<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Feb. 4

face the nation logo, 2009
Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, should the federal government help to finance religious charities? President Bush says yes. Last week, the president put forth an initiative that would let religious charities compete with non-religious organizations for federal funds.

Now, how is that going to work? Is it a violation of separation of church and state? We'll ask the man who is going to set up this program, Stephen Goldsmith, the former mayor of Indianapolis. Then we'll talk with Chuck Colson who runs one of those charities and Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United For Separation of Church and State.

Bill Kristol will join Gloria Borger to talk about the rest of the week's events, and I'll have a final word on real estate.

But first, the issue of faith-based charities on Face The Nation. Faith-based charities on Face The Nation, now that's a mouthful. And joining us this morning, White House adviser Stephen Goldsmith, who is going to help organize this program for the president. He's with us here in our studio. Welcome to you. Along with the Reverend Barry Lynn, who is head of the Americans United For Separation Of Church And State. And with us from Naples, Florida, Chuck Colson, who runs a very successful ministry to people in prisons.

We're going to talk first to Mr. Goldsmith. Explain to me first just what is it you're going to do? Give me the outlines of this program.

Stephen Goldsmith, White House advisor: Well, what the president has said from the inaugural speech actually and the election and through this week is that there are a number of people in this country who prosperity has left behind. And one way to help those people is through community and faith-based organizations. And simply what he has said this week is that government should not discriminate against faith-based organizations.

He's set up a White House office, issued executive orders, submitted legislation to Congress which would say not that there's a separate fund for faith-based organizations but that if the Salvation Army or a small church with a domestic violence shelter wants to bid on government money put out for the purpose of shelter or food or health, they should be allowed to bid on those services just like anyone else.

Schieffer: Well, let me just cut right to the chase. Let's say that the Reverend Louis Farrakhan, who runs a very successful rehabilitation project for people in federal prisons, in all prisons - let's suppose that he comes and bids on one of these. Would he be eligible for federal money?

Goldsmith: Well, let's kind of look at the situation the way it is today. I mean, basically, what the president said is we shouldn't discriminate against faith-based organizations. If an organization today can apply for funds because it's secular, right, to do drug treatment or whatever, sets up a 501(c)(3 next door to apply to those, then you evaluate that proposal based on the terms of the grant. Does it - is it performance? Is it accountable? Does it stop people from using drugs again? You cannot discriminate against people on the basis of religion.

Schieffer: But people say - some say that the Reverend Farrakhan preaches hate. Would he - I'd just like to get back to the original question. Would he be eligible?

Goldsmith: Right, and I would say that you can't discriminate on the basis of religion, but you can discriminate on the basis of the purposes of the organization. If the organization preaches hate or violence, it wouldn't comply with the terms of the agreement.

Schieffer: What about the Church of Scientology?

Goldsmith: I think the same is true of all of these issues. But actually, they're no different this week than they were last week. Those organizations can come in with their 501(c)(3)s and apply. I would say, if they preach hate, if they can't perform the terms of the contract, they shouldn't be allowed to apply.

Now having said all that, a much better way to do this and endorsed by the president this week, is direct contributions from an individual to their church or their synagogue or their mosque encouraging charitable contributions. But you can't discriminate on the basis of the religion.

Schieffer: Who decides if they're preaching hate or if they're preaching love?

Goldsmith: I would think this is the same as it is today. These are not easy questions, and there are tough issues. But the government puts out money for domestic violence shelters, it puts out money for the homeless, it puts out money for health causes. People bid on the right to produce that.

There's a fair amount of this work that's done today by Catholic social services and Lutheran and Jewish, and they cannot use the money for religion. An individual who needs help can't be forced through the door of a religious provider. But if a - if you have a person standing in New York City, and on the left-hand side is a secular New York City door for the homeless and on the right is Salvation Army, they should be allowed to go to the Salvation Army if they wish.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: But how do you respond to the charge that people who are seeking help could then be subject to religious indoctrination?

Goldsmith: I would respond this way. If you are homeless and you don't want to be mixed up with a religious organization, you should have an option. Government should never force you through the front door of a religious organization. If, however, you have a choice of a faith-based organization and you, the individual, choose to go there and you have to pray before your lunch meal, you should be required to pray.

Borger: But what if you live in a rural area and, say, the faith-based help group is the closest one to you and the other ne is 100 miles away?

Goldsmith: Yes. Those are questions you have to confront on a case-by-case basis. But the purpose of the president's proposal is that the people in need should have options.

Borger: Now on the other side of this, there are the religious groups, some of whom oppose this because they say that, in fact, once government gets involved it's only going to dilute their faith, dilute their programs and it will become a great bureaucracy. How do you respond to those?

Goldsmith: I think those are reasonable objections, actually. I mean, there's a fair - I did a lot of this in Indianapolis and some of my friends who were Evangelical - I happen to be Jewish - some of my friends who are Evangelical said, "Thanks a lot, Mayor, we appreciate the offer. We want nothing to do with you. Right, because we're just - it's not that we don't trust you, but we don't trust government entanglement.''

My position on that, the president's position, is it ought to be the choice of the Salvation Army or the neighborhood church. They should decide whether they wish to compete for this money. If they decide not to, more power to them. If they decide they want to, they shouldn't be prevented from doing it.

Schieffer: Are there in fact things that these - it's hard for me to say "faith-based," I'd just like to say religious organizations. Is there in fact - are there things that those organizations can do that the government can't do?

Goldsmith: Right. I think that's an interesting question, and I would answer it this way. In this kind of post-welfare-reform era that we're in, the needs of people who are hurting are multiple. And the bureaucracy can't handle those very well. It's got a program for this, a program for that, a program for this. So neighborhood faith-based and community organizations can bring those things together and reach out to persons in their neighborhood.

And a faith organization -and the president speaks about this with great passion - can provide those services and also give that person, through their belief in God, a confidence in themselves that kind of inoculates them against these other problems in life. So, they're very real and they're very powerful.

Borger: Would you give tax dollars to religious groups that discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring? Say, a religious group that is Christian that says, "We will only hire Christians." Would you give federal money to those groups?

Goldsmith: The current law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton says that if the Catholic Church or any other organization hires only Catholics in their organization, they should be allowed to continue to do that. So you can't discriminate on the basis of race, can't discriminate on the basis of disabilities or age, but an organization that receives federal dollars should be able to hire consistent with its principles, so lng, of course - remember that the person that needs help can go somewhere else if they wish.

Borger: So you can discriminate?

Goldsmith: On the basis of religion.

Schieffer: You know, it seems to me that this could work if the federal government exercised common sense, if all sides exercised common sense. But you know, one of the things we find about the federal government is it doesn't always exercise common sense. How do you make that work? How do you make this become a common sense program?

Goldsmith: I think the risks are certainly real, right, that secular organizations will abuse money from time to time, faith-based organizations will abuse money, that there will be problems. But if you kind of watch what the president did as governor in Texas and kind of followed him through urban areas the last year and you see people whose lives have been turned around, it's very difficult to reach the conclusion that because of an occasional abuse they should be prevented from this option.

So what you have to do is make sure that government funds what government should do: food and shelter and health, and that you don't discriminate against religion but nor do you tilt the balance in favor of religious providers.

Schieffer: Stephen Goldsmith, thank you very much and good luck.

Goldsmith: Thank you.

Schieffer: I want to turn now to Chuck Colson who is down in Naples, Florida, today, and many of you will remember Chuck Colson from the old Watergate days of the Nixon administration. Chuck Colson was one of those who ran into a little bad luck after that. But after that, he turned his life to an entirely different direction, and he now heads up a ministry that ministers to people in prison.

Mr. Colson, welcome. Give me some sense of the size of the organization you're running now.

Rev. Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship Ministries: We have about 50,000 volunteers in the United States, Bob, working in prisons, most of the major prisons across America. And we also reach out to kids at Christmas time with something called Angel Tree. Last year, we got to 590,000 kids. That's a wonderful faith-based solution to go out and get these kids most at risk before they commit crime.

We also run three prisons in America, one that, when he was governor, President Bush in Texas invited us in in Houston. That's been a huge success.

We've had 80 graduates out of that program over a three-year period who completed an 18-month program, and they are intensely disciplined and trained during that period of time. So far, only three are back in custody, which is an extraordinary statistic. It won't stay that good but it's very good.

We also run one in Iowa and one in Kansas. We've run several in South America over the years and have been able to keep the recidivism rate down to less than 5 percent. So I think...

Schieffer: There's no question you have made success of this program. It's been hailed in every quarter. But what about this idea of injecting federal money into it? Do you want federal money, number one; and number two, does that make it harder, more difficult, or would you look forward to it?

Colson: Well, I think what President Bush said this week, I was in the meeting with him when he announced this, was right to the point. He said: Government can't change the human heart. And if we can bring in organizations like yours, like all these faith-based solutions, that they can deal with the problems of the heart, they can do something government can't do, we ought to be working together. There shouldn't be discrimination.

Would we take the funds? Yes. We take state funds in Iowa and in Kansas today. It works out perfectly. We were offered them in Michigan for a wonderful program we had, a non-residential program for integrating offenders coming out of prison back into the Detroit community. The government wanted to give us $1 million but they said we couldn't simply hire Christians. And we said keep your million dollars.

So I think the faith-based community has to say we're going to keep our independence, but if you want to buy our services and help us with per diem costs for these inmates or whatever, drug offenders or whatever, drug addicts, whatever the need is, then, of course, we should be able to compete on equal terms with anyone else.

Borger: Reverend Lynn, what's wrong with what Mr. Colson is saying or doing?

Rev. Barry Lynn, Americans United For Separation Of Church And State: Well, the big problem is, it is impossible, literally impossible, to separate your religious activities from your secular activities in these programs. The reasons some of these work for individuals and make their lives different is because people are communicating with them, as Mr. Colson does in Texas all the time that they're in their program.

You can't just turn off religion when the spigot opens and there's a federal dollar coming out, and then go back to being religious when it's a private dollar. That is not how these faith-based organizations, in fact, work.

And in fact, Mr. Goldsmith himself has said numerous times this week that there are no studies that even demonstrate that faith-based organizations work better than other kinds of organizations.

So we're about to make a sea change in the way that we give out federal dollars, and we haven't even checked if there's a hole in the boat yet. I don't think that's a very prudent way to start a new federal program.

Schieffer: Does it bother you or does it concern you that we may suddenly have churches competing aggressively for the same federal tax dollar? And what would be the impact of that?

Lynn: I think the impact could be terrible. That is, it could hurt volunteerism and it could hurt this whole ecumenical spirit of churches, synagogues, temples, mosques all working toether in America's inner cities, because if you're going to use a competitive model, this is not the place to do it. This is not like you're buying hammers, you know, over at the defense department trying to get the lowest bidder.

We're going to find churches, the Methodists, the Scientologists, the Catholics, the Nation of Islam all competing for the same very small sliver of federal pie. And I do think that's going to be very bad news for cooperation in a lot of places.

Borger: Mr. Colson, how would you make the decision, if you were running the government here, about who to fund and who not to fund? Would you give money to Louis Farrakhan, for example?

Colson: Well, follow the law first. The law - Bowen v. Kendrick, a case in the Supreme Court, allows federal funds to be used for faith-based charities, providing certain criteria are met - That is, a secular purpose. That is, it is accomplishing something that the government needs accomplished. So the law is already clear on this.

Just a response to what Mr. Lynn said, there are studies. We had a study in New York state funded by the Templeton Foundation, done by the National Institute of Mental Health, people who went through our programs, we cut the recidivism rate two-thirds. This was just people who went to 10 meetings a year in the prison, Prison Fellowship Bible studies. The recidivism rate was cut from 41 percent to 14 percent. It's extraordinary. And the same thing happened in Detroit where we did this.

So what I would do if I were in the government, I would take a look at these faith-based solutions, I would say which ones are working, getting demonstrated results, which ones meet the test that Mayor Goldsmith set forth perfectly adequately, and that is that we're not going to interfere with their religious expression, because the Constitution says we can't and shouldn't, but we are going to purchase a secular purpose from them.

If they preach hate, if they are in violence, if they're in something which is not a religion, and the Supreme Court has given tests for determining that, then we're not going to fund them. We wouldn't fund them if they were secular groups.

What President Bush said this week, I thought with great courage and great foresight, was, let's just not discriminate against religious groups. And I want to tell you, I worked with him in Texas, he knows what he wants to do. He's going to do it.

Borger: Reverend Lynn.

Lynn: Yes, I mean, first of all, that Supreme Court case, in fact, you could read it the opposite way, suggesting that churches can never be the recipients of this kind of money, because, in fact, they are religious. Surprise, surprise - not to most of us who have been active with them for so many years. So there's no clear cut answer here.

The other difference, though, is that organizations like Catholic Charities, which do a lot of work with independent agencies, set up separte books, separate audits, they do not discriminate in their hiring for slots in those programs on the basis of religion. If Mr. Bush gets his way, this will be the first federal initiative that actually and affirmatively says: We can discriminate against you on the basis of religion, you don't even need to apply if you're a Jew, if you're an atheist, if you're a Muslim, and you can still get money.

I think that is one of the many constitutional problems with this, and we are going to be challenging those over the next months.

Schieffer: Well, do you in fact plan to go to court about this? Because I noticed that one of the leaders of Catholic Charities said that they were kind of wary about all of this because they were sure it was going to be challenged in court, and they didn't want to be spending their money on lawyers when they could be spending it on poor people.

Lynn: Exactly. Well, we've never challenged Catholic Charities precisely because they do keep separate books, and they don't discriminate, and they don't try to evangelize. But this program of this administration is quite, quite different. And I think it will inevitably lead to these lawsuits because it cuts to the core of the decent distance we've always tried to keep between religious institutions and government.

Schieffer: Well, gentleman, I must say, this is one of the most interesting topics that's come down the road here in the last couple of years. I'm going to follow with great interest how this all comes out. Thanks to both of you.

Lynn: Thank you.

Schieffer: We'll be back with a little round table discussion on the rest of the week's news in just a minute.


Schieffer: And joining us now, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard. I thought it was a rather interesting discussion we just heard. One of the questions I have, Bill- and you have some information on this in your magazine this week- is that Stephen Goldsmith, when he started out with all this, he wanted the head of this to be a cabinet-level position, and the administration said no. Do you think that means that they're really serious about this? Or is this more talk than action coming here?

Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard: Oh, I think they are serious. The person they got to actually run the office in the White House, John Diulio, a very distinguished University of Pennsylvania professor of political science and a contributing editor of The Weekly Standard - unfortunately, we're going to lose his services now, have to take him off the masthead - he wouldn't have taken the job unless he was convinced that President Bush was serious.

There was a lot of negotiations in the last couple of days before he came on board. One White House aide, at the last minute, after they had worked everything out, tried to change the name of the office, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives He said, "Well, that's a little bit too up-front for the faith-based stuff. Let's make it the 'Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives.' It will take the edge off the opposition from people like Barry Lynn.''

Diulio said, "Fine, if you want to change the name to that, go right ahead and run the office yourself, because I'm only going coming in if it's called what I agreed that it would be called, 'faith-based,' right up front."

Diulio is a strong guy, he's a man of principle. They may be getting a little more than they bargained for in the White House. He's not exactly one of those go-along, get-along, you know, White House staffers that they're used to. But I think Bush is - this is, I'd say of all the domestic issues, this is the one Bush personally believes in the most.

Schieffer: Let me ask you about the White House and the changes. Two stories in both The Washington Post and The New York Times this week about the ascension of Dick Cheney, the vice president who basically is sort of the operating - chief operating officer over there, it seems to me. You worked for another vice president, Mr. Quayle, it wasn't quite that way when you were there, was it? This is a remarkable difference, isn't it?

Kristol: Yes, we were treated with courtesy, I would say most of the time. The vice president was always treated with courtesy, and I, as he chief of staff, was usually treated with courtesy by the West Wing, but that's totally different.

Dick Cheney is running the task force on energy policy, right now the single biggest, I suppose, minor crisis that Bush is facing domestically. He's going to chair what's called the Deputy's Committee of the National Security Council. It's an interesting tidbit that shows how powerful Cheney's going to be.

The last 12 years has been something called this deputy's committee: The deputy secretary of state, deputy secretary of defense get together, they work out a lot of the foreign policy issues and then make recommendations to the National Security Council itself, which is chaired by the president...

Schieffer: Well, can this last?

Kristol: And Cheney is going to chair the deputy's committee. Cheney convenes the deputy secretary of state, the deputy secretary of defense. They make the recommendation to the National Security Council. Who's at the National Security Council meeting? President Bush - and sitting across the table from him, Vice President Cheney.

Schieffer: Do you think it can last?

Kristol: I don't know. I will say there will be some tensions between Cheney's staff and the White House staff. In the Post article yesterday, one of Cheney's staffers, kind of a nice guy, a junior staffer, is quoted as saying, "In previous White Houses, the White House ran the show. This time,'' he said, "it's equal footing.''

I don't know that it's ever equal footing between the Whie House and the vice president's staff, but I do think Dick Cheney is the de facto super chief of staff of the White House. And you know, the one thing I would say is, people make fun of Bush for this, you know, "Cheney's running everything.'' If I were president of the United States and I had Karen Hughes and Karl Rove and Andy Card, you know, good people all working for me, and I had Dick Cheney, I'd make Dick Cheney my de facto chief of staff.

Borger: Well, President Bush himself came out the other day and said, "Dick Cheney has told me that he does not want to be president.'' And that is a big factor here, Bob, because you don't have a fellow as vice president who is setting up his own political base to run for the presidency in eight years. And so I think that that is something that Bush believes "this fellow is not going to challenge me, he's my guy and therefore I can trust him with all of these jobs.''

The problem Bush has is that he came to Washington with people believing, in fact, that he was going to have Dick Cheney become the de facto president, and now it looks like that he is sort of a co-president.

Schieffer: Gloria, let me ask you about the Democrats. They have a new national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, who of course was the chief fund-raiser for President Clinton, and he came out with both guns blazing yesterday. I mean, here we've had this charm offensive, as it were, by President Bush. This guy begins by challenging the legitimacy of George Bush's presidency.

Borger: He's essentially appealing to a Democratic resentments about this election, looking back as a way to unite the party, motivate the base. He said, "We will prove there is victory after denial, democracy after Florida, justice after the Supreme Court.'' Those are pretty incendiary words when you in fact have George Bush on a charm offensive, meeting with every Congressional Democrat he can think to meet of trying to make peace with the Congressional Black Caucus.

So it looks like the congressional wing of the party is trying to get something done. And I think Terry McAuliffe may have another agenda here, which is to raise money and clearly to win in 2002.

Schieffer: I agree with you, because I think there was quite a different tone struck by Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate Democrats, and Dick Gephardt, the leader of the House Democrats, from the tone struck by McAuliffe at that very same meeting.

Well, we have to go now. Thanks to both of you. I'll be back with a final word in just a minute.


Schieffer: Finally today, so now we learn that former President Clinton will charge taxpayers only half the $700,000 in annual rent on his new office in Manhattan. I suppose that is a better deal than the first one he offered us: that we would pay the whole thing.

But may I make a suggestion? I know some fine buildings all over the counry that Mr. Clinton and the rest of our former presidents could use for free. They are called federal courthouses. They already have metal detectors, janitors and all the other things required to keep them safe and clean. And if the courthouse is full, there's usually another federal building nearby named for some otherwise long-forgotten congressman, which is the home for the regional offices of all kinds of federal agencies. Surely they have a spare room or two.

The columnist Charles Krauthammer says you can judge the corruption of a presidency by how many laws have to be changed when it ends. The overhaul of campaign laws after Nixon left comes to mind. It may be the unique legacy of Bill Clinton that even the rules for leasing federal office space will have to be changed after he left.

But in the meantime, think federal courthouses. They have a lot going for them.

Well, that's our report. See you next week right here on Face The Nation.