In Response to Our Calls, the Barack Obama Campaign Issued a Statement to KnowThyNeighbor Clarifying the Confusion Caused by this Morning's Associated Press Article and Holds His Position that Where Federal Laws Exist, No Program Receiving Federal Money will Be Allowed to Discriminate Based on Religious Beliefs
It was interesting watching this morning's AP story by Jennifer Loven "evolve" from reporting that Barack Obama would "support" discriminatory hiring and firing practices by faith-based Federally funded programs to a much more Progressive view that only non-taxpayer funded aspects of the faith-based programs be allowed to hire and fire based on religious beliefs.
This was the head paragraph of the first AP story from this morning (which you cannot find on-line anymore) :
CHICAGO - Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.
And about two hours later, by the same writer:
ZANESVILLE, Ohio - Reaching out to religious voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for expanding President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — supported some ability to hire and fire based on faith.
I guess that Jennifer Loven is not a lesbian, because if she were, she would know that those two leads are quite quite different to people who have lived through the organized attacks by houses of faith on LGBT people.
Jamie Citron, Barack Obama's LGBT Coordinator provided KnowThyNeighbor with the following statement from the campaign, so I am publishing it for you all to read. The Obama Campaign also was very concerned about the AP article, the lead paragraphs and support statements. Quite frankly, the AP should be the one issuing a statement moreso than Obama. But at least, we know that Barack Obama will not allow these faith-based recipient organizations to step outside of Federal Laws regarding discrimination.
The Obama Campaign's Official Statement:
Obama will create a President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
- As Barack Obama has said many times, he believes that change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. And many of the challenges we face today—from saving our planet to ending poverty—are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.
- That’s why Obama will help draw on the strength of these groups through the creation of a new President’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new name will reflect a new commitment. This Council will not just be another name on the White House organization chart – it will be a critical part of Obama’s administration.
- Obama does not believe that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits, or that they’re better at lifting people but what he does believe is that we all have to work together to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Obama’s Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will help empower grassroots faith-based and community groups to help meet these challenges.
The partnership will not endanger the separation of church and state—but will harness the energy of these critical groups
- The new partnership will not endanger the separation of church and state, so long as a few basic principles are followed. First, if an organization gets a federal grant, it will not be permitted to use that grant money to proselytize to the people it serves, and the group will be forbidden to discriminate against them on the basis of their religion.
- Groups will also be forbidden to discriminate against them on the basis of their religion. And groups will be required to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws in their hiring practices—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
- Second, federal dollars that go to faith-based organizations can only support secular programs. And Obama will ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.
Innovative new programs: training larger organizations to support smaller ones, and expanding summer learning programs to serve one million students
- Barack Obama will work with the hundreds of religious and community groups that understand the process to train the thousands of groups that don’t. The Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will “train the trainers” by giving larger faith-based partners like Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services—and secular nonprofits like Public/Private Ventures—the support they need to help other groups build and run effective programs.
- And the Council will target key challenges like closing the achievement gap. Obama will expand nonprofit summer learning programs to serve one million students by developing partnerships with faith-based and community groups. This partnership won’t just help children learn—it will help keep them off the streets during the summer so they don’t turn to crime.
Q&A Concerning This Morning’s AP Story
Q: Does Senator Obama believe that religious groups should be able to discriminate in their hiring practices? The AP suggested this morning that he be open to this.
Not for government-funded programs that that receive taxpayer dollars. Senator Obama’s position on this is clear: If a faith-based group receives a federal contract or grant to provide a service, they should not be discriminating with taxpayer dollars. Period.
He firmly believes in the principle of non-discrimination in our hiring laws – principles that have been on the books for over four decades. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to support hiring discrimination and religious organizations that receive federal dollars cannot discriminate with respect to hiring for government-funded social service programs – just like any other federal contractor.
It’s important to remember that many faith-based organizations already hire diverse staffs, including many who don’t share their religious beliefs. Head Start is a good example of this.
Numerous studies demonstrate that the vast majority of religious nonprofits performing these services do not hire only people who share their particular religious views. And Senator Obama saw this in his own experience as a community organizer, when his work was funded in part by the Catholic Church – even though he was not a Catholic.
Whatever uncertainty there is about employment rights here reflects Bush administration executive orders, which Senator Obama would promptly reverse.
Obama says he doesn’t support discrimination in hiring or firing – what about on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity?
Let’s be clear: Obama’s position on religious hiring rights is a return to the state of the law before the Bush Administration took office and muddied the waters with various executive orders. There are of course difficult questions that will have to be worked out, but his position on the basic principle is clear.
At a minimum, Senator Obama believes that race-, sex- and pregnancy-based discrimination in federal funded programs are and should be prohibited. Moreover, federal funding recipients – including faith-based organizations – should have to comply with existing federal, state and local laws, including laws prohibiting discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. To the extent that existing federal, state and local laws prohibit such discrimination in particular government-funded programs, the President Council's will help faith-based organizations comply with those laws.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are currently not protected categories under existing federal antidiscrimination law – and the Senator and others are working hard in Congress to ensure that we pass the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), so that employment discrimination on those bases is not permitted. He will continue to fight for ENDA’s passage as president.
So what about LGBT that are not protected by Federal Laws fully? Read the Obama Campaign's statement, last paragraph...Obama commits to fighting as President for passage of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimnation Act. He even goes as far as mentioning "sexual orientation" AND "gender identity."
(a much relieved) Tom Lang, Director