Obama's Faith-Based Organizations Initiative
Today in Ohio Barack Obama announced that he would promote a much more robust initiative than George W. Bush to involve faith-based organizations in anti-poverty and other worthy public works, while insisting that public funds not be used to proselytize or discriminate.
As Steve Benen explains, there was some initial confusion due to a wire story--quickly corrected by the Obama campaign--that Obama would not insist on non-discrimination in the hiring and firing of staff for publicly-funded services.
And that clarification won't satisfy those who believe that public dollars should not be extended to any organization, religious or ortherwise, that discriminates in any of its activities, however remote from publicly-funded activities.
It hasn't drawn as much initial attention as the discrimination issue, but Obama also made it clear that recipients of public dollars under his initiative would be required to demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs. That proviso was undoubtedly motivated by the widespread perception that much of Bush's faith-based dollars were distributed as ill-disguised payoffs to ministers who supported the administration's broader political and policy goals.