It seems so long ago now. Barack Obama was merely a presidential candidate back then. He had just secured the Democratic nomination when he made a sudden veer to the right. Trying to gain support from religious voters, Obama declared that if he was elected President, he would not close down George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, which takes public money taken from taxpayers and gives it to churches, to support programs that often have a strong component of religious worship.
The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives is a clear violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state, because it takes resources gathered through an act of Congress and devotes them to religious programs. The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives puts the government in the position of choosing which religious groups should get public support, and which religious groups should be deprived of that support. It encourages ambitious preachers to maneuver political connections, so that their own religious organizations receive the most government money. It leads churches to turn into political campaign machines, with the understanding that financial favors from the government will flow in return for campaign help.
Yet, Barack Obama said he would not eliminate the unconstitutional Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. He said that he would expand it. Civil liberties advocates were stunned.
Still, back in 2008, Barack Obama made a promise. Obama said that he would reform the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Under George W. Bush, the government funded church programs that engaged in blatant employment discrimination. People couldn’t get jobs with these programs unless they belonged to certain religions, with memberships at certain churches. These government-funded programs were set up to promote church attendance with a system of financial patronage that would be withheld from anyone with different religious beliefs.
Such discrimination using government money is illegal. Churches are allowed to engage in employment discrimination, but only with money that they raise themselves, not with money that they take as handouts from the government. At least, that was how things used to work. Thanks to George W. Bush, the government was now paying churches to create government programs, using government money, with the power to hire and fire people simply because of their private religious beliefs.
So, Barack Obama said, he was going to expand the government handouts to churches, but he was also going to end the employment discrimination in government-funded programs. That promise mollified many civil liberties advocates.
A funny thing happened after President Obama’s election, though. He expanded the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, alright, putting Christian power player Joshua Dubois in charge. Those reforms Obama promised, however, never came.
Barack Obama has allowed the Office of Faith Based Initiatives to play the same old corrupt game of government-funded religious patronage, with no reforms. Religious discrimination, paid for with government money, is still taking place.
What’s more, Joshua Dubois and the Office of Faith Based Initiatives have refused to talk about Barack Obama’s old promise of reform. Reverend Barry Lynn, the director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State has written to Joshua Dubois and to members of his staff, seeking to start a conversation about how Barack Obama’s campaign promise to end employment discrimination through the Office of Faith Based Initiatives.
Everyone that’s been contacted at Barack Obama’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives has refused to answer. Not one letter has received even a form reply.
The Obama Administration won’t talk about Barack Obama’s promise to restore separation of church and state. So, why should Americans who support separation of church and state give their support to Barack Obama’s presidential re-election campaign this year?