Jewish groups press Obama on faith-based funding

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Six Jewish groups were among those urging President Obama to restrict White House faith-based funding.

Twenty-five organizations signed on to a letter sent Thursday to the White House urging Obama to make good on his promise to amend the executive orders establishing the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships signed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama extended the executive orders allowing federal funding for faith-based social service programs, such as hunger relief and drug-use rehabilitation, upon assuming office a year ago, but said he would eventually amend them to reflect his concerns that they overstepped constitutional boundaries.

"We are disappointed that now, one year after your Executive Order, almost every aspect of the Bush Administration Faith-Based Initiative remains in place — the White House and all the federal agencies are still operating under all the inadequate rules and insufficient safeguards imposed by the previous Administration," the letter reads.

It recommends a number of amendments, including ensuring that religious institutions using federal money for social programs establish distinct bodies to run the programs; banning such programs from discriminatory hiring practices and proselytizing; and ensuring that they provide beneficiaries with information about secular alternatives.

The six Jewish signatories were the Union for Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, B’nai B’rith International and Women of Reform Judaism. Other groups included gay defense organizations, Christian and Sikh groups, and civil liberties groups.

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