Jay Hein on the Quiet Revolution of Religious Social Work
Date: June 14th, 2015

During the 1990s, the provision of welfare in the United States went through a profound change as cities, states, and the federal government began partnering with faith-based organizations to provide a wide array of services ranging from drug rehabilitation to prisoner re-entry to community development.  Jay Hein, president of the Sagamore Institute and Baylor’s ISR, details this history of this approach dating back to George HW Bush’s “thousand points of light,” through the Clinton administration’s Charitable Choice programs, and then into George W Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative.  Given Jay’s first-hand knowledge of these programs, we explore the relationship between the federal government, states, cities, and faith-based organizations (FBOs).

We begin our conversation with a personal story of courage and commitment.  Faced with the choice of getting to meet the 2007 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts at the White House or working with a faith-based community program out in Anchorage, Alaska, Jay tells why he chose the latter.  This gets us into a discussion of Jay’s personal history of working with both government and churches in helping to find creative ways to provide needed social services to a variety of populations.  He talks about his time with Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson  and how they re-envisioned the role of welfare in that state, his move over to the Hudson Institute where he built more connections and was able to study the nexus between government and FBOs, and then how he ended up in the White House working on what he describes as one of George Bush’s primary policy agenda items and signature accomplishments.  Jay terms the policy changes that redirected the role of welfare provision to FBOs as a “quite revolution,” in that these changes took place at the grassroots and largely went unnoticed by the national media.

Mr. Hein explains the details of the Bush Faith-Based and Community Initiative.  Based upon an executive order, this policy had three objectives: 1) provide “thought leadership” to use the “bully pulpit” of the administration to show that FBOs were consequential; 2) level the regulatory playing field for FBOs that often found it difficult to work with governments because of pre-existing church-state jurisprudence; and 3) “demonstration” via the directing of funding to faith-based charitable organizations through state and local governments to show that private efforts are effective in alleviating problems within communities.  Jay provides a number of examples where this worked and shows how this program had a bi-partisan appeal with a significant number of Democrat governors (e.g., Janet Napolitano, Bill Richardson) embracing these efforts during the Bush administration.  He also discusses the California experience wherein there was significant reluctance to set up an official office due to concerns over church-state issues, but how local California faith groups were nonetheless very successful in obtaining federal grants to solve community problems.  We discuss how the proper relationship between grassroots faith groups, local governments, and the federal government should be managed.

We finish the interview with how the idea of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative helped to shape and influence the Bush Administration’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa.  Again, this effort did not receive a great deal of attention, but found immense success in partnering with ground-level faith groups that had developed significant trust among Africans (compared to their national governments).  We finish off with Jay’s future prospects for FBO – government cooperation.  Recorded: June 8, 2015.


Jay Hein’s bio at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

The Quiet Revolution: An Active Faith that Transforms Lives & Communities, by Jay Hein.

Sagamore Institute and ISOKO Institute.

American Outlook.

Hudson Institute.

The Culture of Disbelief, by Stephen Carter.


Jay Hein on the Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

William Wubbenhorst on SERVE, West Dallas and FBO Evaluation.

Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime.

Byron Johnson on Religion and Delinquency.

Jeff Henig on Prison Ministry.

John Rees on International Development and Faith-Based Organizations.

Torrey Olsen on Faith-Based Humanitarianism and World Vision.

Daniel Hungerman on Religious Charity and Crowding Out.

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