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Of Little Faith

The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives

George W. Bush had planned to swear his oath of office with his hand on the Masonic Bible used by both his father and George Washington, however, due to the inclement weather, a family Bible was substituted. Almost immediately on taking office, President Bush made passage of "faith-based initiatives"—the government funding of religious charitable groups—a legislative priority. However, "inclement" weather storm-tossed his hopes for faith-based initiatives as well.

What happened? Why did these initiatives, which began with such vigor and support from a popular president, fail? And what does this say about the future role of religious faith in American public life? Amy Black, Douglas Koopman, and David Ryden—all prominent political scientists—utilize a framework that takes the issue through all three branches of government and analyzes it through three very specific lenses: a public policy lens, a political party lens, and a lens of religion in the public square.

Drawing on dozens of interviews with key figures in Washington, the authors tell a compelling story, revealing the evolution of the Bush faith-based strategy from his campaign for the presidency through congressional votes to the present. They show how political rhetoric, infighting, and poor communication shipwrecked Bush's efforts to fundamentally alter the way government might conduct social services. The authors demonstrate the lessons learned, and propose a more fruitful, effective way to go about such initiatives in the future.

About the Author

Amy E. Black is assistant professor of politics and international relations at Wheaton College.

Douglas L. Koopman is a professor of political science and director of the Center for Social Research at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

David K. Ryden is an attorney and associate professor of political science at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and editor of The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process, Second Edition, Revised and Updated.


"Should faith-based organizations be permitted by law to compete to administer government programs on the same basis as all other non-profit organizations? This lively, lucid, and timely book chronicles how, during the first year of the Bush faith initiative, a seemingly deep and growing consensus favoring public support for community-serving sacred places that serve civic purposes was succeeded by battles between religious 'purists' and 'pragmatists,' and led to legislative politics that were far from bipartisan. Both as a fellow political scientist and as an actor in the drama, I heartily applaud the authors for their tough-minded but balanced, critical yet constructive, analysis and conclusions."—John J. DiIulio Jr., professor of political science, University of Pennsylvania, and former director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

Georgetown University Press
Religion and Politics

9781589010123 : of-little-faith-black
368 Pages
$74.95 USD
9781589010130 : of-little-faith-black
Paperback / softback
368 Pages
$24.95 USD

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