ANNOUNCER: From our studios in New York, Bill Moyers.
MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.
It wasn't a big show as Washington counts these things. The press paid little attention. But what happened earlier this week reveals the seismic shift President Bush is making in how government and religion do business together.
He told his cabinet to make it easier for religious groups to get federal money to run programs that help the needy.
They'll be able to use tax money to hire employees of the same faith, to the exclusion of others.
Even perhaps to provide religious inspiration to people they help find jobs or get off welfare.
That same day the Health and Human Services Department announced $8 million in grants to organizations with names like the Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, the Emmanuel Gospel Center, and the Christ Lutheran Church, among others.
Said a very pleased advocate at the conservative Heritage Foundation, "we've got probably the most faith-friendly government we've had in a long time." This revolution in church and state is a big story, and we are going to take a look at it in this and our next broadcast.
It started before President Bush arrived in Washington, as you'll see in our report by NPR correspondent Daniel Zwerdling and producer William Brangham.
ZWERDLING: This is the county welfare office, in Colorado Springs. The waiting room looks familiar. But if you listen carefully, you'll hear the sounds of a new era in government social service.
JARAMILLO: Heavenly father, we just come to you in the name of Jesus. Father we just pray for your protection and your guidance over Faith Partners and the work that we do…
ZWERDLING: Until recently, you would have never seen a group of welfare workers praying out loud in the middle of a government office. The courts said God and government should be more separate.
But President Bush wants groups like this one to take over more and more of the government's role of helping people in trouble.
JARAMILLO: Officially we call Faith Partners a family mentoring program. And we are a welfare to work church based mentoring program.
ZWERDLING: Jackie Jaramillo's program is called Faith Partners. It tries to help welfare families around Colorado Springs become self-sufficient. To do this work, Faith Partners gets a $118,000 a year in taxpayers' money. And they'll tell you upfront they're a Christian organization.
JARAMILLO: We are Christ centered. We are based in the church. But this isn't about an evangelical effort. That's the part that people, I think get confused. We're not going out to help these families so that in return for them coming to church. This is a vehicle for the church to get people outside the four walls of the church into the community where they could use their faith to produce hope and purpose in the lives of the people we wanted to serve.
ZWERDLING: For decades, the government has paid faith-based groups to run welfare programs, but the courts said they had to keep religion out of it. They couldn't talk about Jesus or Allah or any part of their faith with the welfare clients they were trying to help… separation of church and state.
But Congress overhauled the welfare system back in 1996. Activists on the evangelical right got their allies in Congress to change those rules. So now, faith-based groups can get taxpayers money and be up-front about their religion, as long as they don't proselytize.
David Berns runs the county's social service programs in Colorado Springs. He asked local churches how they could help.
BERNS: I threw down a challenge. At least, they viewed it that way. I said, "There's got to be something that churches can do better than government." People started scratching their heads and thinking, "Well, what would that be?"
JARAMILLO: What he was saying was government did give families a check and a monthly income but they didn't give them any of the spiritual support they needed. So what he was saying is there is a role for the churches to play and we can become partners in jointly helping these families break the cycle of poverty.
ZWERDLING: Under the old welfare system, poor families could get government checks for decades. The new rules say you can get welfare for two years in a row and then you get cut off. David Berns told church leaders that some poor people might get stranded.
BERNS: A lot of the people in our community, because we're such a rapidly-growing community, don't have relatives in the area, don't have anybody there to be their extended family. And people sometimes need other folks to truly care about them and to be with them on a long-term basis.
ZWERDLING: That's where groups like faith partners come in. Here's how it works: first, a welfare client comes into the office, and meets with a government caseworker.
SHEILA: I'm a single mother. I live with my mom. My mom is older and she's elderly. She doesn't get out much. And I feel isolated with no car and no job. And the dad ran off, so it's really hard as far as income goes, trying to survive.
ZWERDLING: The government caseworker can recommend dozens of different programs that she thinks could help. There's job training, or daycare, or counseling for domestic violence. Or you can sign up for Faith Partners, which offers its own version of all these services and more.
CASEWORKER: I think that we have a really good program that would assist you and give you the support that's needed. It's a program that's called Faith Partners and it's a faith-based mentoring program…
ZWERDLING: And if the welfare client agrees, Faith Partners will hook her up with a team of unpaid volunteers from a local church. They'll try to teach her basic survival skills.
CASEWORKER: Some of the issues that you brought up, financial, they can assist you with that. You mentioned something about transportation, your mom not being able to get out of the house. They can help you with transportation.
JARAMILLO: What Faith Partners wants to do is come along side of those families and coach them how to put the puzzle pieces together. That's all we want to do. We don't want to drag them to church we don't want to win them to Christ we just want them to have the tools they need that so that they can compete and that they can become self-sufficient.
ZWERDLING: Faith Partners signs up new groups of volunteers every couple of weeks. They call them "mentors."
JARAMILLO: I just really want to tell you how much I appreciate your presence and your willingness to work with our families and to serve in this ministry…
ZWERDLING: Most of the mentors have never trained to do social service. So before they ever meet a client, they take a couple of workshops.
At this recent session, Jackie Jaramillo asked one volunteer family to tell why they joined Faith Partners.
RACHEL MACHINA: Well, I'm Rachel Machina. This is my husband, Jon, and my daughter, Juliana, my son, Thomas. Actually this started about a year ago, I began home schooling and wanting to take advantage of the freedom that that offered and what I could teach my children, I started looking for a place that we could serve in the community.
ZWERDLING: The Machinas and the other volunteers have promised to work with their welfare families for at least one year. They don't get paid anything for their work. They say faith moves them to do it.
JON MACHINA: I believe that the sovereign God of the universe has chosen to work through the creative power and belief that He gave us when He created us. And what Faith Partners is trying to do is that we want to help people break the cycle of poverty. And if we can do that, than we can change a family for generations to come. We can change a family's destiny for generations to come.
ZWERDLING: The Machinas have just started working with a mother and her three kids. Dawn Chipperfield says she left her partner last year because he kept beating her up. Then she went on welfare and moved into this government-subsidized house. When Chipperfield heard about Faith Partners, she signed up. Soon she met her mentors.
CHIPPERFIELD: I was really happy when I got matched up with them, because I'm out here by myself with just my kids, and I don't have, you know, my mom or anybody.
RACHEL MACHINA: Well, I would say what happened immediately when we met Dawn was that there was a like… we dove into each other as the mentors and Dawn.
CHIPPERFIELD: When they first came to my house they had brought me a birthday cake, and flowers, and a birthday card, and a birthday present. So, I thought that was wonderful.
ZWERDLING: And you told me until they brought that to you, you had basically ignored your birthday?
CHIPPERFIELD: Yeah, I hadn't gotten anything from anybody, so I just thought that was great. So, it made me feel really special.
ZWERDLING: Dawn Chipperfield came to the Machina's house, one afternoon, to check in with her mentors. Faith Partners has teamed her up with six volunteers, including the Machinas. This is the third time they've come together.
JARAMILLO: This is our time to hear from you. What your dreams are. Things that you've buried because you didn't want to think about them. But maybe if just help you begin start working towards it.
CHIPPERFIELD: Well, my goal is to get back in school. The other goal of mine is to work on my daughter, my oldest daughter. She's gonna be 11 and she's in special ed and she's reading at a 1st grade level.
MENTOR: How would you feel about maybe the team coming in and help tutoring your daughter, to get her to the level, you know, help her move forward?
JARAMILLO: There are grants available from private foundations. In fact, I have a grant application at the office specifically for women who are single parents who want to go to school. And maybe the team could really help you fill out the applications.
ZWERDLING: Dawn Chipperfield says these are the first people who've cared about her in years.
JARAMILLO: We really are here to support you.
CHIPPERFIELD: I just feel so overwhelmed, because I just feel so good that I have belonging. It's just me and my kids. And you know my kids have, you know, people around them. And I just think this is just good for us.
JARAMILLO: The welfare families are looking for that source that will give them strength. So far they've found the strength in themselves and they're burned out. They're in a, they're in a faith deficit.
ZWERDLING: It's Sunday morning. The Machinas are getting ready for church. Chipperfield has said she might go with them.
JON MACHINA: We're going to pick up Dawn and her family.
ZWERDLING: She hasn't been to church since she was a kid.
JON MACHINA: This is not something that by any stretch of the imagination is forced on anybody. We offer it if somebody wants to come to church with us, great. But by virtue of being in this program they've already indicated that, "hey, I want to make some changes. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes." So we're heading on down. Stepping out in faith that she's gonna be there. And I'm claiming it. I'm saying that she will come with us to church today.
ZWERDLING: But when the Machinas get to Dawn Chipperfield's house, she cancels.
JON MACHINA: She said today just was not gonna work out. So she said definitely wants to come tomorrow, Sunday. She said she'll do whatever it takes to make it happen.
ZWERDLING: Chipperfield has agreed they can take her kids.
JON MACHINA: She's excited for the kids to be able to come and get a chance to meet the other people at the church. And she's looking forward to coming next week. Was… Colleen did not… Dawn, she committed to coming next week? Was very, very adamant that she would be there, right?
ZWERDLING: This Sunday's trip to church gets to the heart of one of the biggest controversies about faith-based programs: when religious groups get taxpayers' money to provide social services, will they also try to push their religion on the vulnerable people they're trying to help?
Remember federal law says they cannot use taxpayers' money to proselytize. It also says that they can't use it for sectarian worship or religious instruction. And people at Faith Partners say they obey the law. But they say they do believe that their welfare clients need Christian faith.
JARAMILLO: In one of my conversations with God, one time I said, "God, you are so great. You are so powerful. Why can't you meet the need? Why are there hungry children? Why are there abused children? Why, Lord, as powerful as you are, can't you stop the pain?" And he spoke back to my heart and said, "Because I don't respond to need. I respond to faith." And unless we have the faith to ask him for help in our lives, he can't respond to what's wrong.
JON MACHINA: Thank you guys for coming. You guys it was awesome having you're here. And it's so nice to have you part of our family. And I know it was a bit scary coming to a new place, especially without your mom. I give you major snaps for coming.
Your mommy says she'll be with us next time. I know she really wanted to come.
JON MACHINA: Our goal here is to help Dawn help herself, to give her the tools to equip her and encourage her, but to basically take charge of her life again.
RACHEL MACHINA: And ultimately, God willing, come into saving relationships with Christ.
ZWERDLING: And over the next few weeks, Dawn Chipperfield did join the Machinas in church.
ZWERDLING: Who first suggested, "Hey, let's go to church together?" Did you suggest it first, or did they, or…
CHIPPERFIELD: I suggested it, and I've gone a couple of times to church. And the past couple of weeks since, you know, a few things happened, I haven't gone. And now, you know, it, I kind of wished I wouldn't have done that because I feel like, you know, they told me, "Oh, we're not gonna push church," and this and that, but now it's been that issue, you know, of kind of pushing. And I feel like it should be at my own free will.
ZWERDLING: The head of Faith Partners' board of directors says the volunteers never try to coerce their welfare clients. But Barry Farrah says the group does have a religious goal for the families it helps.
FARRAH: The first step is to love them and to care for them. And not to attempt to share with them necessarily any of the concepts surrounding the Christian faith. But just to be the faith, love them and accept them. And that takes a few months of the program and that's phase one. And then the next phase is inviting them to explore the contents of the faith in God through Jesus Christ, which is the Christian faith.
I think it's somewhere in the 85 percent range that come to some relationship with God through Christ as a consequence of our participation with them.
ZWERDLING: Faith Partners has just made a video to promote its program…and the climax shows a fictitious welfare client finally going to church.
JARAMILLO: There are people in our program, I believe that they're searching for something that they can hang on to that can help them over turn the negative circumstances in their life that they're facing. And I believe that the families actually have a desire in their heart to go to church and the experience that.
ZWERDLING: You said to me that in a sense Faith Partners does have a covert mission, you've used the word covert. Why is it covert?
JARAMILLO: I think it's covert because… I think I used the term covert because 95 percent of the Christian world is uncomfortable sharing their faith with people.
ZWERDLING: You want your welfare clients, as I understand it, to embrace Jesus Christ.
JARAMILLO: We want them to embra… we let them articulate what it is that they want to embrace, and then we support them in that. We hope that our witness to Jesus Christ is strong enough that it is Jesus Christ.
ZWERDLING: And why do you have to tiptoe around the… Why do you need to be you know covert, in your word, about that goal in the community?
JARAMILLO: Because we are funded with government money.
ZWERDLING: Local officials at the welfare department say they're happy with the Faith Partners program. They haven't done rigorous studies, but they say surveys suggest that the program helps a lot of welfare clients find jobs and get back on their feet.
And the governor of Colorado likes the program so much that he's declared a Faith Partners Day.
Before we left Colorado Springs, we dropped by Jon and Rachel Machina's house one more time. And Rachel said she had just had an interesting talk with an old friend.
RACHEL MACHINA: My friend from California comes out to visit me and we have this little chat. And I let him know, you know, kind of what we're doing with Faith Partners. And asked him what his take was on the church, state issue. And he felt uncomfortable with the proselytizing aspect. So if a program like Faith Partners has access to government funding to help people get out of poverty. And the people that are doing the helping are proselytizing then that's like the government funding that particular type of proselytization. And that in his opinion, making people convert to Christianity is too high a price for the benefit received.
ZWERDLING: But how do you feel about this, hearing what he was saying?
RACHEL MACHINA: I didn't feel hurt or offended. I felt a little bit maybe saddened that he didn't see things the way I see them. You know, hey, I'm spending money in taxes on a program that works. It's fine with me if it's administered by Christian people or other believers.
JARAMILLO: In Jesus name we pray, Amen. All right.