As head of the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, John DiIulio has the job of shepherding the government's partnerships with faith-based organizations—and of taking the heat from Right and Left as the church-and-state debate swirls. Sojourners editor Jim Wallis sat down with DiIulio in March and discussed some of the challenges he faces—and his belief that the time is ripe for a renewed anti-poverty movement.
Jim Wallis: What are the main goals of the White House Office on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives?
John DiIulio: We have a tripartite mission. Number one, we're supposed to help the president figure out ways to increase charitable giving—financial and human. The president's financial plan is letting non-itemizers deduct for charitable contributions. That would open things up to about 80 million people. On the human giving side, we have the president's bully pulpit for volunteering, valuing volunteers, and celebrating people who give their time, not just their money.
Mission two is making sure that religious and secular organizations in the community that traditionally haven't been part of the federal funding loops get to be a part of them, if they so choose, and that there aren't perverse rules and regulations that prevent them from doing so. Not every rule and regulation that makes it harder for certain groups to get funding or participate in a program is bad. But there are many rules and regulations that amount to mere credentialism, that make it difficult for people who traditionally haven't been in the network of governmental partnerships to partner.