Fresh out of the box, Obama’s new Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is already taking whacks at the hornet’s nest. The big issue: Religious organizations that accept federal funding will have to expand their hiring to include those outside of their faith. Some clergy “get it” and are either going to find ways to comfortably comply, or make new arrangemements to stop taking federal funding. Others, however, are worried.
Under the Civil Rights act of 1964, faith-based organizations have a right to discriminate in hiring with respect to religion. Many of these organizations argue they risk losing their fundamental identity if the government forces them to hire individuals outside their faith (I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of that word, “fundamental”).
“To us, it’s not a matter of discrimination, it’s a matter of our faith ethos,” said Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “What they are telling us is to negate who we are in order to acquire federal grants. … That’s just unacceptable.”
I’m grateful that the LDS church isn’t in that boat. Although, who knows how else this new “faith office” could affect our organization? It’s not as if we have a voice there.
As of this writing the members of the council include: the Rev. Joel Hunter, the Rev. Frank Page (former president of the Southern Baptist Convention), the Rev. Jim Wallis; Judith Vredenburgh, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities; the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., recently senior pastor emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland; Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago; Fred Davie, president of Public/Private Ventures; the Rev. William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention; Melissa Rogers, director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University; Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Culture Center in Austin; Diane Baillargeon, president of the Seedco in New York City; Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.
Apparently Obama isn’t done with the list, though, so hopefully at least one person who represents our interests will make it in.