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February 13, 2009

Will Obama’s faith-based office still allow anti-gay bias?

Washington, D.C.--During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama did not say if LGBT people would be protected from discrimination by churches receiving federal faith-based initiative money.

As president, he’s still not saying.

Obama signed an executive order February 5 creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This was in keeping with a campaign promise he made July 1 in Zanesville, Ohio to increase the social services provided through churches and faith-based organizations.

Though faith-based organizations have long been able to get federal grants for programs, the Bush Administration promoted them. Bush signed Executive Order 13,279 which changed the rules, allowing churches to hire and serve only those who agreed with their religious beliefs. This allowed anti-gay churches to discriminate, even with federal funds.

When he spoke in Zanesville, Obama was vague on how he proposed to protect LGBT people in this area. They are not covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Obama’s campaign did say that federal funds would not fund “ex-gay” ministries, but other than putting out a statement saying grant recipients “must comply with federal anti discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the campaign stopped short of saying how protecting LGBT people would happen under the present law.

When pressed, the campaign answered that “Senator Obama has been working to pass a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, so that employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity is not permitted. He will continue to fight for ENDA’s passage as president.”

With the faith-based program getting off the ground and ENDA’s passage possibly years down the road, the administration is being as evasive as the campaign was.

The campaign ignored 11 written questions submitted by the Gay People’s Chronicle last year seeking clarification.

This year, the White House also asked for written questions and got four, including if Bush’s order 13,279 would be canceled.

Again, there has been no response.

Other reporters have had similar experiences.

Another concern is that since money is fungible, federal money that churches receive for soup kitchens or other social services could free up other money to be used for proselytizing or ex-gay ministries.

In his book Tempting Faith, David Kuo observed that the churches most likely to apply for money are the most conservative.

Kuo was deputy director of Bush’s the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Kuo also says that those are the churches most likely to believe in the supremacy of God’s law, to the detriment of observing federal laws.

It is not clear how Obama would address that issue, either.

Obama appointed Josh DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal minister from Massachusetts to direct the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The office will be advised by a newly formed council, which includes Fred Davie, an openly gay man from New York, and the Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. of Cleveland.

Davie is the president of Public/Private Ventures, which does community organizing and advocacy for families in poverty.

Moss is Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

Neither Moss nor Davie returned calls for comment by press time.

The council has a total of 25 members, including some who are anti-gay.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the council advises Obama to prioritize non-discrimination with the federal funds, or to consider it a church’s religious right to deny LGBT people equality in employment and service if it wants to, and what Obama does with the recommendation.


This material is copyrighted by the Gay People’s Chronicle. Permission is given only to repost the headline, byline, and one or two paragraphs, with the full name of the Gay People’s Chronicle and a link to the full article on our website. Reproduction of the entire article is prohibited without specific written permission.

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