President Barack Obama has gratified the “reality-based community” by reversing some of his predecessor’s policies on everything from the detention and torture of terror suspects to government funding of abortion and family planning counseling, fuel-efficiency standards, and stem-cell research. But one part of Obama’s program represents change I can’t believe in. The change Obama brought to Bush’s faith-based initiative was actually to expand the program. This was done without any attempt to change it in the right direction by officially prohibiting proselytizing and religious discrimination.
Some seculars may feel ambivalent about Obama’s approach to George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative: one of its stated goals is to mobilize faith and community groups to more effectively combat poverty, obviously a worthwhile goal and one generally ignored by Bush. It seems that Obama doesn’t object to government funds going to religious organizations; he merely objects that Bush’s faith-based office failed to do this very effectively. But even if the Obama program focuses on poverty, it still means an increase in taxpayer dollars going to private religious organizations that will likely use this funding (directly or indirectly) to proselytize the people they serve and to hire and fire based on religious criteria.