Without Addressing Religious Discrimination with Taxpayer Money, President Obama Extends Life of Faith-Based Advisory Council

On Friday, President Obama did something the media paid little attention to — with gun control and gay rights still making headlines, it’s hard to blame them — but we shouldn’t let this go unnoticed.

He issued an Executive Order to continue the “President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” for another two years… without addressing the biggest problems with the office.

Why is this disappointing? Well, let’s go back to Campaigner Obama in the summer of 2008, when he explained to a crowd in Zanesville, Ohio what he would do with the then-named Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:

“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.”

Obama didn’t follow through with that. While a few minor changes were made, faith-based discrimination with federal money is still in play and proselytization has not been fully curbed.

In 2011, atheist Amanda Knief asked him about his broken promise and the President let her down.

Even now, with a new Executive Director of the office, we haven’t seen significant change made on this front.

The Secular Coalition for America’s Edwina Rogers is disappointed with the lack of progress:

“It’s a huge disappointment that five years later nothing has been done to address this problem,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “It is unacceptable that religious institutions accepting taxpayer dollars are permitted to discriminate based on religious preferences with the federal funds.”

“It seems President Obama was all bark and no bite when it comes to reforming the faith based initiative,” Rogers said. “The Administration’s decision to allow this discrimination prioritizes the concerns of religious organizations over the people these programs are intended to serve.”

Incidentally, there is no non-religious representation on the President’s Advisory Council.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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