The Office of Faith Based Initiatives

Was2155965President Obama signed an Executive Order this week establishing the Office of Faith Based Initiatives.  This is a continuation of a Bush Administration policy that gives public dollars to faith based organizations that do charitable work in their communities.  It works like a grant program.  The church applies for the funds and tells the government how they plan to spend the money and then they get a check in the mail.  The main problem with the program (besides the obvious egregious church-state violation) under the Bush Administration was that organizations that accepted public funds were still allowed to discriminate during hiring practices.  For instance, the “Church of God” could refuse to hire a homosexual, or someone of a different faith, or an atheist.  Even if that person was the most qualified for the position.  Just to be clear, this kind of discrimination is not tolerated in any other program that gets government dollars.  On the campaign trail last year, Obama vowed to reverse the Bush hiring policy. “As someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state,” Obama said last July in a speech that pledged to expand Bush’s office of faith-based initiatives. “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.”  Advocates and opponents of this program have been watching closely to see if he was going to live up to the promises.  Well, he didn’t.  He punted.  He said he’s going wait on a legal review before making a decision on hiring practices. In the mean time, the hiring policy still stands.  I’ve been following Obama since 2004 (ardently since 06) and I am a strong supporter.  With that being said, I am not surprised that he is expanding Bush’s office of Faith Based Initiatives.  Anyone who has read Audacity of Hope knows that he has a strong conviction for church outreach and charity.  Does that bother me?  Somewhat, but I’ve learned to live with it.  Does it bother me that he is not aggressively addressing discriminatory hiring practices by organizations accepting tax dollars?  HELL YES!!!  I know I’m about to upset some people, but I don’t give a shit:  How can the first black President of the United States tolerate any kind of discrimination?  This policy needs to be reversed now.  Fuck a legal review.  It’s discrimination at its core.  If your church wants to discriminate against qualified candidates because of their beliefs or sexual orientation, fund your projects from your coffers.  

Phil and I will be discussing this issue live Sunday night 2/8/09 at 11pmET on the Atheist and Theist Radio Hour.  Join us in the chat room or call in with your take on this issue.

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2 Responses to “The Office of Faith Based Initiatives”

  1. Is promoting atheism a faith based initiative>?

  2. I would love to answer your question but I need you to elaborate. Are you talking about my site or something that Obama or the government is doing?

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