White House releases public/private guidelines

WASHINGTON — A new White House report that offers guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups leaves critical questions unanswered and does not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing, church-state watchdogs said.

The 50-page report, issued Friday (April 28), comes 18 months after President Obama issued an executive order calling for more transparency as faith-based groups work with the government to meet social needs.

The report breaks little new ground, but reaffirms that:

— A faith-based organization can provide federally funded social services without removing religious art, scriptures and symbols from their facilities.

— Explicitly religious activities can’t be supported by federal funds but are permitted if they are funded privately and occur at a separate time and location from programs that receive government money.

— Beneficiaries who object to the religious character of a provider must be referred promptly to an alternative.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, called the guidance “an important step” in implementing the recommendations from a blue-ribbon advisory board.