Obama Cautious on Faith-Based Initiatives: Activists Cite Campaign Pledge, but President Is Slow to Break With Bush Policies
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Candidate Barack Obama drew little attention during last year’s presidential campaign when he ventured into the thorny territory of church and state.
While President George W. Bush had expanded government contracts to faith-based groups, Obama promised to end that arrangement if the groups proselytized to the needy they served, or hired only members of that faith.
Today, that campaign pledge—along with other complex questions of religion and government—are posing something of a dilemma for President Obama, as he tries to balance increasing pressure from the left to renounce Bush-era policies against a desire to find common ground on social issues.
Civil liberties advocates have pressed Obama to keep the promise he made in July 2008 when he told an audience in Zanesville, Ohio: “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.”
But in office, Obama has proceeded far more cautiously. He has reinforced the need for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and dispatched Joshua DuBois, a young Pentecostal minister and an aide on Obama’s Senate staff, to reach out to many of the same religious groups whose receipt of substantial federal grants in the Bush administration raised controversy. . . .