Washington, D.C. – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to the White House’s long delayed guidance, Recommendations of the Interagency Working Group on Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Partnerships. Rev. Gaddy has been a longtime critic of the program known as the faith-based initiative because of concern that entanglements between religion and government damage the integrity of both kinds of institutions. Rev. Gaddy served on the White House taskforce charged with making recommendations to reform the office. His statement follows:
We have waited more than a year for the White House to release its report from the President’s Interagency Working Group on Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Partnerships. The guidance provided by the report is an important step forward in the effort to protect the boundaries between religion and government – as well as the rights of social service program beneficiaries – but major faults in the report and the executive order upon which it was based cannot be ignored.
The report provides long-awaited guidance on how government agencies can implement changes made by President Obama’s 2010 executive order to bring the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in closer conformity with the Constitution. Though the guidance does pay attention to religious freedom-implications of the faith-based initiative, two serious concerns remain problematic constitutionally and sufficiently unaddressed. First, both the executive order and resulting guidance fail to implement Advisory Council recommendations designed to prevent the mixing of federal tax dollars with religious tithes and offerings; because houses of worship are not required to separately incorporate, government funds and the money brought in from offering plates can become mingled. Second, we still need President Obama and the Justice Department to prohibit employment discrimination in the name of religion when it happens with the use of taxpayer dollars.
Each concern carries major constitutional implications regarding the violation of religious freedom—keeping separate the institutions of religion and government on the one hand, and assuring that the faith-based office stops condoning violations of civil rights guarantees. The guidelines fail to address these two critical concerns and raise doubts as to the thoroughness with which the administration wants this controversial office to align with freedoms made sacred in the Constitution. I remain committed to contributing my efforts to ensuring that the remaining shortcomings are fixed.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit www.interfaithalliance.org.