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Release: April 30, 2001

UI hosts discussion on faith-based community programs

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Following President Bush's executive order in January creating a White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, questions emerged about the federal government's role in supporting the activities of faith-based organizations. Supporters cheered the action, saying federal aid for the organizations' community services was long overdue. Others believed that Bush's order would undermine the constitutional separation of church and state.

A panel discussion on "Religion, Government, and Community Building" at the University of Iowa on Monday, May 7, will provide a venue for thought and conversation about the issues surrounding the role of religious organizations in communities and whether government support is appropriate. The discussion will be held in the Terrace Room of the Iowa Memorial Union from 1:30 to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Willard Boyd, a UI law professor, president emeritus, and chairman of the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, will preside. Panelists include Randall Bezanson, UI professor of law; Salome Raheim, professor and director of the UI School of Social Work; Rev. Ramon L. Gimenez, CEO of Victory Center Rescue Mission in Clinton; and James Yeast, executive director of Catholic Charities in Dubuque.

Panelists will address these questions: What constitutional issues of separation of church and state are raised by government support of religious community service? What is the public policy behind charitable choice? What competencies will be needed and what accountabilities will be demanded of religious organizations? What good can religious organizations bring to communities under the new initiative?

"Anyone who is interested in questions of social justice and how we can provide social services to needy people would be interested in this public policy discussion," said David Klemm, director of the UI School of Religion. At a time when our national leaders are moving toward less government support and greater reliance on private, nonprofit entities to deliver services for the vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society, it is important to engage in thoughtful, informed discussions of the issues, he said.

"Our panel of experts has terrific experience with how non-profit, charitable choice works, and they will express very diverse views," Klemm added.

The event is sponsored by the UI School of Religion in cooperation with the Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center, the UI College of Law and the UI School of Social Work.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the UI School of Religion in advance at (319) 335-2164.