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Put More Public Money into Faith-Based Programs, Obama Says

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Barack Obama has found at least one thing he likes about the Bush administration: this week he endorsed President Bush's faith-based funding initiative and said that he would expand the program if elected president.

The New York Times reported July 2 that Obama told an Ohio audience that, “The fact is, the challenges we face today — from saving our planet to ending poverty — are simply too big for government to solve alone. We need an all hands on deck approach.”

“I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square,” Obama said. “But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups.”

Obama said that Bush's faith-based initiative had “never fully completed its mission or fulfilled its promise.” He promised to ensure that faith-based groups receiving federal funds don't use the money to proselytize or discriminate on the basis of religion. However, Obama reportedly would allow funding recipients to hire and fire based on faith considerations in the non federally funded parts of their operations.

John DiIulio, the first head of Bush's office on faith-based initiatives, praised Obama's plan, calling it a “principled, prudent, and problem-solving vision for the future of community-serving partnerships involving religious nonprofit organizations.”

The endorsement of faith-based funding was viewed as part of Obama's strategy to reach out to moderate evangelical Christians. “We're not going to convince everybody,” said Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign. “The most committed pro-lifers probably won't vote for him. But others will be open to him because they see he's a man of integrity, a person of faith who listens to and understands people of all religious backgrounds.”

GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also supports public funding of faith-based groups, a spokesperson said.

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