critique of Texas faith-based initiative

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Thu Sep 11 08:08:41 CDT 2003


[ed: John continues the discussion, distinguishing between 
community organizing and social services approaches.]

From: "John Gaudette" <jgaudette at nwnf.org>

I think the real problem with government funding is the limited 
capacity of churches and synagogues to take an active role in the 
community.   The faith based initiative has the potential to 
overwhelm churches with social services.  Churches may end up 
focusing all their energy on being the communty's safety net.  

Faith-based community organizing looks to re-establish the church 
as a powerful voice for the have-nots.  This requires that the 
church have the capacity to challenge what is happening around 
them and hold power-brokers accountible.   If churches take the 
bait from Bush, they may end up as just another social service that 
reacts to injustice by serving clients instead of changing and 
challenging systems.  It is the path for least resistence for 
overwhelmed pastors.  

John Gaudette
Former organizer


> [ed:  Michael adds another perspective to the discussion.]
> 
> From: Michael Givel <mgivel at earthlink.net>
> 
> I have to disagree with the notion that there is *no* connection 
> between faith-based community organizing and social services. 
> Houses of worship have historically been involved in both 
> independent community organizing *and* the provision of social 
> services.  
> 
> Many scholars agree that there would have not been an effective 
> Civil Rights movement without the independent involvement of 
> African American churches. Now what would have happened to 
> such a movement if African-American churches, say in Missisippi, 
> were the recipients of significant government social service grant 
> dollars from Mississippi?  The potential for political co-optation or 
> at a minimum political retribution would have been very real. 
> 
> Since 1996, the funding of houses of worship was championed in 
> the so called federal welfare reform bill.  It is now being advocated 
> on a much larger scale.  This raises the serious question of how 
> much political independence houses of worship will have in 
> independent political community organizing.
> 
> The late Saul Alinsky was strongly opposed to the funding of 
> community organizing by government. Yet, that is what happened 
> during the War on Poverty in the 1960s and many now argue 
> (myself included) that government funded Community Action 
> Agencies, starting in 1967, were considerably toned down politically 
> due to a reaction of affected powerful interests.
> 
> Moreover, government funding and grants for community 
> organizing and community education sometimes or even frequently 
> occurs with the provision of social services. This could occur, for 
> example, through such programs as community education of 
> substance abuse, Ameri-Corps/VISTA efforts, community outreach 
> for weatherization, etc. It could also occur with requirements of 
> grants for community participation in programs through such 
> avenues as advisory boards. 
> 
> Now, of course, there are many community organizing efforts that 
> are independent of such social service grants.
> 
> Nevertheless, will the warning of the Texas experience possibly 
> play a role in these above sorts of activities? I think the possibility 
> is high.
> 
> 
> 
> > 
> > From: Rob Kleidman <r.kleidman at csuohio.edu>
> > 
> > Rich Wood is right. There's no real connection between faith- 
> > based organizing and Bush's faith-based initiatives, except the 
> > obvious ones of terminology and some connection to organized 
> > religion. But to avoid confusion between the two, I've started calling 
> > the former "congregation-based organizing." As Rich and others 
> > have written, there are also other terms in use, such as IAF's 
> > preferred "broad-based organizing". 
> > 
> > Rob Kleidman
> > 
> > > .
> > > [ed:  Richard emphasizes the difference faith-based community 
> > > organizing and the Bush faith-based social service approach.]
> > > 
> > > From: Richard L Wood <rlwood at unm.edu>
> > > 
> > > I've not read the critique yet, but just in response to Randy's 
> > > editorial note below: Yes, let's think about possible implications for 
> > > faith-based community organizing, but also recognize just how 
> > > sharply different the Bush faith-based initiative and the model of 
> > > faith-based community organizing are -- really different universes.  
> > > 
> > > But I do look forward to reading the critique, when I swim out from
> > > start-of-semester craziness. Rich Wood, Univ of New Mexico
> > > 
> > > 
> > > > .
> > > > [ed:  I welcome discussion on the report cited below, as well as the 
> > > > broader issues raised by it.  While the report does not focus 
> > > > specifically on faith-based organizing (the focus is social services), 
> > > > there may be some implications for community organizing.]
> > > > 
> > > > From: Michael Givel <mgivel at earthlink.net>
> > > > 
> > > > The Texas Freedom Network has issued a report on the five year 
> > > > track record of Faith Based Initiatives in Texas.  Before jumping 
> > > > into this form of community organizing, if you have not looked at 
> > > > this, you might want to read about and consider the possible pitfalls 
> > > > associated with mixing government funding with religion.
> > > > 
> > > > Michael Givel
> > > > 
> > > > http://www.tfn.org/issues/charitablechoice/report02.html
> > > > 
> > 
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