WASHINGTON (CN) – Faith-based organizations may no longer conduct worship services or proselytize while providing social programs funded with federal money. President Obama has amended a 2002 Executive Order from President George W. Bush that allowed faith-based social programs to get federal aid.
Bush’s order allowed religious services to be conducted at the same time and in the same place as the social program offered, so long as the service itself was not supported by the money allocated to the social program.
Thus, visitors to a soup kitchen run by a church might hear a sermon while getting their food.
President Obama’s amendment mandates separation of the two activities, in time or place, and forbids making participation in a religious activity a requirement for receiving the benefits of the federally funded program.
The amendments also require the government to “monitor and enforce standards regarding the relationship between religion and government in ways that avoid excessive entanglement between religious bodies and governmental entities.”
Religious organizations will have to refer beneficiaries of federally funded programs who object to the religious character of the program provider to an alternative provider within a “reasonable period of time.”
To enforce the new requirements, the amendment creates the Interagency Working Group on Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Partnerships, which is charged with writing rules to implement the changes across the government and all organizations that receive federal funding.