President's Executive Order On Faith-Based Initiatives A 'Significant First Step,' But Leaves Important Work Undone

New York, NY, November 18, 2010 … While calling President Barack Obama's executive order on faith-based initiatives "a significant first step toward restoring government and religion to their proper roles," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed concern that the order still "leaves much important work undone."

The November 17 executive order includes new safeguards intended to prevent inappropriate engagements between church and state.

Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

By blurring the lines between government and religion, the faith-based initiative severely undermined freedom of religion in America. President Obama's executive order takes some important steps in the right direction toward restoring government and religion to their proper roles. We welcome those steps, which include clarifying that a beneficiary has a right to a non-religious provider of government funded social services, requiring online disclosure of entities that receive funds, and reinforcing the restrictions on using government dollars for explicitly religious activity.

However, ultimately this order is a missed opportunity, leaving much important work undone. Most importantly, it does not address the fact that religious organizations that receive government funding dollars to provide social services are currently allowed to discriminate in who they hire to deliver those services. It is simply wrong for an organization using taxpayer dollars to refuse to hire prospective employees on the basis of religion.

The executive order should have provided stronger safeguards against proselytizing, and also missed an opportunity to require that government money not be mingled with a religious institution's general funds.

The League commended Representative Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, for convening oversight hearings, and urged him to carefully examine the significant remaining problems with the faith-based initiative.

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