B’nai B’rith International, along with a coalition of 25 religious, education, and civil rights groups, sent a letter to President Obama on Feb. 4 calling for changes to the Faith-Based Initiative program overseen by the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The letter from the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination expresses concern that promised changes to the Faith-Based Initiative program begun under President Bush have not taken place. B’nai B’rith and its partners contend the fundamental concerns expressed when the program began—that it could lead to government-funded religious discrimination and subject beneficiaries of services to proselytizing—are still valid.
In the letter to the president, the group wrote: “We urge you to act now to restore the constitutionally-required safeguards and civil rights protections governing partnerships between government and religiously-affiliated institutions—standard operating procedures that had been largely in place for decades prior to the creation of the Faith-Based Initiative.”
B’nai B’rith recognizes that a vital role of the government is to provide social welfare services to the neediest citizens. But those services cannot come with a catch. The rules put in place by the Bush administration, and followed by the Obama administration, do not properly safeguard those seeking services from undue influence.
The coalition urges the Obama administration to move quickly to reverse some of the most egregious rules regarding how federal grants may be used. A rule-change is also need to ensure that religious institutions that receive federal money can only use those funds for secular programs.
There are three major areas in which the coalition is calling for changes:
“The Administration should prohibit religious organizations from discriminating in hiring on the basis of religion within federally-funded social welfare projects.
“The Administration should adopt in full the recommendations of the Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Taskforce on which a consensus was reached.
“Whether the Council ultimately adopts the most vitally-needed Reform of the Office recommendations or not, the Administration should amend existing Executive Orders, rules and regulations and make uniform guidance resources for federal agencies.”
Click here to read the full letter.