Obama Support For Expansion Of 'faith-based' Program Is Disappointing, Says Americans United

But Watchdog Group Says Candidate's Opposition To Religious Discrimination In Hiring And Publicly Funded Proselytism Are Steps In Right Direction

Rather than try to correct the defects of the Bush “faith-based” initiative, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would do better to shut it down, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Obama today announced a proposal to expand faith-based funding during a speech in Zanesville, Ohio.

“I am disappointed,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded.”

However, Lynn said he was pleased to hear Obama express support for church-state separation and say that he would bar government-funded proselytism and religious discrimination in hiring when tax dollars are involved.

“It is imperative that public funds not pay for proselytizing or subsidize discrimination in hiring,” said Lynn. “Obama has promised that he will not support publicly funded proselytism or discrimination in hiring, and that’s an important commitment.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly insisted that religious charities can discriminate on religious grounds in hiring staff when running publicly funded programs.

Lynn said he is concerned that the Obama plan apparently would allow direct tax funding of houses of worship to run social service programs. That, said Lynn, raises serious issues of entanglement between religion and government.

Americans United has led opposition to the Bush faith-based initiative since it was unveiled in 2001.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.