Southern Religion

Clear-eyed about OFANP

Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, was a signal addition to the advisory board of Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Her interview with the Greensboro News and Record this week revealed why. There are two key comments.

First, on hiring and firing at groups which receive grants:

When a group receives a government grant, it should not be able to discriminate based on religion for government-funded jobs. If there are jobs that the group is funding itself with its own money, then they should be free to hire and fire on the basis of religion. If the jobs are funded with government grant funds, then all the taxpayers that contributed to that funding should be able to compete for those jobs.

Second, on reforms at OFANP. We’ve boldfaced part of her comment because those views are a marked separation from the Bush administration’s use of faith-based funds for political purposes, and the Obama administration’s human services goals:

It’s very important for the administration to continue to welcome religious and neighborhood groups to partner with government. There’s a need to increase funding for programs that help people of low income – and there is a need to bring the partnerships in line with certain constitutional principles and to be careful about guarding against cronyism and religious bias in the peer review grants process.

Clear-eyed policy guidance is her job as a member of the OFANP advisory board, and she’s one of the best.

Now, if we can persuade her to start blogging again.

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Clear-eyed about OFANP

Delayed Office of Faith and Neighborhood Policies

Mark Silk believes Barack Obama was sidetracked by something along the way to implementing his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (OFANP) promises. Something like the complexity of the governing law, division among religious groups and [yes] the economy.

So, Silk concludes:

President Obama rushed the promised office into place in time for the National Prayer Breakfast; watered down its mission by internationalizing it; installed his religious outreach guy at the top; created three-fifths of an advisory board; and waved the tough questions in the direction of the lawyers. And then got down to the real business of rescuing the economy.

If that’s it, given the looming shadow of a potential international depression, sidetracking OFANP was the right call. Don’t you think?

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Comments Off on Delayed Office of Faith and Neighborhood Policies

Montana church’s speech rights violated, says appeals court

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Montana election law was unconstitutionally applied to an East Helena church which supported a 2004 ballot initiative to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Howard M. Friedman explains that Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church “advertised and hosted a one-time screening of a video in support of the amendment and made petitions available in its foyer for signing.”

Reversing a lower court decision, 9th Circuit ruled that “disclosure and reporting requirements are unconstitutional as applied to the Church’s de minimis activities,” violating the church’s right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

Circuit Judge John T. Noonan, in a concurring opinion, argued that the matter should have been decided on freedom of religion grounds:

“What has happened here is that a small congregation has been put to trouble and expense in order to exercise its right to speak on an issue seen by it to be of vital religious significance. One lesson of history is that small incursions on freedom are to be resisted lest they grow greater,” Noonan wrote.

This is an Alliance Defense Fund case and, because it tends to erode a previously defined boundary between church and political activity, a signal that the already contentious issue of religion in politics is destined to become more so.

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Montana church’s speech rights violated, says appeals court