Will rights of faith-based groups be set back?
OneNewsNow.com - The man who ran President Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives fears that President Obama will "set the clock back on the civil rights of faith-based groups."
President Obama has named 26-year-old Pentecostal minister Josh Dubois to head the White House's new office of faith-based programs. Dubois ran religious outreach for Obama's presidential campaign and also worked for Obama while he was in the Senate.
Jim Towey is the president of St. Vincent College and former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President Bush. He says Dubois lacks experience for the difficult job ahead of him, but his close relationship with Obama may compensate for that.
"Obviously he doesn't have the background on faith-based social services that some have, but I'm sure he's got good credibility with the president -- and that counts for a lot," says Towey.
President Obama has said he would reverse executive orders from then-President George W. Bush that allowed religious groups that get government money to hire only those who share their religious beliefs. Towey says he was hoping that would be one campaign promise Obama would not follow through on.
"The reality is it would be a mistake for President Obama to set the clock back on the civil rights of faith-based groups, and to discriminate against them again," he exclaims. "President Bush did a lot to even the landscape, [to] provide a level playing field for faith-based groups, [and to] let them be in the public square like anybody else with their head held high."
Towey says he does not understand why a president would want a policy double-standard that says a group like Planned Parenthood can take federal money and discriminate in their hiring, but a faith-based group cannot.
Obama meeting with faith-based advisory council
Meanwhile, President Obama is to meet today with his new advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The diverse council of religious and secular social service leaders includes Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical mega-church pastor from Florida.
Hunter tells Associated Press that they will discuss how government can partner with secular and religious charities to ease poverty and other social ills. He says they may also talk about how to reduce abortion.
It is unclear, says Hunter, whether the Obama administration will permit tax-funded religious charities to hire only fellow believers, as they could under President George W. Bush. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, says there would be a huge backlash from faith groups if they were forced to hire homosexuals.