Thought this might interest you folks: ========== "To put it another way, critics of the faith-based approach may claim that their only issue is with religion. But if these results are any clue, increasingly the argument against such programs requires turning a blind eye to science." http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110003652 REVIEW & OUTLOOK Jesus Saves How President Bush found himself hugging a murderer in the White House. Friday, June 20, 2003 12:01 a.m. That's not quite the way a University of Pennsylvania report puts it. But that's the underlying message of a just-released study confirming sharply reduced recidivism rates for Texas inmates who've completed an innovative joint venture between Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship Ministries and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Which explains how President Bush found himself in the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday shaking hands with a convicted murderer. The theology underlying the idea is as old as the Apostles: sin and redemption. And the InnerChange Freedom Initiative incorporates these notions into a three-phase program. In the first phase, the aim is to build a moral foundation in prisoners through biblical study, work, support groups and mentoring. The second phase introduces off-site work (e.g., with Habitat for Humanity) that helps reintroduce prisoners to the community. Phase III is the support given an ex-offender after he has been released, to keep (no pun intended) his spirits up and help him with everything from jobs to housing to family. The president comes by his enthusiasm for this program honestly. As governor of Texas, George W. Bush was the first to put it into operation in America. In this regard the ex-con the president bear-hugged at the White House on Wednesday is something of an old friend: He's the same man then-Gov. Bush was photographed with his arm around during a 1997 visit to a Texas prison, both of them singing "Amazing Grace." That man has now turned his life around, and he's not the only one, judging from the findings by Byron Johnson of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society. In a nutshell, Mr. Johnson found that those who completed all three program phases were "significantly less likely than the matched groups" to be either arrested (17.3% vs. 35%) or incarcerated (only 8% vs. 20.3%) in the first two years after release. Here's how spiritual conversion reads in academese: "Narratives of IFI members revealed five spiritual transformation themes that are consistent with characteristics long associated with offender rehabilitation: (a) I'm not who I used to be; (b) spiritual growth; (c) God versus the prison code; (d) positive outlook on life; and (e) the need to give back to society." All this, no doubt, will be profoundly discomforting to those who like the results but don't like the religion; a similar program in Iowa is already being sued by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. But the question is joined: Can you achieve the positive social outcomes of faith-based programs if you strip out the faith? As Penn's John DiIulio reminds us, the positive findings about the InnerChange Freedom Initiative parallel more than 500 other studies showing that the "faith factor" often makes faith-based programs more effective than their purely secular counterparts. To put it another way, critics of the faith-based approach may claim that their only issue is with religion. But if these results are any clue, increasingly the argument against such programs requires turning a blind eye to science. Copyright © 2003 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.