During the campaign President Barack Obama promised to change how the federal government gave money to religious groups. While he did change the title of the office created under President Bush, he has yet to remove the rules and regulations that allowed religious groups to discriminate when getting federal grant money.
It is no secret that some of groups that provide social services in the country were founded and operated by religious groups. It is part of their ministry to run charities. In some cases these charities receive tax dollars to pay for those operations. Before President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, those religious groups who wanted federal money had to apply like all charities and be subject to the same rules against discrimination. In the case of religion, programs operated by religious groups weren’t allowed to proselytize to clients.
President Bush changed that. He relaxed rules on religious groups and even allowed tax dollars to pay for construction and renovation of buildings used for worship.
President Obama changed the title of the office to Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and we in the secular community thought that was a huge start, short of doing away with the office all together. However, it seems Obama has yet to rescind the Bush era rules that made the office such a bad idea in the first place.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama’s “faith-based” initiative is being rolled out without repeal of Bush-era policies that violate civil rights and civil liberties.
Obama issued an executive order today (Feburary 5th) appointing Joshua DuBois as executive director of the White House faith-based office and setting up an advisory council on faith-based and other issues.
President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative allowed religious groups that accept tax funding to engage in discriminatory hiring and celebrated faith-based groups that proselytize. Today’s Obama action leaves the Bush executive orders in place including one that specifically authorizes religion-based employment discrimination in publicly funded programs.
As of the date of this post, President Obama hasn’t made the changes yet. Americans United are asking for people to contact the President and demand the changes.