JACKSON, Tenn. – July 24, 2001 – Union University President David S. Dockery was invited to attend a special meeting with senior administration at the White House at the end of June to discuss President Bush’s new faith-based initiative program.
The two-hour meeting focused on creating dialogue between government and national religious leaders in an effort towards achieving the first steps in Bush’s agenda to “enlist, equip, enable, empower and expand the heroic works of faith-based and community groups across America.” Bush’s faith-based initiative, House Bill 7, is currently before the House of Representatives.
House Bill 7 would allow churches, synagogues and other religious groups to compete for government grants. “The broad concept is quite inviting, but the particulars are going to be a nightmare,” said Dockery.
Dockery has two main concerns about Bush’s faith-based initiative program.
“One is the constitutional question,” explained Dockery. “Many groups are afraid that even if it passes, some judge down the road will find it unconstitutional, and that could leave these organizations in a financial bind.” Dockery’s other concern is the hiring issue that may require a religious organization to compromise their standards when it comes to its hiring practices and its overall program content.
Despite these concerns, Dockery finds some positive aspects to the proposal. “If it raises the spirit of compassion across the country and helps people realize that government is not the only alternative for meeting their needs, we will be accomplishing a lot,” said Dockery. “Primarily, the changes related to the itemizing of charitable donations for all who file tax returns and the possibility of IRA rollovers as charitable donations could be very beneficial for all non-profit organizations.”
Bush addressed the assembled group for 35 minutes and took many questions.
“The president was very warm and engaging. He seemed very concerned for this agenda to raise the spirit of compassion in our country,” recalled Dockery. “I think he was very genuine.”
Dockery was one of only about one hundred national Christian leaders who attended the meeting.
Sara B. Horn,