Study Shows Decrease in Faith-Based Funding; White House Disputes Findings

The amount of direct federal grants to faith-based organization has been shrinking in the years President Bush took office, a new study released Tuesday found.

The amount of direct federal grants to faith-based organization has been shrinking in the years President Bush took office, a new study released Tuesday found.

A study by the nonpartisan Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy found that religious charities received about 18 percent of the grants awarded by federal agencies in the years from 2002 to 2004.

However, the study, which traced about 28,000 grants, also found that since the total amount of available funding shrank by more than $230 million over the years, the share that went to religious groups also declined from $670 million in 2002 to $626 million in 2004.

The White House office of faith-based initiatives immediately disputed the findings, saying the study failed to correctly capture the whole picture since the study only followed grants that were in existence for all three years.

"They have picked rotten cherries and come up with a rotten pie," said H. James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, according to the Washington Post. "They took a very small sample of programs and grants and are drawing conclusions that are completely inaccurate."

Towey also said his office will be releasing a more comprehensive data next month of who received the grants and for what purposes. This White House report “will show there's been an increase every year in the category of competitive, nonformula grants for social services,” he added, saying there were many programs that were newly created after 2002.

Critics, however, contended the Roundtable study shows the administration is not increasing the total amount of federal funding available to help the poor but is instead shifting who gets the money.

The study released Tuesday "is confirmation of the suspicion I've had all along, that what the faith-based initiative is really all about is de-funding social programs and dumping responsibility for the poor on the charitable sector," said Kay Guinane, director of the nonprofit advocacy program at OMB Watch, a liberal watchdog group in Washington, to the Washington Post. "It sounds warm and fuzzy, but they've been cutting down the size of the pie all along."

In the case of the National Network of Youth Ministries, one of the foremost recipients of designated faith-based funds, the grants they received fell from $500,000 in fiscal year 2002 to $250,000 last year. Officials at the Network are not yet sure how much – if any – they will be receiving this year. However, the Network, like many other groups, received the funds as a designated, non-competitive group, and have reaped many benefits from the relationship overall.

“We enjoyed a very good relationship with the government,” said Lynn Ziegenfuss, the director of Mentor Youth – a mentoring resource program jointly run by the NNYM and the Department of Justice.

The Roundtable study did not examine how much money went to religious groups before President Bush took office in 2001. They only looked at grant programs that were in existence for all three years covered by the study.