Thursday, November 18, 2010
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that President Obama signed a new executive order on Wednesday that makes changes to rules governing religious organizations that receive federal funding for providing social services. The order implements recommendations made in the Spring by the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. For example, faith-based organizations receiving federal funding must separate their religious activities from government-funded programs and refer recipients of services who "objects to the religious character" of that organization within a reasonable time to an alternative provider. However, the order states that faith-based organizations need not remove or alter "religious art, icons, scriptures, or other symbols" from their facilities used to administer a federally-funded program.
The executive order does not address whether religious organizations receiving federal financial assistance should be allowed to hire only people who subscribe to their faith and tenets. The order similarly does not require religious organization to create a separate entity, with tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3), to receive the federal funding, thereby arguably ensuring increased church-state separation and easier federal monitoring of the organization's use of federal funding. The latter issue divided the President's Advisory Council, some members of which believed that such a requirement would be too burdensome.