For the first anniversary of President Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua Dubois heralded the program's shift "from funding to programmatic impact" compared to the Bush administration's emphasis. A group of religious liberty advocates including the Baptist Joint Committee, however, are calling on the President to overhaul key aspects of the program which have not changed since his inauguration. In a letter to the White House, the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination highlight 3 key areas that remain in need of reform.
1. Religious organizations should be prohibited from discriminating in hiring on the basis of religion within federally-funded social welfare projects.
2. The recommendations of the Reform of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Taskforce should be adopted in full.
3. The Administration should amend existing Executive Orders and make uniform guidance resources for federal agencies on a number of specific issues.
In a press release announcing this message to President Obama, the BJC's Executive Director Brent Walker explains:
“Partnerships between government and faith-based organizations are a given,” said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the BJC and a member of the task force charged with recommending reforms for the Faith-based Office. “However, the rules of cooperation must be carefully crafted to protect religious liberty.”
Walker applauds Obama’s focus on developing ways to cooperate with organizations helping those in need, and doing it the right way. “But, I do urge the president to ban religious hiring discrimination in government-funded programs.”
One year into the program's new incarnation, it's time to implement needed changes.
[UPDATE: Rev. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United – which also signed on to the letter – adds an opinion piece at Huffington Post charging that President Obama's faith-based office has not made substantial changes to the broken system of the previous administration.]