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Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise

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Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise (ACFE) was a short-lived nonprofit founded in 2001 to push President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives. The group’s leader was Michael Joyce, a former longtime head of the right-wing Bradley Foundation and a co-founder of the Philanthropy Roundtable. Joyce, who passed away in 2006, was once praised by neoconservative trailblazer Irving Kristol as “the godfather of modern philanthropy.”[1] ACFE has been inactive since at least 2004.

According to a 2001 report in the Washington Post, Bush confidante Karl Rove contacted Joyce for help when Bush’s initiative to let religious organizations compete for federal contracts ran into congressional opposition. Joyce agreed and launched ACFE along with its sister organization, the Foundation for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise (FCFE).[2] Veteran neoconservative activist William Kristol reportedly helped arrange funding for the new organizations through the right-wing Olin Foundation.[3]

Bush’s proposal was controversial chiefly because it did not require religious organizations to set up a secular arm to receive federal contracts to provide services. “Much of the controversy generated by the initiative stems from the so-called ‘charitable choice’ provision attached, with no hearings and little debate, to welfare-reform legislation in 1996,” explained Philanthropy News Digest in 2001. “The provision allows faith-based groups that provide certain kinds of social services to compete for federal contracts without setting up separate, secular organizations or removing the religious character of their programs. Expansion of charitable choice to all government grant programs is at the center of the president's plan and has become a lightning rod for opponents who say it breeches the constitutional separation of church and state and violates federal civil-rights statues.”[4]

The proposal had its critics on the right as well, including religious conservatives who worried that it would allow marginalized non-Christian groups access to public funds. Joyce argued that ACFE would be better suited to reach these critics than the White House’s own faith-based office, which had been headed by a Democrat until shortly before ACFE’s launch. “Announcing the new think tank,” reported Nonprofit Quarterly, “Joyce took the former White House faith-based director John DiIulio (who resigned in August [2001] for health and personal reasons) to task for not being conservative enough. He was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, ‘to have a Democratic, Catholic, Italian guy out there doing battle with the good old boys…. that just doesn’t work.’”[5]

ACFE, which employed a stable of lobbyists and consultants, pitched the faith-based effort as a religiously informed privatization campaign. “Large, top-down government programs are ill equipped to effectively reach out to individuals and provide meaningful, lasting help to those in need,” read a statement on the group’s website. “Drawing attention to the enormous potential of community and faith-centered enterprises to reshape American society, and realization of their potential can only be accomplished with a concerted effort to promote them from within the private sector. … [W]e are working to assist organizations in understanding and utilizing opportunities to compete for federal grants and contracts which are currently available to them, while simultaneously examining areas within the federal government in which the process of recognizing faith based organizations can be improved.”[6]

The Bush administration ultimately distributed billions of dollars worth of contracts through the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The ACFE quietly scaled down its operations before going offline sometime after 2004.

 

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Sources


[1] Patricia Sullivan, “Michael S. Joyce, 63; Key Player in Rise of Conservatism in 1990s,” Washington Post, March 3, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030201862.html.



[2] Mike Allen, “Bush Aims to Get Faith  Initiatives Back on Track; Stricter Rules to be Added for Use of Funds by Groups,” The Washington Post, June 25, 2001.



[3] Rick Cohen, “The Story Behind the Story: Why We Should be Wary of the Faith-Based Initiative,” Nonprofit Quarterly, September 21, 2001, https://nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/901-the-story-behind-the-story-why-we-should-be-wary-of-the-faith-based-initiative.html.



[4] Philanthropy News Digest, “Conservative Groups Gearing Up to Revive Faith-Based Initiative,” June 12, 2001, http://www.philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/conservative-groups-gearing-up-to-revive-faith-based-initiative.



[5] Rick Cohen, “The Story Behind the Story: Why We Should be Wary of the Faith-Based Initiative,” Nonprofit Quarterly, September 21, 2001, https://nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/901-the-story-behind-the-story-why-we-should-be-wary-of-the-faith-based-initiative.html.



[6] Foundation for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise, “Our Mission,”http://web.archive.org/web/20040114230811/http://fcfe.org/ourmission.htm


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Americans for Community and Faith-Centered Enterprise Résumé


Founded



2001





Mission Statement (as of 2004)



FCFE exists to assist corporations, foundations, individuals and government agencies in discovering and supporting effective programs, so that community and faith centered organizations can remain focused, engaged, and active in helping those in need. A reciprocal benefit to donors is the joy of seeing just how much can be accomplished with each generous dollar."





Board of Directors (as of 2004)

  • Stephen M. Schuck

  • Paul Fleming

  • Michael S. Joyce

  • William Kristol

  • Chris T. Sullivan

  • James T. Barry

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