• February 1, 2015

Obama Clarifies Rules on Religious Charities

President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday to clarify how the constitutional separation of church and state affects religious charities that get federal money to provide social services.

It said, for example, that such groups must separate their religious activities from the programs that get government dollars and refer people who are uncomfortable with the organization's religious nature to other providers.

The order endorses recommendations made last spring by a White House advisory council, made up mostly of religious leaders.

It says federal agencies must post online all policies and regulations that touch on the issues covered by the order, as well as a list of groups that receive federal money to provide social services.

However, charities do not need to remove religious art or symbols in rooms where they provide social services, and they may use religious terms in their names, select board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in mission statements of governing documents.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, praised some of the new rules but criticized the president for failing to deal with one of the most controversial questions involving religious groups—whether charities that receive government social-service grants and contracts should be allowed hire only people who follow their faiths. The White House has referred that matter to the Justice Department.

"That's the 800-pound gorilla in the room," Mr. Lynn said in a statement. "No American should be denied a government-funded job because he or she holds the 'wrong' views about religion."


1. jhansinger - November 18, 2010 at 01:47 pm

Barry Lynn is seriously wrong about the hiring practices of religious organizations that receive government funding. He is treading on the basic right of religious freedom in our country, and shouldn't be quoted in any article on this issue.

2. dmpower - November 18, 2010 at 04:06 pm

Religious organizations should not receive any government funding, even for the social services they wish to perform. If they did not receive a portion of my tax money, then they would be free to hire anyone they wished.

3. kcreak - November 24, 2010 at 11:27 am

I disagree with dmpower. Religious organizations provide a large portion of the social services within the communities that they serve. So long as a program falls within the guidelines of a government social service program they deserve to receive funding from any source that is willing to help including government grants. We all pay taxes and there are programs that receive some of "my tax money" that I do not necessarily agree with but so long as they follow the guidelines then they are worthy to receive funding. Your comment is as ridiculous as saying animal rights charities do not deserve government funding because they are animals and not human.

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