Faith Based Programs and Obama

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"President Obama, continuing and broadening an initiative begun by former President Bush, has created a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.Under Bush, the office had supported the federal government's investment of more than $2 billion a year in private, mostly faith-based charities providing social services.
Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington today, Obama said the office will help all community organizations -- religious and secular alike -- work on everything from helping people facing home mortgage foreclosure to providing job-training for those in need of work. "The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups," Obama said before signing an executive order establishing the office and an advisory council. "It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."
The president also addressed the role of faith in his own life and the need to bridge the many beliefs of Americans, including those without a religious faith -- as Obama, a Christian, has acknowledged he was raised. Under Bush, who had campaigned for president in 2000 with a plea to "rally the armies of compassion," the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that he created early in office helped faith-based charities seek federal funding for the social services that they provide.
The office will have four priorities, the White House says:
* Making community groups an integral part of the nation's economic recovery and making poverty "a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete."
* Offering advice on supporting women and children, addressing teenage pregnancy and reducing the need for abortion.
* Supporting fathers "who stand by their families," helping young men find well-paying jobs and promoting "responsible fatherhood."
* Working with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.
At the prayer breakfast, the president also addressed the role that faith plays in America."Too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another -- as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance," Obama said. "Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness. There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same," he said. "We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we're going next -- and some subscribe to no faith at all."But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate," he said. "There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."
Faith, the president said, also demands that Americans "lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I'm announcing later today. . . ."
This work is important," he said, "because whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations.""
I honestly don't know how I feel about this. On one hand, it's stated goals seem to force old-fashioned gender roles on people by encouraging and helping men to find jobs and help women with children. On the other hand, he is doing it in a way that is inclusive of all faiths and non-faiths. Heck, Bush couldn't even get his labels right, let alone recognize Wicca as a religion.
“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”


Ms Dragonfly said...

great article. i am relieved to hear what he had to say. i should watch the news more if it didn't tick me off so bad. i see what you mean about the gender roles but i what he has said here has put some of my fears to rest. i am optimistic.