ADL Urges President Obama to Ensure Faith-Based Initiative Does Not Lead to Proselytizing Or Discrimination

New York, NY, February 4, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged President Barack Obama to ensure that federal funds doled out as part of his faith-based initiative are not used to proselytize or to discriminate against others on the basis of their religious beliefs.

In an open letter timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the February 5, 2009 executive order creating the president's faith-based program, ADL was joined by 24 national organizations in urging the White House to prevent government-funded religious discrimination and protect social service beneficiaries from unwelcome proselytizing.

Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, issued the following statement:

President Obama made it clear during his campaign that the Bush Administration's faith-based initiative lacked essential safeguards against proselytizing. Yet, now, one year after the president's own executive order framing his version of the faith-based initiative, almost all the Bush-era regulations and grant making rules for government partnerships with religiously affiliated institutions remain in place. It is troubling that the White House and all the federal agencies are still operating under the inadequate rules and insufficient safeguards imposed by the previous administration.

We recognize that the diverse and respected panel of religious and secular leaders and scholars the president selected for his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships last February has been meeting to recommend best practices and reforms for these social welfare partnerships. We especially appreciate the welcome recommendations made by the council's Reform Taskforce to address concerns about constitutionality, transparency, accountability, beneficiary rights, and the integrity and independence of religious institutions.

However, we are disappointed at the lack of urgency by the White House to address proselytizing and discrimination concerns. There is no guarantee that the council will approve all the needed reforms – and there is absolutely no reason to wait. The president should act now to restore the constitutionally required safeguards and civil rights protections governing partnerships between government and religiously affiliated institutions.

In February 2009, the League wrote to President Obama, raising concerns about the lack of safeguards in the faith-based initiative against unwelcome proselytizing and called for "presidential leadership against employment discrimination by faith-based grant recipients."

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.