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Barack Obama Endorses Faith Based Initiatives

July 9, 2008

When I first saw part of a speech made by Obama in 2006, it seemed as though he was very close to promoting a strong separation of church and state point of view.  However, when I viewed the speech in its entirety, I saw that Obama was attempting to make observations about church and state from both the left and right.  He offered points of advice for both conservatives and progressives on how he thinks religion and politics should interact.  So instead of proposing a reenforcement of the wall between church and state, it seems he was actually calling for a kind of pluralistic movement towards the center on church and state issues.

About a week ago, Obama endorsed the use of faith based initiatives to give funding to religious organizations that perform community service.  While I commend Obama’s lifelong commitment to community service, this particular decision troubles me.  The organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State has voiced its objections to the press, and hopefully atheist and secular organizations are doing so as well.  If leaders of both of the two major political parties in the United States endorse faith based initiatives, it seems as though permanent erosion to the wall separating church and state might occur.  What leading politicians will now speak for the non-religious, who are likely to object to having their tax dollars given to religious organizations?  Obama is reaching out to religious conservatives in an apparent attempt to poach their votes from the Republican Party, but he risks alienating the non-religious.  Perhaps it is the correct strategic decision; maybe religious conservatives are better organized and will donate more money… or maybe Obama’s campaign strategists think that his left wing and secular supporters are likely to stay with him while he causes former loyal Republican voters to switch parties.

Obama later clarified that the money would not be able to be used to proselytize, and that federal dollars would have to be used on secular programs.  However, it seems as though a religious organization, even if it did indeed use the federal money only for community service programs, would then have that same amount of money freed up in its budget plan for uses such as… proselytizing.

Obama, according to the Associated Press, has said that he will make his Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships the moral center of his administration – perpetuating the false dichotomy between religion and morality.  It seems as though the myth that societies and individuals need religion in order to be prosperous and moral will continue for some time – or at least for four more years.

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From → Atheism, Community

2 Comments
  1. I work for a REAL (secular) non-profit organization and can’t understand why in the hell more can not be geared toward helping these organizations out. We are a large agency and have recently been seeing cuts in our funding and programs. Ending poverty is in our charter.

    Seems a lot of the money is being funneled to the Faith-based rather than the Community-based parties in question.

    Since Bush took office and instituted this initiative it seems (I could be wrong) that there have been a lot of building and massive expansion of churches around here in my community.

    Churches and religious institutions are exempt from anti-discrimination statutes. I don’t see how they can better serve the poor and down-trodden when we both know they can not in good conscience do so without THE ulterior motive.

    Great post by the way.

  2. Something that I think most people don’t know is that any program that receives federal funding is not allowed to pray. Period. I learned this July 19th, 2008 edition of Freethought Radio (Available here).

    So I wonder if all these religious people know that should they receive funding for their, say, soup kitchen, that they’re not allowed to say any prayers.

    I donated to Obama during the primaries, holding my nose at his religiosity. But now when they call me, I’ll tell them I’d love to donate… to the Secular Coalition of America. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And the Mars Society. But not one red cent to their campaign.

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