JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt wants to make it easier for faith- and community-based groups and other nonprofit organizations to help state government provide services for Missourians in need.
Blunt’s plan, called Faith-Based Missouri, was enthusiastically created Thursday by participants of the second annual Faith-Based Initiatives Answering the Call Conference. Blunt announced the formation of a five-person committee that will travel the state to meet with churches and charities. The committee will ask what the state is doing right for community organizations and how communication and cooperation between organizations and government can be improved.
“If we really desire effective government, we must engage these well-springs of charity, virtue and shared prosperity,” Blunt said. “If we really want services that do more than feed a man for a day, or provide temporary shelter, we must cooperate more often with faith- and community-based organizations.”
Blunt’s new initiative stems from the Faith-Based Organization Liaison Act, which the governor signed earlier this year. Its goal is to make it easier for faith- and community-based organizations to receive state grants to provide social services. Blunt’s proposal is similar to the Bush Administration’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which was launched in 2003. According to the office’s Web site, in fiscal year 2005, $19.7 billion in grants were available through seven federal agencies. About $2.5 billion, or just over 10 percent, went to faith-based groups.
The Answering the Call Conference is organized by the Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division, which focuses on foster care, adoption services and the protection of abused and neglected children. The goal of the conference was to raise awareness of issues affecting Missouri children and increasing community involvement to meet their needs.
Blunt acknowledged that not everyone supports the involvement of churches and private nonprofits in providing services that are historically the responsibility of government. But, the governor said, government should help any organization that is willing and able to provide services for the community.
“Government should not and can not force religious involvement,” he said. “But it should not shun religious-based community programs that work regardless of who organizes the group. If a church organization can meet the needs of the community, then the government should work with the church.”