The National Association of Evangelicals issued a favorable but questioning response to President Obama's new Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Office. Carl Esbeck, a law professor at the University of Missouri, applauds the office while offering a few concerns.
First, Esbeck wonders whether the office is big enough to address its new priorities: reducing poverty, reducing abortion, encouraging fatherhood, and encouraging interfaith efforts.
NAE welcomes these developments, but notes that the office's greatly expanded portfolio will quickly overwhelm a staff the size of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative. To do justice to all four of these charges - from abortion to fatherlessness to reaching out to moderate Muslims - will take a staff five-fold the half dozen employees under President Bush.
Esbeck is also concerned about the hiring question: whether religious groups can choose employees from a specific faith groups.
If hiring rights are denied because of a change of leadership at Obama's Department of Justice, many evangelicals will turn away from participation in federal grant programs. That's hardly the "all hands on deck" approach the President called for as a way to soften the blow of the nation's deepening recession.
Esbeck also asks two questions: First, when a federal grant is awarded directly to an [faith-based organization], where is the line between delivering the permitted program services and engaging in prohibited "worship, sectarian instruction, and proselytization?" Second, when a federal grant is awarded directly to an FBO, how intensely must the government monitor the use of the grant monies?
(h/t Dan Gilgoff)