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Barack Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan


Barack Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On July 1, 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama unveiled his plan to continue, with significant modifications, the faith-based funding initiatives established by President Bush.

Briefly, the modifications to the Bush plan include:

  • Faith-based and secular community service organizations will be considered equally for partnership under this plan.
  • Prohibitions against faith-based organizations using these programs for religious instruction or proselytizing.
  • Prohibitions against such organizations in discriminating against potential or actual program participants.
  • Periodic evaluations of all programs against "best practices" benchmarks.
Additionally, the Obama faith-based initiative includes a new, $500-million-a-year plan for a summer literacy program to strenghten reading and math skills for one million children from low-income families each year.

(Also see Obama's Faith-Based Plan: An Education Agenda Disguised as Religion for my evaluative thoughts on this initiative.)


The following are excerpts from the full text of the Obama '08 campaign's report, PARTNERING WITH COMMUNITIES OF FAITH.

Barack Obama supports a White House office dedicated to a strong partnership between the White House and grassroots groups, both faith-based and secular.

As president, he will establish a new President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new name will reflect a new commitment to strengthening the partnership between government and neighborhood community programs.


Barack Obama believes that our problems require an "all hands on deck" approach, and that the federal government should enlist effective faith-based and community groups to help solve them.

Obama also respects the First Amendment and prudential concerns that have been raised on both sides of the debate over the role and scope of faith-based initiatives.

Obama’s initiative will be governed by a set of core principles for federal grant recipients. In order to receive federal funds to provide social services, faith-based organizations:

  • Cannot use federal funds to proselytize or provide religious sectarian instruction.

  • Cannot discriminate against nonmembers in providing services. They must remain open to all and cannot practice religious discrimination against the populations they serve.

  • Must comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Religious organizations that receive federal dollars cannot discriminate with respect to hiring for government-funded social service programs.

  • Can only use taxpayer dollars on secular programs and initiatives.

  • Must prove their efficacy and be judged based on program effectiveness. They will be expected to demonstrate proven program outcomes to continue to receive funding.

    Obama will fund programs that work and end funding for programs that do not – whether they are large or small, well-established or new, faith-based or otherwise.

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