March 2, 2010
White House Faith-Based Council Adopts Recommendations
After a year's work, a White House advisory council on faith-based programs adopted dozens of recommendations on February 26 on everything from church-state separation to fighting poverty and promoting fatherhood.
The 25-member advisory council also called for reforms to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to help protect "religious liberty rights."
"The recommendations call ... for greater clarity in the church-state guidance given to social service providers so that tax funds are used appropriately and providers are not confused or sued," the panel's report said.
"The recommendations also insist that beneficiaries must be notified of their religious liberty rights, including their rights to alternative providers."
The advisory panel, which will submit its final report on March 9, also urged the Obama administration to ensure that "decisions about government grants are made on the merits of proposals, not on political or religious considerations."
Among the panel's 64 recommendations, advisers voiced support for:
-- developing interfaith service projects on 500 U.S. college campuses and in 40 U.S. cities
-- working to correct the "deeply flawed" ways the federal government measures poverty to better respond to the needy who aren't currently eligible for social services
-- increased federal funding for programs to promote fatherhood, including among fathers in the military and in prison
-- limiting the Pentagon's role in development work
-- providing guidance to state and local governments to help nonprofit groups "retrofit and green" their buildings.
The advisers reached consensus on most recommendations but were divided over two contentious issues: whether houses of worship that receive direct federal funding for social service programs should form separate nonprofit corporations; and whether federally-funded religious charities should remove religious art, symbols or messages in facilities used to provide social services.