President George W. Bush has appointed a 41-year-old Indiana church elder and welfare reform activist to be the new director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
The appointment of Jay F. Hein of Indianapolis came as something of a surprise. Hein is a little-known figure who has not been a prominent player in the White House’s push for faith-based initiatives over the past five years. In fact, Hein was not originally on the White House’s short list of candidates and had merely been consulted about possible suggestions to fill the job opening.
Former U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, recommended Hein to the Bush administration as a contact, The Indianapolis Star reported. Currently head of the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank in Indianapolis, Hein is a Wisconsin native who served as an advisor on welfare issues to former Gov. Tommy Thompson during the 1990s.
Hein left the state in 1996 and went to work for the Hudson Institute, a prominent right-wing think tank that, at that time, was based in Indianapolis. When Hudson moved to Washington, D.C., Hein stayed behind and founded the Sagamore Institute.
Sagamore’s Board of Trustees includes Coats and the Rev. Herb Lusk, an African-American pastor in Philadelphia known for his close relationship with Bush.
Hein attends Grace Community Church in Noblesville, a congregation affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America, where he serves as a church elder. He also serves on the board of trustees of The Oaks Academy, a private school in Indianapolis that describes itself as offering “Christ-centered classical education.”
In other news about the faith-based initiative:
• A July 18 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the Bush administration has not provided sufficient safeguards against discrimination in the operation of its faith-based initiative. The report also found that the administration has not studied the effectiveness of religiously run social services.
GAO was asked to look at the initiative by U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.) The GAO study found that among the 10 federal agencies examined “only four gave an explicit statement to religious organizations about protecting the religious liberties of the people they serve.” It also noted that only one federal agency has attempted to evaluate the performance of faith-based social service providers.
The report revealed that federal agencies charged with oversight of the faith-based operations are extremely lax in making sure that faith-based groups do not discriminate against those of different faiths.