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Obama's Religion Problem: White House Funnels Money to Discriminatory Religious Groups

Taxpayer dollars are continuing to be dispensed to religious groups via a secretive and controversial government office.

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The question remains -- how long is this all going to take? Meanwhile, all these organizations are providing services without the regulations in place.

What's more, while the executive order requires agencies to post a list of entities that "receive federal financial assistance for provision of social service programs," it doesn't require them to designate which recipients are faith-based groups. As a result, the taxpayer money flowing to religious groups remains, as it was during the Bush administration, difficult to track. There is, for example, still no single place to track which federal grants went to religious organizations. "I think it would be next to impossible for a member of the public to begin tracking" such grants, said AU's Boston.

An analysis of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending by the political journalism organization Politico last year found that $140 million went to faith-based groups -- all before Obama acted to implement reforms to the office -- including replacing an HVAC system in a church and replacing windows in a Catholic school. Robert Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at The George Washington University and an expert on faith-based initiatives, told Politico that Obama's OFBNP was "almost entirely identical" to the Bush policy.

In the end, says Kramer, there's no conclusive evidence that religiously based programs deliver services, such as substance abuse treatment, as well as or better than secular ones. And that's why, she maintains, evaluation of the programs, an element missing from the executive order, is so important.

If religiously-based programs "have something powerful that they do in an intervention, we need to know about it, because it needs to be replicable," she said. "You need to know what the methodology is, and whether it can be applied in a secular way.… We can't fund Jesus Christ."

Sarah Posner is associate editor of Religion Dispatches and author of God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters . Read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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