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Charity and Volunteerism

Bush Announces Faith-Based Initiative

President George W. Bush on January 29, 2001 announced the creation of a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.  He announced that five branch offices would also be created in the Departments of Justice, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education.

The office is expected to open on February 20 under the leadership of University of Pennsylvania professor John DiIulio. The move worries some civil libertarians, who are concerned that it will undermine the separation of church and state.

The creation of the new office is expected to be part of a broader Bush administration initiative to address poverty by emphasizing charitable work, including work by organizations that are faith-based. Related administration initiatives are expected to include a $500-per-person charitable tax credit and a charitable deduction for individuals who do not itemize deductions on their tax returns, both of which could substantially increase donations to charitable groups. According to the Congressional Budget office, the non-itemizer deduction could be worth as much as $75.8 billion over the next nine years. Bush is also expected to support an expansion of existing "charitable-choice" policies, which clarify rules governing the participation of faith-based organizations that receive federal money to perform certain social services.

At the January 29 event Bush cautioned that he believes that work by such groups should supplement, not replace, the work of government agencies. Bush advisor Stephen Goldsmith also indicated that the administration would work to expand the Americorps program, a Clinton-backed volunteer initiative that congressional Republicans had until recently opposed.

Update: The House of Representatives passed legislation (HR 7) containing most of the president's proposal in June, 2001. It is awaiting further action in the Senate.

- Updated 7/1/01

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