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President George W. Bush believed that, while faith-based and community organizations could not replace government, they provided indispensable services to people in need. The Bush administration made it a goal to support these organizations through improved access to Federal funding, programs to encourage public and corporate philanthropy, and other policy initiatives. On January 29, 2001, President George W. Bush signed Executive Orders 13198 and 13199, the first two of his presidency. Executive Order 13198 established centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in five Executive Branch agencies: the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. These departments were tasked with revising regulations and eliminating barriers that might keep faith-based organizations from applying for grants or contracts, or otherwise partnering with the Federal government to provide social services. In later years, six other agencies would be added, for a total of eleven.
The paramount goal is compassionate results, and private and charitable groups, including religious ones, should have the fullest opportunity permitted by law to compete on a level playing field, so long as they achieve valid public purposes.... The delivery of social services must be results-oriented and should value the bedrock principles of pluralism, non-discrimination, even-handedness, and neutrality.
- President George W. Bush, January 29, 2001
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI) was created on January 29, 2001 by Executive Order 13199.
OFBCI established policies for the government-wide initiative, and served as the coordinator of the five Department “centers” established in Executive Order 13198. In August 2001, the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives produced a report called “The Unlevel Playing Field: Barriers to Participation by Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Federal Social Service Programs.” The report outlined areas in which faith-based and community organizations were excluded from competing for grants and other opportunities to partner with the Federal government.
The concept of a Faith-Based and Community Initiative continued under various names in subsequent presidencies. President Obama and President Biden each established the “White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships,” while President Trump established the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.”