Obama, Faith-Based Iniatives, And The Right Wing

Sometimes seeing who opposes a plan, and the specifics of their objections, provides some insight about a policy. Some liberals had reservations about Obama’s support for faith-based initiatives, with these reservations largely fueled by inaccurate media accounts. Besides being inaccurate with regards to Obama’s position on hiring based upon religious views, the media accounts were too superficial to include discussion of the degree to which Obama made sure that his proposals were consistent with his strong support for separation of church and state.

I have noted many times that I would prefer that politicians leave religion entirely out of politics. In Obama I’ve seen a fair compromise. While Obama does bring religion into politics far more than I would like, he has also demonstrated strong support for separation of church and state. I’m willing to accept more talk of religion from Obama if this must be the trade off for having a presidential candidate express such strong support for separation of church and state following the manner in which this has been eroded in recent years.

In general I hope that all sides see Obama’s position on religion as an acceptable compromise. As winning an election might depend upon bringing in more of the religious vote than Democrats generally receive, this would be a worthwhile compromise if more religious voters, who might not share my concern for separation of church and state, also found Obama’s position to be a good compromise between left and right.

There have been many signs that some religious voters are considering voting for Obama, but it is inevitable that the more extreme on the right will not accept Obama’s views. This opposition still does serve a useful purpose, possibly helping reassure liberals who misunderstand Obama’s views and religion and see them as a sell out to the right.

The Daily Standard provides such an example today. In failing to respect separation of church and state, they frame Obama’s restrictions on the use of government money for hiring based upon religion as being overly restrictive and anti-freedom. While liberals will easily see through their claims of a “freedom” to use government funds as both a misuse of the word “freedom” and a violation of the First Amendment, their position does help demonstrate that there is a clear difference between Obama’s views and the views of the religious right on faith-based initiatives. The article demonstrates that such differences extend to the views of John McCain:

McCain quickly responded to Obama’s faith-based proposal on July 2, 2008, fully supporting the freedom of faith-based organizations to staff on a religious basis even when they receive federal funds:

“John McCain supports faith based initiatives, and recognizes their important role in our communities. He has co-sponsored legislation to foster improved partnerships with community organizations, including faith-based organizations, to assist with substance abuse and violence prevention. He also believes that it is important for faith-based groups to be able to hire people who share their faith, and he disagrees with Senator Obama that hiring at faith-based groups should be subject to government oversight.”

The Daily Standard makes it clear that Obama and McCain have distinctly different views on religion and government, and the attacks on Obama from this conservative publication help to debunk the claims that Obama has moved away from his core liberal values on this issue.

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