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Barack Obama pledged to keep President Bush’s faith-based funding plan in place should he be elected president.

The presumptive Democratic nominee said the plan would have church-state separation modifications. “I believe that change comes not from the top down but from the bottom up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques,” Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, said in a speech in Zanesville. Ohio. “The fact is, the challenges we face today — from saving our planet to ending poverty — are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need all hands on deck.” A number of major Jewish groups have joined church-state separationists in decrying Bush’s funding of faith-based institutions. Orthodox Jewish groups favor such funding. Obama outlined restrictions he would impose on such funding. “First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them — or against the people you hire — on the basis of their religion,” Obama said. “Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.” The Orthodox Union gave the commitment a qualified welcome in a statement that said Obama’s proposed restrictions might be prohibitive. “A faith-based charity should not have to forsake its religious liberty or dilute its religious character to obtain a federal grant,” the umbrella for Orthodox synagogues said in a statement. “Beyond the matter of principle, insisting that faith-based groups waive their legally protected rights may well undermine Senator Obama’s stated goal of having ‘all hands on deck’ as many faith-based groups, especially small ones, will opt out of government partnerships if this is the price of admission.”

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