Faith-based social services are not likely to be rolled back by President Barack Obama, even if he may put a more liberal spin on such policies, writes Lew Daly in the journal Policy Review (October/November).
Daly notes that almost year after his election, Obama has not aggressively sought to “restore the pre-Bush status quo by shutting down the White House faith-based offices Bush established and by repealing Bush administrative actions on religious hiring rights and other controversial matters.” It is not so much Obama’s cautious approach that is behind the failure to restore stricter church–state separation policies as much as the vastly transformed terrain of social welfare that has developed in the last four decades since the policies of the Great Society.
Daly writes that the welfare system had been restructured and contracted out by the government to non-profit social service providers; the main contention was whether religious groups could receive the same funding as their secular counterparts. Since the 1980s, the Supreme Court has increasingly expanded the degree of government support that religious service providers can receive (even as the court has ruled against religious content and speech being accommodated by the government).
Thus, Daly argues that the “Bush-style faithbased initiatives will survive fundamental constitutional challenges,” and there may eventually be a greater willingness to put up with increased religious content in government funding if faith-based services are found to be more effective than their secular counterparts, argues Daly. Obama’s support for religious hiring may be an acknowledgement of a “new church–state order in areas of social need, evolving as the purposes of government and the social mission of religious groups have converged.”
(Policy Review, 21 Dupont Circle NW, 310, Washington, DC 20036)