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  • Religious Liberty, Obama’s Surprising Soft Spot

    President Obama apparently has a soft spot in his heart for religious liberty. And the New York Times editorial board is not pleased. The president last week issued a much-awaited executive order setting government-wide policy on community-based and religious nonprofits that receive federal grants. The executive order is meant to act on the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

    That panel’s recommendations cover many topics arising in the context of federal financing of religious nonprofits, which receive and spend about one third of the money donated to U.S. charities in any given year. But the focus of concern for Barry Lynn and other advocates of stringent, if not to say hostile, separation of church and state was the promise candidate Obama made in July 2008 to bar publicly funded, religious nonprofits from hiring on the basis of religion. Lynn and his cohorts label such hiring preferences “discrimination” and want them outlawed.

    The promise was clear enough—a few words in a speech by candidate Obama that touched on the value of the work done by faith-motivated charities but pledged that an Obama administration would block discrimination “against the people” such charities hire. Once in office, however, President Obama and his faith office advisers took their time, much to Lynn and others’ chagrin, about banning the religious hiring protections. The outside groups formed the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination (CARD) and dogged Obama with letters and public statements about keeping his word.

    On Capitol Hill a pair of restless congressmen, Gene Green (D-TX) and the retiring (literally, not personality-wise) Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), introduced a bill to reauthorize federal drug abuse and mental health treatment programs. The measure, H.R. 5466, included a clause to bar religious hiring preferences by grantees under those programs. It was an odd choice for Kennedy, who has benefited from substance abuse treatment. He must know, better than most, how reliant the most successful of these programs are on deploying religious elements to effect and maintain recovery.

    As Washington waited for Obama to act, CARD’s agitation grew. Their outrage is based on the faulty assertion that somehow the default position in federal law is an aversion to religious hiring rights. But the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended in 1972, includes protection for religious organizations against intrusion in their decisions to hire only co-religionists in furtherance of their mission. The federal courts, including a unanimous Supreme Court in 1987, in Corporation of Presiding Bishop v. Amos, generally have upheld these exemptions.

    Obama’s executive order thus sustains the existing law and sends Lynn and his fellow CARD carriers away empty-handed. To the Times’ editorial board, Obama “seems to have forgotten” his “firmly asserted” principle.

    One can sympathize with CARD’s reflexive disappointment with another broken promise from the White House. But, to badly paraphrase Robert Frost, when the “road not taken” is a promise better not kept, it’s wiser to stay the course. Lynn has radiated for decades his haunting fear, to paraphrase H. L. Mencken somewhat less badly, that “someone, somewhere” is having a positive religious experience.

    Obama’s executive order raises other concerns. Like all government documents that have anything to do with procurement, it is freighted with paperwork requirements that will be swiftly off-loaded onto strapped charities that prefer feeding the hungry to filling out forms and posting notices. Although those burdens can be reduced by streamlining and standardization, other problems are posed by the requirement that the covered nonprofits have referral arrangements in place for clients who object to their religious character.

    Job training programs and soup kitchens can readily comply with such requirements, but applying them in morally fraught areas such as health care could create big potholes down the road. Conscience protections for health care providers remain in limbo ever since Obama kept another promise in March 2009 by suspending President Bush’s proposed regulations enforcing laws such as Hyde-Weldon and the Church amendment.

    At its root, the clash over religious hiring rights involves conflicting ideas about what constitutes diversity. For the New York Times, Barry Lynn and others, diversity is an expression of radical individualism. In this view, government’s only interest in, and only means of, promoting diversity is to pit individuals against institutions and assure that the individual prevails in any conflict.

    That the relentless pursuit of this homogenizing form of diversity will result in less diverse institutions, particularly fewer distinctly religious institutions in the public square, is of negligible import to its advocates.

    Obama, fortunately, for now has decided not to align himself with the spirit of a coalition better described as Citizens Advocating Secular Homogenization (CASH). He has taken a higher road, one marked with the understanding that among the best ways to celebrate diversity is to allow it.

    Cross-posted at First Things.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to Religious Liberty, Obama’s Surprising Soft Spot

    1. Randy131 in Florida says:

      With all these people and groups going after religious organizations, is it no wonder Jesus questioned whether there would be any faith left upon His return. If it is to be so, then Christians need to stand up and fight back against these secular Satanists who would destroy all faith organizations not only in the USA, but around the world. Jesus also said that; "If you deny Me, then I will deny you to my Father". Its time for all to stand up and defend what they believe or stop claiming to believe it, for it then could make a liar of you.

    2. Bernadine Johnson says:

      Obama is soft on jihad so yes he will give cair and it's affilletes free to support thier effort to distroy this country from within. But Chrisians will be targeted. Obama's doing every thing in his power to distroy America. Politics as usual.

      American cannot win. the press lies and and covers up truth. GOD BLESS AMERICA. Before 2012 the way this country is going we will not be able to

      Print or say GOD BLESS AMERICA.

    3. Mike May says:

      Obama's out of norm actions smells! The debate over the "Ground Zero Mosque” has been elevated to the mosque site developers seeking federal funding for some $50,000,000 or so dollars from the United States tax payers. I may be a bit off track here but Obama hasn’t done anything that is commendable. There always is a twist or spin. This really smells of a ramp up to a bigger picture. It looks like it would be good. Later we as citizens find out we have been duped. This is just something for all of us to look deeper into.

    4. John, Surprise, AZ says:

      Guess "BO" has to be "soft" on this point, else all the Muslim Organizations would be forced to hire Christians and Jews. Now the radical Muslim organizations will not be forced into hiring non-believers who might betray Muslim true aims.

    5. Australia says:

      I can't help but be a little cynical about Obama's actual reasons for not honoring his promise of revoking religious hiring rights.. While I agree with his decision, I don't think he is defending diversities of all religious bodies as much as he is protecting Islam from being restricted in hiring only muslims in their more radical schools .

    6. Tenn Slim says:

      Opine

      1. The entire article relates essentially to the Constitution, re separation of church and state. As I understand the premise, OBAMA has reneged on a campaign promise, to the betterment of faith based orgs. This is anathema to the Left, consistent in thier denigration of any Faith based org.

      2. Now. Can we see the 2nd and 3rd layer of influence. The REGS that adorn the executive order. Will they be the Camels Nose, under the tent, and if so, how?

      3. Executive orders will and are becoming the weapon of choice, in the continuing arguements, discussions and opines of this era. No congressional debate, no USA electorate inputs, simply OBAMA says,,,,

      We WILL Prevail

      Semper FI

    7. ThomNJ says:

      Tenn Slim: "The entire article relates essentially to the Constitution, re separation of church and state."

      I'll agree that it deals with Barry Lynn's desire for separation of church and state, but that has nothing to do with the Constitution. There is nothing in the Constitution advocating the separation of the two.

    8. Chris says:

      To Bernadine Johnson, I agree with you completely. As Americans, we need to stand up and speak out about our God-given rights. We have been quiet to long, and allowed others to step on our rights. Time to fight back on that issue. There is a cause out there right now, that helps Christians unite together to support our faith, our God, our families and our futures here in America. Go to: http://www.PatrioticChristiansToday.com and make your commitment to our God and our country!! Thank you. We have wristbands being worn in 17 states now!

    9. Pingback: Religious Liberty, Obama’s Surprising Soft Spot | church growth ministry

    10. Bobbie says:

      Unless a religion is of the beliefs harmful/uncivil to humanity, the government has no reason to infringe themselves upon the freedom of religion and how it's conducted.

      It is so inhuman/illogical of the government to mandate diversity into personal beliefs and their lifestyles. Christianity is as diverse as diverse can be. Maybe he wants Christians to work in Mosques to help the people on common sense and how to mind their own beliefs, get along, tolerate, accept or ignore harmless people?

    11. Norma in Nebraska says:

      Please read the Constitution . . . no where does it mention the separation of Church and State. This is probably because that particular document is based upon the judeo-christian foundation.

      Perhaps what the government ought to be doing is trying to put more Americans back to work and strengthen the value of our dollar instead of worrying about what the "church part" of our society is doing!!!! Of course, it is easier to divert the American public by threatening their religion instead of letting them know just how helpless our government really is!

      There was a time about two years ago when we should have left well enough alone and the economy would probably have corrected itself. Now we have a real mess that the President, Congress and Bernanke are directly responsible for and just don't know when to quit. God save us all because we certainly need his help . . . the idiots we have in Washington better get off their chairs and down on their knees to pray they haven't put the final nail in the Republic's coffin.

    12. California says:

      Thanks to Norma above. Separation of church and state is not in the constitution.

      I was doing some studying and came across a letter by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptiste organization back in 1802.

      " The concept of separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state.

      Written by Thomas Jefferson' letter to the Danbury Baptists Association in 1802. The original text reads: "…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

      "[1] The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947.

      The phrase itself does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

      Meaning, the US government will not organize a government run religion! Has nothing to do with God in our schools, halls of justice, courtrooms, etc.

      Can someone then tell me why for years the argument of "separation of church and state has taken the forefront in constitutional arguments when it never existed there in our constitution.

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