Bush’s director of faith-based initiatives praises liberal successor

John J. DiIulio, a former GOP appointee, offers some pointed criticism of Bush insiders to the Washington Post

Topics: Politics, Religion, Religion Dispatches, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, john diiulio,

Bush's director of faith-based initiatives praises liberal successorJohn J. DiIulio (Credit: Screenshot, YouTube)
This article originally appeared on Religion Dispatches.

John J. DiIulio, the first director of George W. Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has taken to the Washington Post to laud President Obama’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In it, he cutely claims to like Obama’s director of the faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, better than “Bush’s first ‘faith czar.’”
Religion Dispatches

Less than a year into his own tenure, DiIulio resigned in disgust, and complained about Bush staffers who sought to dole out favors to religious conservatives rather than serve “compassionate conservativism.” He notoriously coined the term “Mayberry Machiavellis” to describe Bush insiders, who, in relation to faith-based legislation, “winked at the most far-right House Republicans” in attempting to pass legislation for the faith-based office. That bill, which went nowhere, was drafted because Bush staffers thought it “satisfied certain fundamentalist leaders and Beltway libertarians.”

DiIulio, who later advised Obama in the transition, has high praise for Obama’s incarnation of the office, which is now entering its fourth year. Like Bush’s, the office is authorized via presidential executive order rather than statutorily, so it will continue to operate, if at all, at the whim of future presidents. But to DiIulio’s eye, it is more in line with what he envisioned for “compassionate conservatism.” Under Obama, he posits, more is being done “to foster ‘faith-based and neighborhood partnerships’ that feed hungry children, expand affordable housing, generate jobs for ex-prisoners, and do other real social and civic good.”

His phrasing makes the project seem unassailable, and he suggests that only “secular liberals” remain dissatisfied. But as Interfaith Alliance president Rev. C. Welton Gaddy notes in his response, one can “fully support government funding for social services, especially when the health and welfare of children are involved” and be “grateful for the hard work being done by faith-based organizations across the country to provide social services to the community,” but “if faith-based organizations receive taxpayer dollars, they should be required to follow the same rules as every other non-profit organizations who receive such funds.”

Gaddy is referring to Obama’s decision to permit federally-funded religious organizations to hire only candidates that suit their religious preferences, and fire ones who don’t. Civil liberties and religious organizations opposed to the rule have spent the past four years since Obama launched the OFBNP urging the president to require these groups to comply with anti-discrimination laws if they accept taxpayer money, to no avail.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union, we now know that the Justice Department, under Obama, has adopted a policy of granting certificates of exemption to taxpayer-funded religious organizations that request one. It has not revealed how many organizations have received such exemptions from federal anti-discrimination law.

Anxious to portray the Obama effort as a centrist ideal, DiIulio rather cavalierly dismisses this and other lingering problems, including a lack of transparency. He admits that while “hard data are hard to find,” it nonetheless “appears that the number of faith-based grantees has actually increased since 2008, and some religious nonprofits, notably the largest Catholic ones, have received record federal funding over the last several years.” (emphasis added)

The transparency issue is hardly a minor one. Why are hard data hard to find? If there indeed has been a record amount of taxpayer funding of religious organizations, solving the constitutional problems becomes more imperative. Transparency is critical for taxpayers to where government money is being spent, not only for assessing whether it’s being spent effectively, but also for assessing whether religious recipients are using it in a constitutional way. If we don’t know which organizations are receiving money, then how do we know that they are playing by rules prohibiting proselytization, for example?

DiIulio suggests, though, that since both sides (“secular liberals” and religious conservatives) have been annoyed with Obama’s policies with regard to religion, everything must be alright, after all:

Subject to case by case reviews, the Obama administration has let stand rules that permit religious nonprofits that receive government grants to hire only co-religionists, but it has also issued new rules that require religious nonprofits that receive federal money to offer employees insurance packages that violate some groups’ religious beliefs and tenets.

As Gaddy points out, it’s not just the “secular liberals” DiIulio points at who oppose the discriminatory hiring rule; religious organizations, like the Interfaith Alliance, who support secular government, have been part of the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination. What’s more, DiIulio’s juxtaposition of this rule with the contraception benefit requirement under the Affordable Care Act is just bizarre. DiIulio mystifyingly refers to the contraception coverage requirement as “new rules that require religious nonprofits that receive federal money to offer employees insurance packages that violate some groups’ religious beliefs.” Of course it was not, as he suggests, crafted as a way to stick it to taxpayer-funded religious organizations. It was not a way of evening out the disappointment of civil liberties advocates with faith-based hiring discrimination with something that would anger religious conservatives. It’s a health care rule, meant to advance the reproductive health of American women. The policy of allowing taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate in hiring benefits no one but the religious organizations who want to accept taxpayer money but not play by the rules. As Gaddy says, feeding hungry children is an essential goal. But since it could be done without raising these constitutional issues, why isn’t it?

Sarah Posner is the senior editor of Religion Dispatches, where she writes about politics. She is also the author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters" (PoliPoint Press, 2008).

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>