The concept of the faith-based initiative was a political idea put forth by George W. Bush (in the United States), whereby the federal government would give money to religious organizations, in order that they would do the governments' work in caring for the poor, endangered, and troubled. Bush claimed that these initiatives would somehow be able to work more efficiently than regular government agencies, an assertion that remains unproven. In order to implement this program, a new government agency, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), was established by executive order soon after Bush's inauguration.
Disappointingly, President Barack Obama does not seem to be going to do much to reinforce the separation between church and state. Under his administration, the office remains in place, and simply had its name changed to the "Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships". Associated press reported: "Analysts say the first weeks of the Obama era show there's little question that both major political parties believe religion should be a significant factor in shaping policy."
The use of tax-payer money for faith-based initiatives raises constitutional concerns about the separation of church and state. While organizations who receive funding are forbidden from using the money for proselytizing or discriminating against recipients on the basis of religion, critics have pointed out that there's a lack of adequate safeguards and monitoring, and no regulation that would prohibit religious discrimination against prospective employees of these organizations. The White House effort is similar to one Bush launched when serving as governor of Texas in 1996, which has indeed been plagued by several cases of blatant proselytizing, generally poor performance, and crowding out of nonreligious organizations.
It is doubtful whether the aim of Bush's initiative was indeed a better performance of social service providers that would benefit those in need. Whether the First Amendment prohibition on "recognizing a religion" applies here did not matter to the administration - they had to throw a bone to the 15% or so of the population that are insane enough to want to elect a religious leader, not a political one. David Kuo, a conservative Christian who served as Deputy Director of the OFBCI from 2001 to 2003, published an account of his experiences in the office that accused the Bush administration of utilizing the initiatives as a political tool to placate the religious right and even influence close congressional races. The "initiative" mostly channels federal dollars to large, well-recognized Christian churches.
- ↑ Obama the Christian activist
- ↑ Susan Jacoby: Keeping the Faith, Ignoring the History, New York Times
- ↑ "Letter to President Obama", Coalition Against Religious Discrimination, via adl.org
- ↑ "The Texas Faith-Based Initiative at Five Years (PDF)", Texas Freedom Network
- ↑ See dominionism.
- ↑ Olbermann Exclusive: Dissecting new Book Tempting Faith, crooksandliars.com
- ↑ TheocracyWatch:Faith Based Initiative