Gov. Perry: Faith-based Organizations Deserve Level Playing Field
AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry today called for an end to barriers that prevent faith-based and community-based organizations from serving people in need and thanked attendees for their important work in Texas communities. The governor made his comments at a White House Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which provided participants with a general overview of federal grant opportunities for faith-based and community organizations.
"It is a great honor to be in the presence of more than 1,500 men and women who are the foot soldiers of the Army of Compassion, men and women who live out their faith and their values through a labor of love," Perry said. "Texas is indeed grateful to you for your willingness to partner with government to meet the great needs of our citizenry."
Perry said that the important role faith-based groups play in serving people in need was demonstrated 11 months ago when the state of Texas opened its arms to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Texas received an estimated 400,000 hurricane evacuees, and communities across the state worked to provide food, clothing, bedding, shelter, health care and encouragement to a people overwhelmed by trauma.
"I was often asked why it was that our people responded so heroically," Perry said. "I told them that it was only by the grace of God that the same hurricane didn't turn a few degrees west and bear down on a large city like Houston, leaving hundreds of thousands of Texans homeless and with little more than the clothes on their backs. When you can envision yourself standing in the shoes of another person, you are more willing to walk a mile with them, too."
Perry's office of faith-based and community initiatives is located in the OneStar Foundation, a non-profit organization Perry created to strengthen the capacity of local communities to address their most pressing needs. By coordinating the efforts of important community initiatives in our state, OneStar promotes service and volunteerism, forges effective public and private partnerships, and works to increase the performance of non-profit organizations.
"The reason I joined several good-hearted Texans in forming the OneStar Foundation is because there are a great many in our midst who are suffering and who need a helping hand," Perry said. "And so often, while we look to government first, those most equipped to deal with suffering and poverty are serving in private foundations, civic organizations and faith-based organizations. I have long believed that government can't solve every social ill, and certainly can't give meaning to the human heart or replace strong families and vibrant communities."
Perry said that all levels of government need partners that share the mission of providing hope and opportunity to people, and are committed to removing the barriers that prevent faith-based and community-based organizations from providing needed services to people in need.
"Texas aims to be a national leader in leveling the playing field for faith-based and community organizations so that all organizations can compete equally for public dollars to provide public services," Perry said. "These groups should be able to compete on a level playing field for opportunities to partner with government in meeting human needs."
Recently, OneStar provided grants totaling half a million dollars to 25 faith-based and community-based organizations in Texas from the federal Compassion Capital Fund, which will be used to help providers strengthen their capacity to offer services. And in March 2006, Perry announced a collaborative, interagency effort will launch Amachi Texas to match trained adult mentors with some 1,300 at-risk youth.
"We must stand in the gap for the children of prisoners, which is why Texas is the first state in the nation to fund the Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi program, which is a mentoring initiative aimed at the children of incarcerated parents so no longer will a young man or woman get their first glimpse of a parent or grandparent from behind the same prison bars," Perry said. "We must do all we can to help families transition from welfare to work, while taking head on the addictive behavior that reaps carnage far beyond the one addict seeking his or her next high."
Perry said that a walk down any major street in any urban area in this country will reveal the tragic effects of homelessness, alcoholism, drug addiction, gang activity and broken families. "For those looking to rise from the ash heap of dependency, addiction and violence, there must be a compassionate response not only from government, but society as a whole," Perry said.
Perry pointed out that social change has often found its catalyst in houses of worship, noting that people of faith awakened our social conscience in the 1960s to the evils of segregation, worked to smuggle slaves to freedom and end slavery, and were at the forefront of a Revolution more than 200 years ago on behalf of the rights of the individual and found the United States of America.
"Faith-based institutions and community-based organizations can greatly add to the social service goals of government, providing hope not because it is their job but because it is their mission," Perry said. "I happen to think, if we welcome people of faith and good will to the mission of individual and community revival, our efforts will not fail, but flourish."