Over at the Evangelicals for Social Action web site, Stanley Carlson-Thies writes:
Especially significant are the Reform of the Office recommendations. In two words, the taskforce and the Council as a whole told the administration: Keep going! That is, although the diverse members of the Reform of the Office taskforce gave careful and extensive consideration over many months to many detailed and controversial legal, constitutional, and regulatory issues, the conclusion was a broad consensus that the existing rules of the faith-based initiative are about right. Given all the wild charges in the past against the initiative, this is a remarkable and unexpected outcome.
The taskforce and Council did recommend making some boundaries clearer and also called on the government to ensure that, when grantees are monitored, careful attention is paid to church-state rules. Yet, taken as a whole, the recommendations support the “Charitable Choice” and “equal treatment” principles developed under presidents Clinton and Bush.
That consensus puts a firmer foundation under the faith-based initiative. Faith-based organizations whose programs can fit the government’s requirements should feel confident to explore the possibilities of collaboration (government grants cannot be used to fund programs where religion is mixed into the social service, but the rules—affirmed by the Council—provide that religious activities can be offered on a voluntary basis next to the federally funded services).
But there are clouds on the horizon. There is fierce pressure on the administration to fulfill the promise to prohibit religious hiring. Faith groups ought to be alert, ready to speak up if the administration or Congress threatens to force government-funded groups to ignore all consideration of faithful belief and practice when hiring staff. Don’t just get ready to speak up—be sure to tell officials, whenever possible, about how vital faith-based practices are to the service your organization gladly gives to needy neighbors. They are always hearing from critics that faith groups are mere bigots. Your story needs to be told.