President Barack Obama's reluctance to overturn a Bush-era executive order permitting religious bias in federally funded "faith-based" programs is not going unnoticed.
The Los Angeles Times was quick to blast the president's inaction in a Feb. 9 editorial cleverly headlined "Thou may not discriminate." The newspaper labeled Obama's decision not to revoke the order an "unpleasant" surprise and called for quick corrective action.
"[I]n exchange for government funds, faith-based programs must not impose a religious test on either those they serve or those they hire," asserted the paper. "Catholic Charities, for example, informs prospective employees that they will be considered without regard to religion. Obama needs to make it clear that other beneficiaries of federal funds will make the same commitment."
Yesterday The New York Times sounded a similar note. The newspaper even opined that Obama might not be "particularly proud of this omission," noting that he signed the executive order "away from the view of television cameras or an audience"
Continued The Times, "Joshua DuBois, the Pentecostal minister selected by Mr. Obama to lead his initiative, says the president is 'committed to nondiscrimination,' and that the executive order 'provides a process' for case-by-case review to decide if grants to faith-based organizations are 'consistent with law.'"
The Times then asked a tough question that cuts to the heart of the matter: "What process? The executive order says only that White House officials 'may' seek Justice Department guidance if questions arise about particular grants. Discrimination by faith-based grantees should be barred. The case-by-case review seems destined to confuse as much as enlighten. And it is hardly the clear commitment to proper employment practices Mr. Obama voiced as a candidate, and the Constitution requires."
The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, ran a news story today pointing out that many progressive groups are disappointed with Obama's failure to follow through on campaign promises. It lists the faith-based initiative as one of these items and quotes AU Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.
Given the scope of the economic crisis facing the nation, it's understandable that some issues would be pushed to the back burner for a time. But that doesn't mean they will be forgotten. It's possible that Obama and his advisors believe that the ruckus over the faith-based initiative will blow over. It won't.
As a candidate, Obama promised to end the noxious Bush order allowing religious discrimination in tax-funded programs. The rules that Bush overturned with his directive, I should note, were put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; they were one of the nation's first efforts to get serious about civil rights protections. Roosevelt was right to put that order in place, and Bush was wrong to change it. Americans United intends to keep pushing until Obama understands that.