Obama revamps faith-based office
- Story Highlights
- Order bans religious discrimination in hiring by groups that get funds from agency
- Officials: Obama strengthening constitutional and legal grounding of the office
- Under Bush, data and voices from different sides not considered, White House says
- Obama forms advisory council of 25 prominent religious leaders
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Obama administration took its first steps into the politically delicate world of church-state relations Thursday, issuing an executive order establishing a new review process to encourage nondiscriminatory hiring practices among religious groups accepting federal money.
The order is designed to strengthen the constitutional and legal grounding of former President Bush's controversial Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, two senior administration officials told CNN.
"We think this is a key step forward. It doesn't resolve all issues at the outset, but it does provide a mechanism to address difficult legal issues moving forward," they said.
Obama tapped Josh DuBois, who headed religious outreach for Obama's presidential campaign, to run the office.
Under his administration, the office's role will not be to "favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state," Obama said in remarks at a national prayer breakfast.
"This work is important, because whether it's a secular group advising families facing foreclosure or faith-based groups providing job-training to those who need work, few are closer to what's happening on our streets and in our neighborhoods than these organizations. People trust them. Communities rely on them. And we will help them."
Critics of the office, which steers government money to religious charities that perform social services, say that under the Bush administration, faith groups were allowed to take religion and related issues into account when hiring.