From the ACLU
President Barack Obama announced today that he is taking the unprecedented and troubling step of forming a federal advisory committee to be made up mostly of religious leaders. Also of great concern, President Obama will increase federal funds going to religious organizations without first changing the Bush-era rules allowing federally-funded religious organizations to apply religious hiring tests to employees.According to the AP report, the office hopes to work with "both secular and faith-based" nonprofit organizations regardless of political or religious beliefs to provide community services.
Today’s announcement included the appointment of 25 members of a government advisory committee that will be dominated by religious leaders. The mission of the government committee will be to advise the president and the White House faith-based office on how to distribute federal dollars, and also advise on a range of other issues such as AIDS and women’s reproductive health care. Although former President George W. Bush gave prominence to his faith-based initiative and informally consulted with individual religious leaders, even he never formed a government advisory committee made up primarily of clergy.
Although the president restated today his earlier campaign commitment to end the discriminatory hiring practices of government-funded religious groups that President Bush allowed, he deferred changing the rules. As a result, potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of new federal spending in the economic stimulus package now before the Senate could be distributed under the existing rules that allow discrimination in hiring in federally-funded programs.
I'm of the opinion that as a secular liberal democracy we shouldn't be in the business of "faith-based" anything; we should be running reason based programs. Not only should Obama heed the advice of the ACLU, he should rename the office to better reflect its secular purpose.
Of course, I'd prefer that an office that ends up funneling federal money to religious organizations not exist in the first place.