Washington, DC, November 17, 2010
The American Humanist Association (AHA) leadership expressed frustration with President Obama’s Executive Order concerning the regulations of federally funded faith-based initiatives. The changes, recommended by a President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Taskforce, affirm federally funded organizations’ rights to retain their religious influence, and fail to prohibit religious tests in hiring.
According to a press release from the White House today, the Executive Order specifically affirms that religious organizations receiving federal funds may “use their facilities to provide social services without removing or altering religious art, icons, scriptures or other symbols” and “select its board members on a religious basis.”
“This order does not properly address the discrimination impressed upon people of minority faiths and philosophies,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “As long as the government allows federally funded organizations to incorporate religion into the care and treatment of their patients, the wall of church and state separation is weakened, and those who suffer are those who need help the most.”
While the order grants referrals to patients seeking non-religious care elsewhere, it also allows organizations to hire and fire on the basis of religion, retain religious scripture, artwork and references within their offices, and advertise religious activities taking place outside the organization’s federally funded restraints.
“Obama campaigned on a platform that opposed proselytizing through tax-payer funded faith-based programs,” Speckhardt said. “Since taking office he has done almost nothing to address the blatant violations these programs thrive on. This weakened response is too little, too late.”
David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association and attorney from Massachusetts, adds, “For too long, Americans have seen their taxes support religious groups through the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. The entire faith-based program of subsidizing churches should be scrapped, but certainly at a minimum it’s time for President Obama to make good on his word to end discriminatory hiring in faith-based programs.”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.
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