Today Barack Obama promised that if he becomes president the federal government will expand the Bush policy of funding faith-based social service providers. Obama’s arguments for how his proposed Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will give tax dollars to religious charities seem similar to those made by President Bush when he set up the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. Obama laid out the policy in his speech:
First, 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…
Every house of worship that wants to run an effective program and that’s willing to abide by our constitution – from the largest mega-churches and synagogues to the smallest store-front churches and mosques – can and will have access to the information and support they need to run that program.
Predictably, secular liberals criticized Obama while religious conservatives who favor the Bush policy favored this one too. In a Washgton Post op-ed last weekend Jim Towey, former head of the Bush faith-based office, observed that both candidates were silent on the future of faith-based grantmaking. He asked five questions concerning where they stood on the issue.
So far it looks like at least Barack Obama is willing to carry on the Bush spending policies in this area.