The faith-based initiative: Bush and Obama

The Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy has a link-studded overview of the Bush faith-based initiative, and gives a look toward how Obama would adapt the program. Obama has said that faith-based initiatives would be a real part of his White House’s operation and that Bush underfunded the program.

Steven Waldman argues that the Faith-based initiative could be one of several fault lines that could appear between Obama and amongst religious liberals:

Unlike many secular Democrats, most liberal religious groups were pleased when Mr. Obama promised during the campaign to expand rather than eliminate President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative. But behind the scenes, they were quite worried about Mr. Obama’s promise to make it illegal for faith-based groups to limit hiring to people of their own faith. The position thrilled civil libertarians but raised concerns among some nonprofits that Mr. Obama would go too far in restricting the operations of religious groups.

Contrast Waldman’s view with the Andre Willis’ expressed at The Root:

If the past eight years have been dominated by prominent conservative evangelicals like Pat Robertson and James Dobson, the Obama years may be the era of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, social-justice-minded evangelicals in the model of Walter Rauschenbusch and Martin Luther King Jr.

Domestically, look for an overhauled office of faith-based initiatives. In Denver, the Democratic Party’s first “faith caucus” engaged a spirited discussion on the role and relevance of such programs and how they might differ from similar policies offered by George W. Bush. Most likely, the least of these thrusts of progressive evangelicalism will empower the already flourishing network of Christian social programs that emphasize economic equality and burgeoning anti-poverty movements. The warriors in this fight will not only be religious figures. Marian Wright Edelman has been framing poverty as a moral/religious issue for the last 35 years, even though conservative evangelicals would never claim her (or she them).

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