Today the White House is issuing guidance for implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order 13559 setting forth fundamental principles and policymaking criteria for the social service partnerships the government forms with religious and other neighborhood organizations. With this executive order, President Obama adopted many of the recommendations made by his first Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
An extremely diverse group of leaders crafted these recommendations, including those representing the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Incarnate Word Foundation, the Interfaith Alliance, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. While there are serious differences among these leaders on some church-state issues, the group was able to unite around a call for certain reforms of the partnerships the government forms with religious and secular nonprofits.
The White House report issued today provides agencies with additional guidance on how to implement these common-ground reforms. For example, pursuant to the Advisory Council's recommendations, the guidance directs agencies to ensure that:
As chair of the President's first Advisory Council, and a member of the Reform of the Office Taskforce, I would like to thank President Obama for embracing many of our recommendations and for this important step to implement them. The President’s charge to create this detailed report demonstrates his understanding of the fact that these issues require careful consideration as well as his appreciation for freedoms that are cherished by Americans of all faiths and none. As it forms partnerships to serve people in need, the government must respect church-state separation and religious liberty principles. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and other stakeholders to meet those goals.
Melissa Rogers served as chair of President Obama’s first Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She currently serves as director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School.