Few would dispute the proposition by President Bush yesterday that religious groups can effectively provide social services for the poor. But Mr. Bush's ambitious proposal to channel federal funds to ''faith-based'' groups to serve social needs is a potentially dangerous erosion of the constitutionally shielded boundary between church and state. As the Supreme Court has observed, that boundary not only protects Americans from improper government support for religion. It guards religion itself from government encroachment and regulation.Of course, the NYT editorial was undoubtedly propelled just as equally by anti-Bush sentiments as the separation of church and state argument (for the record, opposition in this corner relates to the religion not being tainted/infected by governmentalism route). One wonders if the NYT will be commenting on the latest advents related to officaldoms faith-based initiatives of today:
Six months after its rollout, Obama's office has dramatically shifted gears from the one that Bush started from scratch in 2001. Bush's office sought to "level the playing field" for faith-based and community groups seeking federal grants to deliver social services, like counseling drug addicts and mentoring at-risk youth. Obama, by contrast, has tasked his office with four broad policy goals: bringing faith groups into the recovery and fighting poverty, reducing demand for abortion, promoting responsible fatherhood, and facilitating global interfaith dialogue. "We're moving from a sole focus on leveling the playing field," says Joshua DuBois, the office's executive director, "to forming partnerships with faith-based and community groups to help solve specific policy challenges."The rare happening of the Left being onto something, yet their principles wilt in the face of an administration which is their own. Of course, coming from the ever-relativistic nature of the Left, this is not exactly a surprise. The only joy might be had from watching the hypocrisy stick in the old throats of the Left, take 'em where you find 'em. The faith of governmentalism must indeed be strong to allow competing faiths and fundies a place at the tax-payer trough.
Yet some of the biggest questions surrounding Obama's office when it launched remain unanswered. The administration has not decided whether to allow religious groups to hire only fellow believers with federal funds, a hugely controversial issue. The outside faith advisory council, which will formulate proposals for achieving the office's policy goals—and for combating climate change and reforming the office itself—won't formalize its recommendations until next year. And the office is still devising metrics by which to measure its effectiveness, a subject of much debate during the Bush years.
Reinforcing its new policy role, Obama has brought his office under the purview of his Domestic Policy Council, delighting many faith leaders, particularly on the left. "The Bush office was totally disconnected from policy," says Wallis. "That White House was doing social policy that made poor people poorer, and the faith-based office would try to clean up the mess." The faith advisory council will submit first drafts of policy recommendations in October. "The council has access to experts, policymakers, and administrators [in the White House] at the levels we've asked for," says David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, who sits on the council.
Such access has upset some on the left, who say religious leaders shouldn't be shaping government policy, and some on the right, who say the work amounts to politically inspired religious outreach. "We would have gotten killed for doing that," says Jim Towey, who directed Bush's faith-based office and notes that religious outreach in the previous administration was handled by the White House Office of Public Liaison, which reported to Karl Rove. "It looks like a political office now."
As it relates to David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, we can't wait to see the first draft of policy recommendations which might be offered up on the subject of health care. Other than this banner found plastered on the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism website, it is rather hard to distinguish their political bent on the topic, mmmmhmmmm: