u Notre Dame ACE director to aid President's efforts
By KIFLIN TURNER
Why was John Staud, director of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), invited by President Bush last Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the administration's faith-based service initiatives?
ACE, a two-year program that sends Notre Dame graduates to teach in under-resourced Catholic schools, has achieved great success in furthering personal improvement for children whose educational experience might have been weakened by understaffed schooling. Staud cited the achievements of the organization as the reason why he was chosen as a representative.
"Obviously ACE has been very successful and we've been blessed with the stellar applicants and participants, and so I knew that was sort of the reason, but still when you consider that it was a national meeting, it was really flattering for the program, I think, more that anything."
Along with Staud were representatives from more than 50 organizations representing Catholic service programs nationwide. The funds will support educational programs to those similar to ACE, as well as other social programs that will combat drug addiction, alcoholism, and other social problems in the community.
The goal of the initiatives is to enhance the efficiency of pre-existing programs and to ensure that religious-based organizations will not suffer discrimination from federal funding.
"[Bush] wants to try to tap into the successful work that a lot of faith-based organizations are already doing," said Staud. "It's not as though he wants to use this as a way to have government exit from its responsibilities, but it's rather a chance to just allow groups that have achieved great success to compete for federal monies, so long as there's an appropriate firewall set up so that those monies don't influence evangelization or prostelytizing."
Many critics to Bush's plan believe that the faith-based initiatives may be problematic when faced with the possible legal challenges of infringing on the separation of church and state constitutional amendment.
"There can't be a government religion, but as long as the government is dispersing money fairly and allowing access to all religious traditions, I think it's a good idea because often these groups achieve greater results," said Staud. "I think there are models out there that have met the legal concerns and the ideological ones as well that we can point to, and ACE would be one of these."
Faced with the possibility that the initiatives may face legal resistance, Bush vowed that the careful implementation would ensure the success of religious-based organizations. Staud said that Bush's point is that religious organizations shouldn't be discriminated against, especially if they're achieving great results.
"There are some models that have proven to work, and I think that one of the reasons that ACE might be a valuable model to look at is that we've been getting support for the past six or seven years from the Corporation for National Service, which was an office set up by President Clinton, and obviously it has Democratic roots in that sense," said Staud. "That's a constituency that is typically wary of any kind of government involvement with faith-based programs."
Staud claimed that ACE has been a shining example of a faith-based organizations excelling from federal funding in improving the lives of others in the surrounding community and world.
"We're already benefiting from federal funds via AmeriCorps, but as we're trying to expand and deepen our involvement in educational issues. We would obviously welcome the opportunity to apply for federal grants to help us improve the program, so it really stands to benefit us," Staud said.
Signing an executive order last Monday, Bush's faith-based initiatives were targeted toward religious organizations from all denominations by arranging conferences with various religious officials throughout the week.
"[Bush] has to make sure that he is honoring the non-establishment clause and not playing favorites," said Staud on Bush's efforts to extend the program across all denominational lines. Staud's meeting with Bush, comprised of representatives of Catholic organizations was specifically geared towards the important influence of the Catholic organizations in the community.
"[Bush] specifically praised the Catholic school system as a real life-line for kids in the inner-city especially, to provide access to good, quality education," said Staud. "[Bush] talked about more in a spirit of gratitude of what the Church has done in terms with issues of life-both in terms of its determined oppositions to abortion, but also a lot of the social outreach programs for unwed mothers, adoption, etc.-so it was not focused just on education, but sort of broad-based," said Staud.
All News Stories for Friday, February 9, 2001