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The concept of the faith-based initiative, a political idea put forth by George W. Bush (in the United States), involved the U.S. federal government giving money to religious organizations in order that they would do the government's work in caring for the poor, endangered, and troubled. Bush claimed that these initiatives could somehow work more efficiently than regular government agencies, an assertion that remains
unproven bullshit. In order to implement this program, an executive order established a new government agency, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI), soon after Bush's inauguration.
Disappointingly, President Barack Obama did not seem to plan to do much to reinforce the separation between church and state. Under his administration the office remained 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 taxpayer money for faith-based initiatives raises constitutional concerns about the separation of church and state. While organizations receiving 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 the 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 treads a fine line on church-state issues", Eric Gorski, Associated Press. February 11, 2009
- Susan Jacoby: Keeping the Faith, Ignoring the History, New York Times
- wink, wink
- "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