Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s amendment to the Bush-era executive order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships:
President Obama’s amendments to President Bush’s executive order establishing a faith-based office in the White House provide long-awaited improvements that bring this office in closer conformity to the Constitution, but prompt serious concerns in some areas about the chosen direction. Today’s action ensures greater transparency in decision-making regarding the use of federal money for religion-based initiatives but fails to require recipients of federal funds to form separate entities to assure no mixing of federal tax dollars and religious tithes and offerings.
Much greater emphasis is given to the importance of religious freedom concerns, though the all-important issue of civil rights protections to guarantee no employment discrimination remains unaddressed. The employment discrimination issue was specifically excluded from the work of the President’s Advisory Council and given to the Justice Department for review, a decision Interfaith Alliance supported. However, two years have passed and still, there has been no action from Justice or the White House. While the order puts in place important protections for recipients of social services through faith-based groups, it does not go far enough in ensuring that federal tax dollars are not used to support explicitly religious activity.
President Obama’s changes to the old executive order reflect his attentiveness to the recommendations of the Task Force on the Reform of the Office specifically and the President’s trust in his Advisory Council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships specifically.
I am thankful for many of the changes implemented by the amended executive order released today, and I am committed to continued efforts to assure that remaining shortcomings are fixed. President Obama has not provided us with a complete solution, but he did demonstrate his administration’s interest in strengthening religious freedom and protecting the essential boundaries between religion and government. A good step has been taken, but there are many more elements needing attention and action.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.