This website is an archive and will no longer be updated. For continuing research and analysis of faith-based social services, turn to the
Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The Bush Administration's Faith-Based and Community Initiative

Very soon after he took office in January of 2001, President George W. Bush issued two Executive Orders that set in motion the Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI).  These Orders established Centers for the FBCI in the White House and core federal agencies, and directed the agency Centers to identify barriers that prevented faith-based and community organizations from competing on an equal basis for federal social welfare funding.

The following year, following a comprehensive survey by the agency FBCI Centers, the President issued another Executive Order, directing federal agencies to remove such barriers and guarantee equal treatment for faith-based organizations (FBOs) and other community-based nonprofits in federal grants and contracts.  By the end of 2004, virtually all federal agencies had complied with the President's directives.  New regulations (see below), covering the full range of federal social welfare funding programs, prohibited agencies from discriminating against FBOs based on their religious character, and ensured FBOs that they could retain their religious identity while providing publicly funded services.

In addition to the substantial regulatory changes, the FBCI undertook a broad effort to encourage faith-based and community organizations to participate in government-funded social welfare programs.  This outreach effort included regional conferences at which agency officials - and occasionally the President himself - highlighted opportunities for participation, and provided workshops to help organizations develop the skills needed to compete for and manage government grants.  The FBCI also offered technical assistance programs targeted toward particular service areas, such as substance abuse treatment, employment training, and parenting skills.

The President's effort to advance the FBCI through legislation was largely unsuccessful.  Disputes over the issue of religious hiring derailed most legislation that focused directly on aid for FBOs.  The Compassion Capital Fund (CCF), however, represents one exception to this legislative impasse.  Between 2002 and 2008, Congress appropriated over $250 million to fund capacity-building programs for faith-based and community organizations.  This funding reflects the FBCI's primary emphasis on expanded participation of faith-based and community organizations.  The CCF has supported the work of intermediary organizations in training and providing technical assistance to faith-based and community social welfare organizations.  In addition, the CCF has made grants to faith-based and community organizations for the purpose of capacity-building.

Other areas of focus involved "clusters of service" identified by the Bush Administration, centered on prisoner re-entry and mentoring children of prisoners; accessibility to health care and substance abuse services; and on expanding the participation of religious partners in American programs of international aid, such as in addressing malaria and HIV/AIDS.

Public response to the federal effort was mixed. Supporters say the Initiative removed discriminating barriers against religious organizations, "leveled the playing field" (to use the Administration's own phrase) for them to receive government grants, and brought more compassionate and personalized government-funded services to the needy. Critics charge the Initiative was used to woo political support, violated constitutional provisions for separation of church and state, and failed to provide promised money for social programs.

Roundtable Reports

The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George W. Bush and the Faith-Based Initiative

State of the Law 2008: A Cumulative Report on Legal Developments Affecting Government Partnerships with Faith-Based Organizations

Constitutional Change and Responsibilities of Governance Pertaining to the Faith-Based and Community Initiative, presented June 27, 2008 at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Conference on Innovations in Effective Compassion.

Roundtable Interviews

Q&A on the Legacy of the Bush Administration's Faith-Based and Community Initiative,
Nov. 25, 2008

Jay Hein, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives,
Sept. 9, 2008

Chip Lupu and Bob Tuttle on Changes in Rules Governing the Faith-Based and Community Initiative, July 1, 2008

U.S. Representative Mark Edward Souder, May 20, 2008

Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Feb. 26, 2008

John DiIulio, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Nov. 6, 2007 

Bob Wineburg, author of "Faith-Based Inefficiency: The Follies of Bush's Initiatives,"
Feb. 13, 2007

David Kuo, author of "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction,"
Oct. 17, 2006

Stanley Carlson-Thies, Center for Public Justice, April 25, 2006

Ronald Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, March 28, 2006

Marvin Olasky, professor and author, on the origins and progress of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative, Dec. 20, 2004

Jim Wallis, liberal evangelical pastor and founder of Sojourners, July 1, 2003

Roundtable News Stories

President Bush Makes Final Push to Boost Faith-Based Legacy, Dec. 9, 2008

Legal Changes During Bush Administration Set New Stage for Faith-Based Ventures, Dec. 9, 2008

At Finish, Bush Faith-Based Initiative Gets Mixed Reviews, Nov. 18, 2008

White House Celebrates Faith-Based Initiative as President's Term Nears End, July 1, 2008

White House Touts Faith-Based Achievements in Report, Feb. 26, 2008

Bush Promotes Faith-Based Initiatives in Final State of the Union Address, Jan. 29, 2008

State of the Union to Push Faith-Based Initiative, Jan. 28, 2003

Durability of Bush Administration's Faith-Based Effort At Issue in 2008, Jan. 8, 2008

Controversial Book Portrays Faith-Based Effort as Political Ploy, Oct. 17, 2006

Faith-Based and Community Initiative Draws Praise and Fire, June 28, 2005

President Calls for New Faith and Community Initiative, Feb. 8, 2005

Bush Administration Resources

The Quiet Revolution: The President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative:
A Seven-Year Progress Report

Federal regulatory changes made to implement the Faith-Based and Community Initiative