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FOR RELEASE: April 19, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

State Surveys Faith Organizations

A survey of religious groups in Oklahoma and the kinds of social and health services they provide has generated interest in current and potential faith-based efforts in the state.

Brad Yarbrough, director of the Office of Faith-Based Liaison, said 749 surveys, or about 12.5 percent, have been returned from faith-based organizations that received questionnaires last month. “Early results confirm the tremendous role religious institutions play in helping individuals and families within our communities,” he said. The survey is thought to be first of its kind conducted in the state and is similar to one recently conducted nationally by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which found that most Americans favor government funding for faith-based initiatives.

Among the early findings of Oklahoma's survey were the following:

  • Of those responding, 560 (75%) say they favor collaboration with government agencies in providing social services, and 510 (68%) would support receiving government funds. However, only 50 (7%) have received government funds thus far and just 72 (10%) were familiar with “Charitable Choice.”
  • Among the social services currently provided, the highest ranking were marriage counseling (542); home visits to shut-ins (496); personal/family crisis (434); groceries/food pantry (419); youth issues (400); followed by summer youth camp (396); grief counseling (381); and nursing home outreach (304).
  • Among the services the respondents would be most interested in providing were parenting groups, divorce support groups, after school programs, personal finance classes, and anger/conflict resolution classes.
  • Concerning the issue of marriage, 671 (90%) responded they currently require premarital counseling and 329 (52%) provide marriage enrichment classes.

Yarbrough said the results will be compiled into a directory of service providers that will help Oklahomans discover the tremendous resources provided within their communities by faith-based organizations. The information, in turn, will help those organizations to more effectively serve the needs of their members and their communities.

“As Gov. Keating has said, 'Our faith organizations of all creeds and denominations are the very backbone of society's efforts to renew itself,' yet as liaison to the faith community, I am concerned that four years after passage of the Charitable Choice Law, part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, the faith community and local governments are still unaware of the opportunities available through Charitable Choice,” Yarbrough noted.

He explained that Charitable Choice allows religious groups to have the same access to government resources as secular service providers. The government cannot require that a faith-based organization sacrifice its religious integrity in order to participate, while at the same time, the law protects recipients from religious coercion.

“John J. DiIulio, Jr., director of President Bush's national Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, points out that '…only now are we as a society awakening to the tantalizing possibility that …with more creative public/private and religious/secular partnerships, at least some of the problems that continue to plague children, youth and families will be addressed in ways that transform lives,' “ Yarbrough said.

“For Charitable Choice to be successful, we must educate both sides, and this survey provides us a baseline of information to begin that process, “ he emphasized.

Yarbrough said faith-based community development will be discussed at the first FaithLinks Oklahoma Conference scheduled for May 17 in Tulsa at the First United Methodist Church, 11th and Main, and again on May 18 in Oklahoma City at the Ramada Conference Center, 4345 N. Lincoln.

For more information on the survey or the FaithLinks Oklahoma Conference, contact Yarbrough at 405/271-1742, or visit the FaithLinks Web site at www.state.ok.us/~faithlinks.

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