BY Advocate Contributors
March 19 2010 2:40 PM ET
Throughout the year, the Reform of the OFNP task force deliberated passionately and thoughtfully around how best to enable the president to keep his campaign promises not to allow taxpayer money to be used to discriminate. These deliberations were done by a a group that represented the broad array of religious and political thought in our country. We sought consensus in service of the common good, without resorting to lowest common denominators. Our final recommendations will, if implemented, go a long way toward reassuring the American people that even as it seeks to meet the needs of our hurting neighbors in these troubled times, their government will protect all communities, secular and faith-based; that people’s right to believe or not believe will not be infringed upon in order to receive services; and finally, that their tax dollars will never be used to discriminate against them.
Specifically, we recommended:
- strategic procedures for the government to train service providers and to inform social service beneficiaries of the important church-state constraints on federally funded programs;
- a government policy to make all beneficiaries aware of their right to receive services through secular providers if they are not comfortable receiving services through faith-based providers
- a change to the process for certification as 501(c)3 charitable organizations so that it is (1) simplified and (2) requires faith-based organizations to separately incorporate under 501(c)3 in order to receive federal funds, thus effectively separating federal funding from those of congregations and other faith-based organizations;
- that the administration clarify prohibited uses of direct federal financial assistance;
- that the administration equally emphasize separation requirements and protections for religious identity; and
- mechanisms to improve transparency and monitoring of compliance.