A presidential advisory council is scheduled to offer recommendations today on the “faith-based” initiative and other issues, but critics say the report is overshadowed by President Barack Obama’s failure to fix problematic Bush-era rules that undercut civil rights and civil liberties.
The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships will issue recommendations about the White House faith-based office and a wide range of other issues during a day-long session at the White House.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said, however, that the Obama administration needs to take action, not spend time studying reports.
“I am deeply disappointed at President Obama’s handling of the faith-based initiative,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He has kept the harmful Bush-era policies in place and added a constitutionally inappropriate council of religious leaders to offer policy advice. This is not separation of church and state.
“A year has passed,” Lynn continued, “and the president has failed to take steps to carry out his promise to ban religious discrimination in publicly funded social services. He has also failed to take effective action to bar proselytizing. Change is long overdue.”
Lynn noted that the American people want the president to act. According to a 2008 Pew Research Center poll, 61 percent of Americans say groups that encourage religious conversion should not be eligible for public funding. An overwhelming 73 percent say organizations that hire only people who share their religious beliefs should not receive government grants.
During a July 1, 2008, Zanesville, Ohio, speech, Obama promised to end Bush administration policies that permit publicly funded faith-based social service programs to proselytize and discriminate in hiring based on religion.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.