President Obama signed today an Executive Order that authorizes a number of changes recommended by the Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP) task force. Secularists and faith-based organizations (FBO) alike were displeased with the directive, which comes just one day before a pivotal House subcommittee hearing on the issue.
One change not included in the order – to the chagrin of “separation of church and state” activists and to the relief of FBOs – was the task force’s strong recommendation to prevent faith-based organizations from hiring based on religious criteria.
The order, which adds a burdensome layer of bureaucracy to receive federal funds, does keep intact a provision similar to one outlined in President George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative:
“In addition, a faith-based organization that participates in a social service program may retain religious terms in its name, select its board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in its organization’s mission statements and other chartering or governing documents.”
Secularists, including Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, lambasted President Obama for not keeping his promise – and leaving much of President Bush’s initiative in place.
Lynn fumed in a Huffington Post blog, “Under this scheme, a recipient of faith-based aid could discriminate against an (gay-identified) applicant or employee.”
During a presidential campaign speech in Zanesville, Ohio, then-candidate Obama promised to crack down on religious hiring rights:
“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion.
“Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.”
Lynn, who served on the Advisory Council’s task force, said he personally pushed for the elimination of hiring rights.
A letter sent from Lynn and other secular groups to Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.J., prompted Thursday’s hearing. Nadler, the chairman on the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, is a staunch gay-agenda promoter. Groups fear that the hearing could be used as an opportunity to “fill the gaps” of today’s Executive Order – or worse yet, be a sideways attempt to amend federal employment law altogether.
WHOSE JOB IS IT?
The Executive Order spells out that if someone should object to the assistance offered by a FBO, the FBO “shall” make a referral to an alternate provider.
But Joshua Dubois, head of the FBNP, took a different interpretation.
“To be clear though,” he said. “It’s the government that has to provide that referral, not the faith-based organization itself.”
When CitizenLink pointed out the order’s exact wording, specifying that the “organization shall” make the referral, Dubois stayed the course.
“That’s right,” he said, “except the obligation is on the government to make sure that happens.”
GOVERNMENT ENTANGLEMENT – BY BUREAUCRACY
Jim Towey, former director of President Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said he was disappointed to hear that President Obama was expending effort and energy on this issue.
“He’s throwing a bone out to the secular side of his party and in the meantime he’s punting on the major issue having to do with religious hiring,” Towey said. “The reality is he’s creating a new layer of bureaucracy for these providers, and it’s going to have a dampening effect.”
Towey said the Obama administration should seriously consider closing the Advisory Council.
“It’s not really about helping faith-based organizations, help addicts recover or help the homeless find permanent housing,” he added. “What it really has become is a political outreach office.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read today’s Executive Order.
(OPPOSITION ARTICLE) Read Barry Lynn’s article, “It’s Time for Obama to Fix the Faith-Based Initiative.”