Obama’s faith based order welcomed by Jewish groups


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups generally welcomed President Obama’s emendations to the White House faith-based initiative established by his predecessor.

Obama signed a new executive director Wednesday emending the order by President George W. Bush that set up the office.

Under the new order, faith-based groups receiving government funds to provide services such as relief or rehabilitation must make clear to beneficiaries that there are non-faith-based alternatives.

The groups must not discriminate in providing such services, and must clearly separate religious activities from social services.

Obama based the order on the recommendations of an advisory council that had included representatives of a number of national Jewish groups.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center welcomed the changes, but said that more was needed, particularly noting the order’s failure to address whether groups receiving funds may discriminate on the basis of hiring.

Conservative religious groups feared that banning such hiring would force a choice between receiving the funds and hiring employees who directly contradicted their beliefs — for instance, openly gay counselors.

The Orthodox Union was unalloyed in praising Obama’s new order, which it said "champions fundamental constitutional principles, protects the religious liberties of individuals and promotes the effective and important partnerships the Federal government has with faith-based organizations."

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