President’s Faith Based Council Votes on Controversial Issues

February 12, 2010

After a yearlong review of the of the policies put in place by President Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, a presidential advisory council appointed by President Obama has released their recommendations for the reform of that office, now known as the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Among the issues examined were whether or not religious institutions that received federal funding to operate secular services such as soup kitchens, drug rehabilitation programs, or homeless shelters should be required to incorporate a separate 501(c) (3) organization in order to receive those funds and whether or not a religious institution could offer those services in rooms containing iconography such as crosses, art, or scripture.

By the narrowest of margins, the council voted 13-12 to recommend that religious institutions receiving federal funding be required to incorporate a separate 501(c) (3). This requirement would make it easier for the federal government to ensure that public funds are only being used for secular services, and also protect religious institutions from unnecessary federal intrusion into their private financial matters.

By a vote of 16-7-2, the council voted to recommend that religious institutions should not be required to or encouraged to remove religious iconography from rooms designated to hold a federally funded secular social service. Currently, churches and other religious institutions are not required to alter rooms in any way. The vote on this subject allowed three possible options. Aside from the “yes” or “no” positions, there was also a position that would have recommended that churches be encouraged (but not required) to remove religious iconography which drew the seven vote minority.

Note that the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Council are just that—recommendations. As such they are nonbinding and the final decision on what policy changes, if any, should be made lies with Joshua DuBois, the head of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and ultimately with President Obama.

Read the full story here .

Read CFI’s letter to President Obama regarding deficiencies in his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships here .

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