Washington, DC – Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s amendment to the Bush-era executive order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships:

President Obama’s amendments to President Bush’s executive order establishing a faith-based office in the White House provide long-awaited improvements that bring this office in closer conformity to the Constitution, but prompt serious concerns in some areas about the chosen direction. Today’s action ensures greater transparency in decision-making regarding the use of federal money for religion-based initiatives but fails to require recipients of federal funds to form separate entities to assure no mixing of federal tax dollars and religious tithes and offerings. 

Much greater emphasis is given to the importance of religious freedom concerns, though the all-important issue of civil rights protections to guarantee no employment discrimination remains unaddressed.  The employment discrimination issue was specifically excluded from the work of the President’s Advisory Council and given to the Justice Department for review, a decision Interfaith Alliance supported. However, two years have passed and still, there has been no action from Justice or the White House. While the order puts in place important protections for recipients of social services through faith-based groups, it does not go far enough in ensuring that federal tax dollars are not used to support explicitly religious activity.

President Obama’s changes to the old executive order reflect his attentiveness to the recommendations of the Task Force on the Reform of the Office specifically and the President’s trust in his Advisory Council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships specifically. 

I am thankful for many of the changes implemented by the amended executive order released today, and I am committed to continued efforts to assure that remaining shortcomings are fixed.  President Obama has not provided us with a complete solution, but he did demonstrate his administration’s interest in strengthening religious freedom and protecting the essential boundaries between religion and government.  A good step has been taken, but there are many more elements needing attention and action.

Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.