White House Must Reform Faith-Based Initiative, Says ACLU

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Claire O’Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

White House Must Reform Faith-Based Initiative, Says ACLU

Faith-Based Office Continues To Raise Civil Liberties Concerns

WASHINGTON - One
year after the formation of the White House Office of Faith-Based and
Neighborhood Partnerships, the American Civil Liberties Union joins a
broad coalition of religious, education, civil rights, labor and health
organizations in urging the Obama administration to reform its
“faith-based initiative.” As part of this initiative, the government
provides federal funds to religious organizations that engage in
religious discrimination and do not separate their religious content
from their social service work.

In
a letter sent to the White House Thursday, the ACLU and 25 other
religious and public interest groups called on the administration to
protect civil rights and religious liberty while carrying out
federally-funded social service programs. 

Over
the past year, the Obama administration has taken steps in the wrong
direction, creating a federal advisory committee made up of religious
leaders that has often operated in secret, and increasing federal
funding for religious organizations without changing discriminatory,
Bush-era hiring practices. The ACLU and its coalition partners have
identified specific steps to ensure the protection of civil rights and
religious liberties endangered by current policies, including
prohibiting religious organizations from discriminating in hiring on
the basis of religion within federally-funded social welfare programs.
The coalition is also asking the administration to address concerns
regarding transparency and to ensure program beneficiaries are
protected from unwanted proselytizing or religious activities.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

“While
the current administration inherited deeply flawed faith-based policies
from the Bush administration, it is very troubling that a year later,
those policies are still in effect. Not even one word of the Bush-era
faith-based initiative has changed. The current White House also
created an often secretive government advisory committee that includes
clergy who have a clear financial stake in the continuation of Bush-era
policies. It’s time the administration clearly defines the line between
religion and government and corrects the bad policies it inherited. The
government has no business using taxpayer dollars to fund religious
discrimination by religious organizations that are unwilling to play by
the same rules that apply to everyone else providing federal services
to Americans in need.”

A copy of the coalition letter to the White House is available at:

www.aclu.org/religion-belief/coalition-letter-president-obama-reform-faith-based-office

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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