February 5th, 2009
11:00 AM ET
9 years ago

Controversy surrounds Obama's faith office

On the campaign trail, President Obama's views on federal money and discrimination seemed clear.

On the campaign trail, President Obama's views on federal money and discrimination seemed clear.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama's newly revamped Office of Faith Based Initiatives is reigniting a contentious debate across the ideological spectrum over whether religious organizations that accept funds from the government should be allowed to discriminate when hiring.

In one corner is a string of religion-backed organizations that have accepted federal funds from the 8-year-old program to advance their secular charity work. President Bush issued an executive order in 2002 that allowed these groups to continue their practice of discrimination with respect to hiring. Specifically, many of the organizations carry policies against hiring outside their religion or hiring homosexuals whose lifestyles conflict with church doctorines.

In the other corner are separation-of-church-and-state advocates and human-rights organizations that say the government must constitutionally compel these organizations to follow nondiscrimination laws if they accept federal funding. Anything less, they say, would at best be a violation of church-state separation and at worst an implicit endorsement of discrimination.

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Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Simbajay

    As for the jim and jenny thing! Thinking out loud are you serious?! you do have some points TO A DEGREE however you should look at someone on the inside rather than the out. if you hired jim and he comes as jenny and does a better job as jenny than who cares if you hired jim. jenny happens to be more productive. Also who cares what some ones orientation is. its their right and choice. also we are all sitting here talking about sep. of church and state yet no one wants to discuss the first two paragraphs of OUR (KEY WORD) nations DECLERATION OF INDEPENDENCE. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    February 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. DEMO

    srsly people? to the guy who said rape is nbd. wow, it's people like you that is wrong with america.

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Specific to "Thinking Out Loud",

    Apparently you aren't doing much of the first part of your name before engaging in the back half of your name.

    Let me understand exactly what you are saying....to paraphrase you, all forms of religious discrimination are OK because, in the end, you think that they apparently protect YOU from having to hire a trans-gendered person?

    Further, are you saying that you wanted to hire a MAN in the first place at the exclusion of ALL women? Or is it that you are specifically targeting men who BECOME women (apparently clandestinely after the interview process, but before the first day of work)? I want to understand exactly what form of gender discrimination you are advocating – as if either form is defensible. And, I take it, you would legalize discriminating against Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., to fulfill your desire to avoid these plotting she-males.

    February 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Ryan in Waynesboro, VA

    I am quite frankly tired of people claiming America is a "Christian Nation." A quick litmus test: What is the OFFICIAL RELIGION of the US? What, no answer? Then you're right, because there IS no official religion. We are no more a "Christian Nation" based on the fact that the majority is Christian than we are a "White Nation" based on the fact that the majority is white.

    Keep religion where it belongs: in private. I don't mean you need to hide it, you just need to quit hitting me upside the head with your Bibles.

    February 5, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Rufus

    Enough of this "Obama" crap from your reporters and talking heads, it's "President Obama", a little respect please!

    February 5, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  6. Locke

    if you libs said no to Bush on this, say no to Obama on this.

    Hey Proud American, "us libs" said no to idiotic religious zealotry that undermined the good of the country. By contrast, Obama is taking a measured, inclusive and balanced approach to this meager base pandering effort of the Bush administration.

    February 5, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  7. Wow

    Let the government keep things running smoothly. Cut the pork and worthless spending(Give me a billion dollars and I promise I will create new jobs!) And let the churches provide for peoples spiritual needs! Stop the forcing of your ideas on others(Jesus didn't). What WOULDN'T Jesus Do needs to be peoples new slogan.

    February 5, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  8. imobro



    February 5, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  9. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    The Constitutional Law Lecturer-in-Chief apparently does not understand or subscribe to the Wall of Separation doctrine which has evolved in First Amendment jurisprudence over hundreds of years. His South Side Chicago brand of raucous racist Christianity has no place in the White House or in any public institution.

    February 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. Dems be dopes

    Maybe rename the "Office of Faith Based Initiatives" to the " Office of Faith/No Faith Based Initiatives."

    This way NoBama can have it both ways.

    Maybe replace the phrase on our currency with "In (fill in the blank) We Trust"

    February 5, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. Nuwan Samaranayake

    In my opinion, any organization supported by federal funding should not have allow to practise discrimination in hiring. Federal law prohibits that practise and faith based organization should not be exempted.

    February 5, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. garrett

    What a slap in the face to secular voters. Who's "clinging to religion" now?

    February 5, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Richard

    I will give as much respect to Obama as the democrats have given Bush. So I don't have to show any.

    February 5, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  14. mj

    February 5th, 2009 2:54 pm ET

    "Enough of this "Obama" crap from your reporters and talking heads, it's "President Obama", a little respect please!"

    Rufus- You mean the same respect people have given all previous republican presidents?? He is going to have to earn my respect and I haven't seen anythign that impresses me yet.

    February 5, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. Craig in Washington

    Easy solution: End the entire program. Then there's nothing to be controversial about.

    February 5, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. Luke Brown

    Keep religion and government separate. No tax dollars should go to churches or other religious institutions. Nothing but trouble.

    February 5, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. The other Jean

    1 Corinthians 10:21 Ye cannot drink the cup or the LORD, and the cup of the devil, " Ye cannot be partakers of the LORD's table, and of the table of the devil. " Do we provoke the LORD to jealousy? are we stronger than He? The answer is no, we're not. " VI Thou shalt not kill, which means, " Thou shalt not commit criminal homicide, in other words, "premeditated murder, that's what it means, to plan, or to lie in wait. " Abortion- planned, premeditated murder. " Deuteronomy 22:5, The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garmment, for all that do so are " Abomination unto the LORD thy God. " this has nothing to do with clothes, this is talking about, women's taking the place of a man with another woman, and a man taking the place of a woman with another man, sexually, an abomination to Almighty God, you bet, " and you called that discrimination, no it wasn't the Church that said it, it was Almighty God Himself, " Now all of you that believe in " abortion, and gay rights take it up with God, and see how far you get.

    February 5, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. Dan

    CNN, why did you close the letters for Obama's religious transformation. Why didn't you mention about Reverend Wright who must have been an inspiration to our President. In his speech he mentioned about St. Agustine. I want to know what he knows about St. Agustine. Just snippets, soundbites. What happens to those thousands of babies being aborted? You, Mr. President is hypocrite. Do not preach religion to us while you do not practice it. Every human life has a value including those in GITMO and those who are unborn. You are encouraging gay life. You are a disaster to our society. Of course media is giving you too much publicity but there is nothing in you to be published. We thought you would learn something from great leaders like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Ronald Reagan. Regretfully, you are going in the opposite direction. I know CNN will have difficulty to moderate this letter but let us watch and know the facts.

    February 5, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  19. James II

    I will let the DEMS fight it out on this one.

    They wil beat themselves up over this. ACLU liberals vs. a bunch of crazy baptists from the inner cities. Wow nice fight. Now go to it.

    February 5, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  20. stag

    How come you will not post my comments about CAIR hiring a Southern Baptist?

    February 5, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. James II

    I love how Cooper and the media call him obama.

    They should just call him Barak and Michelle.

    He is not really presidential, he is more like the guy next door that you have a pickup b ball game with. That is what I like. I guy who brings the presidency down to the level of his people. Nope he is a politician but not really a leader. Take another poll barak and see where you stand today. Cooper has you down to 65% AND dropping.

    February 5, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. NY republican

    Explain this all of you that bash Republicans for listening to evangelists.
    If the Federal government cannot find EVERY religion in America and fund all their efforts they should not offer a penny. To do otherwise is to lean toward an "official state religion" this is expressly forbidden in the 1st amendment of the constitution.

    February 5, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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