Obama and Church-State Separation

Human Rights

At The Nation, Sarah Posner has an important and troubling article about President Barack Obama's faith-based initiatives, and whether or not they conform with our First Amendment guarantee of church-state separation:


During the presidential campaign, Obama said he would expand George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives because "the challenges we face today...are simply too big for government to solve alone." But he also promised to end the constitutional violations of Bush's faith-based programs by requiring that federal dollars that go to churches, temples and mosques "only be used on secular programs" and by forbidding programs that accept federal money from proselytizing or discriminating against people in hiring on the basis of religion.

Since he has taken office, however, Obama has backtracked or stalled on these pledges. Perhaps more disturbing, Obama's [Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships], while still a work in progress, is plagued by a lack of transparency and accountability and has seemingly already been exploited as a tool for rewarding religious constituencies with government jobs--exactly the problems that marked Bush's faith-based initiative.

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