At a campaign event in Zanesville, Ohio, Obama announced his plan to fix President Bush’s broken Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The office set-up by President Bush has fallen under intense criticism due to its formation through executive orders and Bush’s avoidance of congress’ approval.
At his speech in Zanesville, Obama said, “Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea – so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.” The biggest problem with the office set-up by President Bush is that it does not strictly respect the establishment clause of the first amendment, which because the necessary safeguards were not enforced. The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Fortunately, Obama plans to completely restructure Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community initiatives to make sure that the office he creates will be a partnership with religious groups, not an endorsement. In his presidential announcement speech in February 2007, Obama said, “And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go.”
In an article with the Jerusalem Post, an Obama campaign senior adviser stated that Obama does not support using government funds to proselytize or to hire/fire on the basis of religion. Obama reassured his audience in Zanesville that he would uphold the establishment clause and explained the safeguards he would create to enforce the separation of church and state.
These Safeguards, as outlined by the Obama Campaign include:
- Cannot use federal funds to proselytize or provide religious sectarian instruction.
- Cannot discriminate against nonmembers in providing services. They must remain open to all and cannot practice religious discrimination against the populations they serve.
- Must comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Religious organizations that receive federal dollars cannot discriminate with respect to hiring for government-funded social service programs.
- Can only use taxpayer dollars on secular programs and initiatives.
- Must prove their efficacy and be judged based on program effectiveness. They will be expected to demonstrate proven program outcomes to continue to receive funding.