Beliefnet
From the February 15, press briefing by Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary.

Q: Scott, a former White House staffer in the faith-based office said the President's compassion agenda hasn't lived up to its potential partly because of minimal effort on the part of senior White House staffers. Any merit to those claims?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President has made his faith-based and community initiative one of his highest priorities. It was something that he talked about at the very beginning of his administration, and then we've worked to put that initiative into action. And the President has signed two executive orders relating to the faith-based and community initiative. Those executive orders help level the playing field so that faith-based organizations at the local level that have a proven record of helping those who are in need and those who are suffering can compete with other organizations on an equal footing.

And the President is going to continue to push forward on his faith-based initiative in the second term. He talked about some of the initiatives we're working on this term, in the State of the Union address, that build upon our efforts that we've already undertaken. This is a high priority for this administration. The President has participated in White House conferences on the faith-based and community initiative. There have been conferences all across the United States to highlight this initiative and to reach out to the armies of compassion that exist all across America to enlist their help in our efforts to help people in need.

Q: Your answer goes to the heart of the President's commitment. The criticism was really aimed at senior White House-level officials who are working with members of Congress, in terms of putting muscle behind--

MR. McCLELLAN: And those officials are helping the President implement his agenda. And his agenda includes rallying the armies of compassion to help those in need. And that's exactly what we have done, and that's exactly what we will continue to do. You should look at the results. The results are very clear in terms of the money that is now going out to faith-based groups to help more people that are in need.

Q: Can I follow up on that? Rallying the armies of compassion and that kind of leadership is one thing. This former special assistant points to the resources dedicated and makes the claim that originally there was a proposal for roughly $8 billion annually in tax incentives and direct funding for faith-based programs, and that the actual results has been far, far lower than that because other priorities have taken precedence.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Congress has to act, as well, on these efforts. We've made clear what our views are, we've called on Congress to act on those. We've continued to make a significant commitment to providing incentives for charitable giving in our '06 budget. And we will continue to urge Congress to act on those initiatives.

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