement by FBOs in delivering social services by simplifying contract procedures and helping new groups in the contract process?
What are the differences among the states regarding rules that govern FBO participation in providing social services?

Closing Plenary Remarks: Reflections and Directions -
"Reflections and Directions"

As our Fall Research Conference concludes a distinguished panel will share their ideas on new research findings, and assess the impact of recent political and legal developments on faith-based service delivery. The panel will help identify major knowledge gaps and suggest what kind of research might fill them.