Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee who says he will change the face of government in Washington, is trying to outdo George W. Bush when it comes to mixing religion and politics.
The Illinois Senator who would be President wants to expand one of Bush’s more controversial bible-thumping programs by giving more federal dollars to religious groups for use in social service programs.
The idea is, to say the least, bringing skepticism from the sidelines and questions about whether or not Barack Obama is real or Memorex.
Reports Jennifer Loven of The Associated Press:
Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush’s program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and — in a move sure to cause controversy — support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.
Obama was unveiling his approach to getting religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks Tuesday at Eastside Community Ministry in Zanesville, Ohio. The arm of Central Presbyterian Church operates a food bank, provides clothes, has a youth ministry and provides other services in its impoverished community.
"The challenges we face today, from putting people back to work to improving our schools, from saving our planet to combating HIV/AIDS to ending genocide, are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We need all hands on deck."
But Obama’s support for letting religious charities that receive federal funding consider religion in employment decisions was likely to invite a storm of protest from those who view such faith requirements as discrimination.
David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush’s commitment to the cause, said Obama’s position has the potential to be a major "Sister Souljah moment" for his campaign.
This is a reference to Bill Clinton’s accusation in his 1992 presidential campaign that the hip hop artist incited violence against whites. Because Clinton said this before a black audience, it fed into an image of him as a bold politician who was willing to take risks and refused to pander.
"It would be a very, very, very interesting thing," said Kuo, who is not an Obama adviser or supporter but was contacted by the campaign to review the new plan.
Kuo called Obama’s approach smart, impressive and well thought-out but took a wait-and-see attitude about whether it would deliver.
"When it comes to promises to help the poor, promises are easy," said Kuo, who wrote a 2006 book described his frustration at what he called Bush’s lackluster enthusiasm for the program. "The question is commitment."