Religious Leaders Skiptical of Faith-Based Office

by ekramer on February 7, 2009

Some religious leaders are praising the new White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, but others are skeptical. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

The skeptics include representatives from groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State as well as the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Albert Mohler is the seminary’s president.

He says how the office will deal with the separation of church and state is not clear yet. He’s concerned that accepting money from the government can undermine the work of churches.

“The word ‘faith’ and ‘faith-based organizations’ need to be respected so that we would not ask faith-based organizations to compromise their own convictions or doctrinal principles in the fulfillment of these programs,” he says.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Under President George W. Bush, religious groups were legally able to not hire people who didn’t share their faith.

Obama says this new office will look at hiring practices on a case-by-case basis. But that’s not the only issue worrying Mohler and some other evangelical Christians.

Mohler says his overall view is that accepting government money in almost any case can restrict or “entangle” the work of evangelical Christians.

“I think the entanglement would show up first of all when Christian organizations would say, ‘We’re going to be a bit more quiet about our Christian convictions and principles, because we don’t want to endanger the funding,'” he says. “Whenever you become dependent upon funding, you set yourself up for some kind of temptation to compromise.”

Mohler says he also doubted that evangelical Christians could freely function under a similar initiative President George W. Bush launched.

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