Faith, Funding and the Obama Administration

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Accepting government funds leaves a religious organization vulnerable to the same kind of intrusion from government that we have seen in banks and corporations that have taken federal funds. The government has a responsibility to know how taxpayers’ money is used, and any religious institution considering accepting federal funding needs to consider whether they want to give the government a voice in their operations. Requiring the establishment of a separate 501(c)(3) goes a long way toward solving this problem by only giving the government oversight of the charitable institutions that rely on federal dollars, not the religious institutions that have established them.

DuBois has also indicated that the administration will use a case-by-case approach when considering if the hiring practices of faith-based groups are acceptable. Interfaith Alliance has made clear that there is no acceptable situation in which an organization receiving federal money can discriminate on the basis of an applicant’s religion, and we continue to push hard for the Obama Administration to issue a new executive order with clear guidelines on hiring, eliminating discriminatory practices.

Thankfully, the administration recently decided to take the hiring issue away from the newly created Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and instead place it where it belongs – with the White House Legal Counsel and the Justice Department. The Advisory Council consists of 25 leaders, mostly from faith-based groups, with a few from community groups. It includes many respected leaders, but they are not legal experts and they should not be setting policy on this issue. 

Overall, Interfaith Alliance has reserved judgment on the Faith Based Advisory Council. Its mission is unclear, and it has yet to hold a substantive meeting. Ideally, the council should be more diverse in its make-up, in terms of the balance between faith-based and community groups.

Interfaith Alliance has been disappointed with the slow pace of change in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. However, the administration continues to listen and we remain committed to working with them to find a way to implement the changes necessary to protect both religion and government.