Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Jim Towey, who headed the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the White House for more than fours years, will leave his post June 2, but he said the compassionate-conservative agenda put in place by President Bush is strong in the heartland and will live on after his departure.

“President Bush’s faith-based and community initiative is deeply rooted in America’s heartland. It’s established, and will continue to bear fruit for years to come, and I thank God for President Bush’s leadership on an initiative that has faced a steady head wind since Day One,” Mr. Towey said.

Showing reporters a picture from the day two weeks ago that he told Mr. Bush about his decision to take the top job at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pa. — the president had the diminutive Mr. Towey in a headlock, both men smiling — he said he was not part of an ongoing staff shake-up at the White House.

“The reality is, this has been in the works for months, and I’m leaving with President Bush’s blessing. I would not have left without it.”

Mr. Bush praised Mr. Towey, saying: “Throughout his life, Jim has worked for Democrats and Republicans as an advocate for those in need.”

“His work on behalf of the poor and the sick has improved lives. … He is a man of great integrity, and I thank him for his service,” Mr. Bush said.

Congressional Democrats — who rapidly sent out e-mails to reporters yesterday decrying new Bush appointments — did not criticize Mr. Towey. But Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauded the departure of a man they called the “Faith Czar” and said Mr. Bush should close the faith-based office.

Mr. Towey, a soft-spoken man with a ready smile, took direct aim at his critics, saying: “In reality, this is the death rattle of the voices that were heard when President Bush first took office, because the wall between church and state is still standing. But faith-based groups have been welcomed into the public square, and the poor have benefited from having access to their effective programs.”

Although some of Mr. Towey’s efforts remain stalled on Capitol Hill, including one he said is being held up by “a handful of Senate Democrats,” he said that the faith initiative has taken hold across America.

“Washington can be a stalemate on some minor legislation, but out in the heartland, they’ve already reached a conclusion. They want faith-based groups in the public square helping our poor,” he said.

Mr. Towey spoke to reporters at his Jackson Place office, with photos of his family and his one-time client, Mother Teresa, behind him. On a desk, there was a Bible, opened to Psalms 34: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” Above his head hung a large photo of the president, deep in prayer.

Mr. Towey said before he took the job that his career goal was simply “to get to heaven.” Asked yesterday if he was closer to that goal, his wife, Mary, chimed in: “It’s more his marriage with me that’s helping him attain that goal than this job.”

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide