WASHINGTON, D.C.—(ENEWSPF)—November 17, 2010. Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that makes significant improvements to federally funded partnerships between the government and faith-based and neighborhood organizations. These changes were recommended by a taskforce of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a group of church-state experts from across the ideological spectrum and unanimously approved by the full Advisory Council. These leaders identified specific ways the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership should strengthen the constitutional and legal footing of social service partnerships involving religious and neighborhood organizations and provide greater support and clarity to these important organizations.
The full Council report for recommendations on all of these issues is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/11/a-new-era-partnerships-advisory-council-faith-based-and-neighborhood-partnerships-pr.
“These are important, substantive changes that are directly responsive to the recommendations of church-state experts across the ideological spectrum,” said Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “With this Executive Order, we are strengthening and clarifying the legal footing of the government’s relationship with faith-based organizations and underscoring the important role of these organizations in serving individuals, families and communities in need.”
Specifically, the Executive Order:
- Requires the government to protect beneficiaries of federally funded social service programs by providing referrals to alternative providers if the beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization providing the services;
- Clarifies that decisions about financial awards must be free from political interference or even the appearance of such interference;
- Affirms that faith-based organizations that receive Federal financial assistance may use their facilities to provide social services without removing or altering religious art, icons, scriptures, or other symbols from these facilities. In addition, a faith-based organization that participates in a social service program may retain religious terms in its name, select its board members on a religious basis, and include religious references in its organization’s mission statements and other chartering or governing documents;
- Requires the federal government to monitor and enforce standards regarding the relationship between religion and government in ways that avoid excessive entanglement;
- Requires agencies that provide Federal financial assistance to post online regulations, guidance documents, and policies that reflect or elaborate upon the fundamental principles of the Executive Order;
- Requires agencies to post online a list of entities that receive Federal financial assistance for the provision of social service programs;
- Clarifies the principle that organizations engaging in explicitly religious activity must perform these activities outside of and separately in time and location from programs supported with Federal financial assistance, and that participation in any explicit religious activity must be voluntary;
The Executive Order creates an interagency working group of federal agencies, co-chaired by the Office of Management and Budget and the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, to submit to the President a report containing recommendations necessary to ensure that agency regulations and guidance documents are consistent with the fundamental principles of the Order. This is the first time this kind of interagency working group has been established. It will bring about greater uniformity in the rules that will aid in the effort to ensure fidelity to constitutional principles and greater clarity for the nation’s hardworking nonprofits as they serve people in need in line with relevant guidelines.
A copy of the Executive Order is here.